The New York Rangers kicked off a four-game road trip with their first win of the season Saturday night, but will take a much larger step up in competition Monday night in visiting Scotiabank Arena to face the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Despite being without star Auston Matthews, the Leafs have gotten off to a 2-1 start and are massive NHL betting favorites at home tonight... possibly because AM34 is returning?
Here are our best free NHL picks and predictions for Rangers vs. Maple Leafs on Monday, October 18, with puck drop set for 7:00 p.m. ET.
Rangers vs Maple Leafs odds
Odds via the Covers Line, an average comprised of odds from multiple sportsbooks.
Rangers vs Maple Leafs picks
Picks made on 10/17/2021 at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.
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Rangers vs Maple Leafs game info
• Location: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON
• Date: Monday, October 18, 2021
• Puck drop: 7:00 p.m. ET
• TV: Sportsnet, MSG
Rangers vs Maple Leafs betting preview
Rangers: Kaapo Kakko RW (Out), Ryan Strome C (Out).
Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews C (Probable), Jake Muzzin D (Questionable), Petr Mrazek G (Out), Ilya Mikheyev RW (Out).
Find our latest NHL injury reports.
Rangers vs Maple Leafs head-to-head record (since 2018)
Rangers: 4-2, 22 goals for.
Maple Leafs: 2-2-2, 20 goals for.
Betting trend to know
The Under is 15-5-3 in New York's last 23 games as a road underdog. Find more NHL betting trends for Rangers vs. Maple Leafs.
Rangers vs Maple Leafs picks and predictions
Maple Leafs -1.5 (+130)
Despite being without the reigning Rocket Richard Trophy winner (and fifth-highest scorer in the NHL last season) — and the league's No. 4 point scorer (Mitch Marner) having one assist through three games — Toronto has gotten off to a 2-1 start, thanks to some outstanding goaltending and an offense that's still generating plenty of chances.
After playing outstanding hockey as Freddie Andersen's backup last season, Jack Campbell has been elevated into the No. 1 spot this year and has shined through two games. The 11th-overall pick in 2010, Campbell struggled throughout his career but posted a 2.15 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in 22 games last season and this year he has a 0.86 GAA and .968 SV% — with nearly four Goals Saved Above Average already.
He won't make it easy on a Rangers team that is shooting just 5.4 percent at even strength, has the eighth-worst Fenwick For Percentage at 5-v-5, and seventh-lowest expected goals for (2.06) per 60 minutes of 5-v-5 action. Campbell's play has also provided a reliable backbone for an offense that is getting good chances — generating 12.06 high-danger chances per 60 minutes (second in the NHL) — and should have their best sniper back.
Auston Matthews sat out the first three games recovering from wrist surgery, but head coach Sheldon Keefe said he 'fully expects' Matthews to make his debut Monday night — terrible news for a Rangers team that has struggled to keep opponents from getting good shots on net.
New York has given up a whopping 37 shots from inside the "home plate" (considered the top-quality shooting area that spans directly in from the front of the net to the top of the face circles and between the faceoff dots), including eight of their nine goals against. That number would be even higher if not for the outstanding play of Igor Shesterkin, who's been phenomenal through two games — but it may not matter Monday night.
Both Montreal and Dallas were in the bottom-third of the NHL in scoring and shooting percentage the past two seasons, while the one good offense New York has faced — the Capitals (Top 5 each of last two years) — lit up the Blueshirts for five goals, including three on the power play (and a shorthanded goal as well).
Toronto's offense (second in GF in 19/20, sixth in 20/21) is much closer to Washington than New York's other opponents — especially with Matthews back and reunited with Marner.
Add in that New York is also missing two of its top-six forwards (Kaapo Kakko and Ryan Strome) and with how the Rangers are playing it will take another herculean effort from Shesterkin to even keep this close.
And even that might not be enough.
Under 6 (-110)
The Under is 5-0-1 through six combined games for Toronto and New York this season, with no singular team topping even three goals aside from Washington potting five against the Blueshirts.
While that was an awful all-around performance by New York, who got wholeheartedly dominated in the final 40 minutes after a strong first period, it wasn't helped by a terrible effort from backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev. Having Shesterkin between the pipes is a big improvement for the Rangers, and will help keep Toronto from putting up a terribly crooked number — even with Matthews returning.
What's really driving this Under bet, however, is us struggling to see how the Rangers, who have five non-empty-net goals through three games, will score much against a Toronto team that has a red-hot goalie in Campbell and is much better in puck possession and controlling the play.
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