The Maple Leafs sure didn't look like a Stanley Cup contender last night in Pittsburgh. Thoroughly dominated at both ends of the ice by the Pens, Toronto showed its weakness, which is playing on the road against teams hungrier than it. Granted, Pittsburgh, has been playing very well and virtually unbeatable at home over the past month, but that doesn't excuse the lack of effort and spark in the Maple Leafs last night. Coach Mike Babcock doesn't get paid to win games as much as he gets paid to figure out how not to lose them. He'll have the Leafs fixed for the Red Wings or the sweating will begin for most of the lineup as the trade deadline nears. Take the logical road and play the Leafs to win at a square price.
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Tampa Bay has been floundering the past 10 days, Toronto has put forth two very questionable efforts against Boston and Pittsburgh, and Boston was throttled in Vancouver last night, which leaves us asking, "Who's the best in the NHL right now?" Well, there's Vegas and Winnipeg, who are Nos. 1 and 1A. The Jets are healthy, and with Mark Scheifele back in the lineup, perhaps have the best balanced attack in the league. No one wants to play in Winnipeg, not now and certainly not in the playoffs. I know Florida doesn't. Take Winnipeg to win without reservation tonight as a prohibitive favorite.
Pittsburgh travels to Columbus tonight, fresh off a deceptively easy win against Toronto last night. The Penguins' victory against the high-scoring Maple Leafs was never in doubt and Pitt goalie Matt Murray was very good. Any close replication of last night's effort will be enough to defeat the Blue Jackets, and the the price is more than adequate to back the Pens to win.
Michigan's stock is up right now after winning four of its past five games, while Ohio State took a hit thanks to its 23-point loss to Penn State. The home team is 5-1 against the spread in the last six meetings between the Buckeyes and Wolverines. Expect that trend to continue on Sunday. Lay the points.
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The Mercer Bears find themselves a slight home underdog Saturday against Southern Conference-leading UNC Greensboro. This is a case of the 21-6 Spartans gaining oddsmakers' trust, growing to a peak after their dominating victory over East Tennessee State on Monday. Yet, look for an underachieving Mercer squad to play beyond the level of the Spartans. Grab Mercer.
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