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It’s been a whirlwind of a week in the NHL, with over 60 players added to the league’s COVID protocol and multiple teams needing to suspend their schedules while dealing with outbreaks. It’s very odd to keep having to write about a pandemic in a sports betting column, but the reality is the virus has a very real impact on the game, and betting on it.

Multiple games on Saturday have been postponed already, and there could be more if this virus keeps spreading at the pace it’s been going. Twenty per cent of the NHL has been in COVID protocol so far this season, which is frankly absurd.

Toronto Maple Leafs to defeat Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks have been incredibly fun since Bruce Boudreau took the reigns as head coach. The new coach pop is a phenomenon that rarely lasts with a mid-season replacement, but Boudreau is a legitimately excellent coach and he’s taken over for Travis Green, whose work was questionable at best.

Winners of six straight, the Canucks face a big test in the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have been the league’s hottest team since November 1, going 16-4-1, and outscoring opponents 77-46 over that time, with a powerplay clicking along at nearly 38 per cent efficiency.

Despite some pretty major injuries, the Leafs haven’t really missed a beat, and even though the Canucks are playing with desire, this one just favours the better team.

Auston Matthews to score anytime vs Vancouver 

Until he gives you a reason not to, why stop betting on Matthews notching a goal? The American phenom has 13 goals in his last 10 games, and has failed to put the puck in the net just once over that time.

The best even-strength goal scorer of his generation is only four goals away from his career high in powerplay goals about a third of the way through the season, and despite missing time and having a slow start, he’s inching ever closer to the league’s goal scoring lead. I believe he’ll take it by season’s end.

Brady Tkachuk to score anytime vs Philadelphia

Obviously, Brady isn’t on the same level as Matthews, but he’s red hot lately and the Senators have been on a little run.

Against a team as defensively porous as the Philadelphia Flyers, a big net-front presence like Tkachuk is going to cause chaos. Carter Hart is excellent, but he can only do so much.

Under on total goals in Colorado Avalanche vs Tampa Bay Lightning

Since the start of November, the Avalanche have been the highest event team in the league by a wide margin when it comes to goals. Scoring nearly five per game over that time, and allowing nearly 3.5 per game in their own goal.

The Lightning have scored at a decent clip, scoring just over three goals per game, and have allowed just over 2.25 against per game. Normally with two high-flying teams, you bet the over, but this could be a Stanley Cup Final preview, and probably should have been the Cup final the last two seasons, so I would expect a much tighter game from everyone overall.

Cale Makar entering the COVID protocols before this game also limits Colorado’s ability to create offence, he’s been the key all year.