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How much impact does a coach have on the success or failure of a team? Two teams give us striking examples so far this season.

After Paul Maurice resigned midway through last season in Winnipeg, no one really knew what to expect from the Jets. For years, they had been spinning their wheels as a talented but flawed team. This year, under Rick Bowness, the Jets are at the top of the Western Conference, and have done mostly without Nikolaj Ehlers, who has been their best forward the last few years.

Maurice, meanwhile, moved on to the Florida Panthers, who won the Presidents’ Trophy last year, and are struggling to maintain a .500 record this season. Wild fluctuations.

Toronto Maple Leafs to beat Florida Panthers 

With the Panthers on the second-half of a back-to-back, the Maple Leafs have a huge advantage in what would have been a battle of Eastern powers last season. This season, however, this just is one team desperate to prove themselves as more than a regular season juggernaut, and another desperately trying to cling to the faint chance of making the playoffs.

The Maple Leafs have lost a couple in a row, and seem to have cooled off considerably after their incredible November and December performances, but they should be able to handle a tired Florida Panthers team.

Kyle Connor (Winnipeg Jets) to score 2+ points vs Montreal Canadiens 

Remember when Kyle Connor started his season with a crazy goal drought? It sure seems like ancient history now, after he busted that drought with an overtime winner against the Montreal Canadiens on November 3rd. Since the beginning of December, only Connor McDavid has more points than Connor’s 32 in 23 games.

Another thing to consider is that the Habs always have trouble controlling Connor. He’s registered 21 points in 18 career games against them, scoring one point five times and multiple points seven times.

Cole Caufield (Montreal Canadiens) to score 2+ goals vs Winnipeg Jets 

This isn’t a sure thing bet, it’s more of a fun hunch. It’s been 81 games now since Martin St. Louis took over behind the bench of the Montreal Canadiens. In his 30 NHL games prior to that last season, Cole Caufield had a paltry one goal. In those 81 games since the new head coach came in, he’s been on fire and scored 48.

Two goals tonight would give him a nice, round 50 goals in his first 82 games under Marty’s leadership. It’s a tough, uphill battle against the best team in the West and lead by Connor Hellebuyck, but I think we’ll see a very determined Caufield on Tuesday.

Tage Thompson (Buffalo Sabres) to score 2+ points vs Blackhawks 

Thompson is running a bit cold of late compared to what we’re used to, scoring just three points in his previous six games, with no goals in that span of time, but a game against the NHL’s worst team should be just what the doctor ordered for this malady.

The last time these two teams played, Thompson was a bit cold as well, scoring just three points in seven games to start the season, with only a single goal. A three-point night against the Blackhawks ignited him, and he hasn’t looked back.