Is the Toronto Maple Leafs-Montreal Canadiens playoff series over?
It sure appears that way. The first playoff series between these two NHL titans since 1979 has been a complete mismatch. Especially during the last week. The Maple Leafs have won three straight contests. Now, back on thier home ice at the Scotiabank Arena tonight, Toronto is primed to seize the first-round playoff series by a 4 to 1 game margin and advance on to play in Round 2 versus North Division upstarts, the Winnipeg Jets.
But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. First, the Leafs must remain focused and take care of business against Montreal. The Canadiens looked like they could be a mighty force to contend with when they stole Game 1 of the best-of-seven series, winning 2-1. But since that initial upset, the Habs scoring offense has gone into late spring hibernation. They've scored just two goals in the past three games. In those three games, they were outscored by an 11-2 margin. The Canadiens were even shut out at home in the previous game two nights ago, losing 4-0.
Tonight, oddsmakers and the betting public think Toronto deserves to be a prohibitive favourite. That seems fair. The Leafs are -240, which comes back at Montreal +210. Here are the latest numbers according to SPREADS.CA:
Note: This is only a partial list. SPREADS.CA offers numerous props, alt. odds, and futures which can be viewed by clicking HERE.
Now, the biggest question going into Game 5 is – Can Montreal find the back of the net?
The Canadiens desperately need to put more pressure on the opposite end of the ice. Two goals in three games isn't a recipe for winning playoff hockey. Even when the Habs enjoyed the man-advantage in penalties, they've come up short. Montreal is now 0-13 in power play opportunities in this series. That's abysmal. That's also great goaltending on the opposite end by Jack Campbell (4-1-1 with a 2.16 GAA and .918 SV pct. in six starts against Montreal during the regular season).
Meanwhile, after the scare and shock of losing team captain John Tavares in Game 1, the Leafs have rebounded with a fury. They seem to be playing better with each match. Game 4 was as lopsidded as it gets.
Tonight's game in Toronto should be a thrill for fans, although they won't be in attendance, but nonetheless will be on the verge of celebration after such a long post-season drought. Toronto has not advanced to the second round of the playoffs since 2004 – a 16-year abyss. Toronto is 11-1 all-time when leading a series by a 3-1 margin — a situation the Maple Leafs haven’t found themselves in since 1987.
Montreal does have some added incentive to extend the series. If the Canadiens can somehow force a Game 6 which would be played back in Montreal on Saturday, the Quebec government announced it will allow 2,500 fans into the Bell Centre, which would be the first NHL crowd in Canada since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic back in March 2020.
But that's likely not going to be enough for the Canadiens to pull off the upset.
Prediction: In each of the previous three games, we've recommended UNDER wagers. Those bets went 2-1. Previous wagers were based on data showing these longtime rivals have skated to a 3-8-1 O/U record that's slanted to the UNDER this year in their 12 previous matchups. Those are compelling numbers to buck and bet the other side. But that's precisely what we are going to do here, with a surprising reversal and bet on the OVER. It's called an anticipated trend reversal. It's also based on some value as public might have overreacted a bit to recent results. We get bit of value taking less popular side here.
We will play OVER 5.5 goals tonight, getting back a nice little bonus at +110.
The suspicion here is that Montreal will be desperate and pull out all the stops to get to the net. They can't use the same lines and tactics which have produced suck ineptitude in the past three games. The Habs have to mix it up more, take chances, and play more aggressively.
That should result in a few things:
(1) More goals by the Canadiens, possibly.
(2) Defensive lapses on the other side of the ice which gives Toronto more scoring chances on breakaways, and
(3) More power play opportunities if this becomes a more physical game and penalties get called.
We think Toronto finds the net easily, and Montreal scrapes by with just enough goals to break the total and ecplipse 5.5.
Game Forecast: Toronto 4, Montreal 2
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