It doesn't get any better than this.*
Toronto Maples Leafs.
[*with apologies to the well-rested Winnipeg Jets who anxiously await the winner of tonight's game]
Monday night's game should be one for the ages.
Not since 1979 – 42 long years – have Canada's two most storied franchises met in the post-season with the stakes so high. Against all odds, this series is going to a Game 7. Destiny it is.
The puck will drop at just after 7 pm EST in Toronto where all the pressure seemingly will be on the hometown Maple Leafs to finally-finally-finally close out the series with a win, thus advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2005 and putting the ghosts of postseason past failures to rest.
Yet, once again, oddsmakers and the betting public aren't giving the underdog Canadiens much respect. The feisty Habs are a whopping +180 live dog. Betting on the favoured Maple Leafs requires laying -205. Huh? Didn't these people watch the last two games? What can they possibly be thinking?
Here's the betting chart at SPREADS.CA, which has a full slate of team and player props as well as alternative lines and prices to go along with tonight's epic Montreal-Toronto matchup:
This has been a fascinating best-of-seven series to witness.
Toronto, top-seeded in the North Division, were expected to handle the 4th-seeded Canadiens with relative ease. Pre-game odds had Montreal as more than a 2-to-1 underdog. Most experts predicted the Maple Leafs would defeat the Habs in 5 games, or perhaps 6.
Just when it looked like that's precisely what would happen, with Toronto up 3 games to 1, Montreal found the net again. The Canadiens scored just 2 goals in Games 2, 3, and 4 (combined) and then played thier best hockey with backs to the wall. Montreal won two thrilling games in a row, both in overtime, to force the least-likely of finales – a Game 7.
The reasons Montreal is in position to pull off a massive upset are multi-fold.
First, the Maple Leafs lost captain John Tavares to an brutal injury in Game 1. Another star player Auston Matthews, who scored 41 goals in the regular season, has hit the back of the opponent's net just once in six playoff games. Then, there's Mitch Marner, who has zero goals in the series.
Canadiens goaltender Carey Price has also had much to do with the frustration of Marner, Matthews and the rest of the Maple Leafs. He's allowed just five goals in the past two wins for Montreal, blocking 73 of the 78 shots he's faced. Toss in the fact that Price is facing a neophyte opponent on the other side in Jack Campbell, and perhaps that experience is paying dividends.
Prediction: Three wagers look compelling in tonight's game:
- UNDER 5.5 (-135)
- Montreal +180 (moneyline)
- Montreal +1.5 (-135 on the puckline)
We could see a battle of goalies tonight, where goals are in short supply. The pressure on both teams in a game of this magnitude will create more defensive-minded play on both sides. No one wants to commit the errors that costs a breakway on the other side and gives away cheap goals. So far, 4 of the 6 playoff games have gone UNDER the betting total (O/U 5.5 goals). This season (regular season and playoffs combined), in head-to-head matchups, these two teams are 4-9-1 to the UNDER. So, history – including recent history – is on our side.
Given Montreal's recent play and the apparent infusion of team confidence, the Canadiens are a solid value at +180. It seems unlikely that Toronto is twice as likely (laying -205) to win tonight's game. In fact, the Maple Leafs look like a sucker play. Note that Game 5 and Game 6 saw very similar odds posted on Toronto winning, and they lost both. Obviously, to cash a +180 ticket we will need a few breaks. But if Price can rise to the occasion in the net, and the Habs can come out of the locker room with the same intensity we've seen the last two games, Montreal is a fabulous live underdog.
Also, given the unpredictability of this series and 4 of the 6 matches being one-score games, we feel positive about taking the Canadiens on the puckline (+1.5 goals and laying -135).
Forecast: Montreal 3, Toronto 2
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