- The Toronto Maple Leafs are -152 favorites to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1 of their Stanley Cup qualifying round series
- Will playing on home ice at the Scotiabank Centre prove of advantage to Toronto?
- Analysis of the Game 1 odds and predictions on outcomes follows in the story below
The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won a Stanley Cup playoff series, the Columbus Blue Jackets were still five years away from making their NHL postseason bow.
The Leafs are winless in playoff series since 2003-04. Can they change their luck in this unique COVID-19 created playoff format?
For starters, the odds say that yes they can. Toronto is listed as -152 favorites in the Maple Leafs vs Blue Jackets odds for the opener of their best-of-five qualifying round series.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs Toronto Maple Leafs August 2 Odds
|Team||Moneyline||Puckline||Total Odds at DraftKings|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||+132||+1.5 (-200)||O 6 (-110)|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||-152||-1.5 (+165)||U 6 (-110)|
Odds taken July 30
These two teams have never met previously in postseason action.
All eight Eastern Conference clubs are ensconced in a bubble in Toronto. Even though there are no spectators at the games, shouldn’t local knowledge at least offer the Leafs some semblance of a home-ice advantage at the Scotiabank Centre?
The Leafs aren’t great in Game 1 of playoff series. They’ve gone 1-3 straight up over the past four sets. However, the Leafs are 3-0 SU in their first home game of a playoff round over their last three series.
Columbus is 2-1 SU in its last three playoff series when playing Game 1 on the road.
Blue Jackets Must Choose Their Poison
Columbus has perhaps the NHL’s best defense pairing in Zach Werenski and Seth Jones. Matchups are vital in a playoff series. Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella must decide which Toronto center he wants Jones and Werenski to shut down – Auston Matthews or John Tavares?
Matthews figures to be the guy who’ll see the most of this tandem. He tends to start seasons off at a frenetic offensive pace. Going over four months between games, this is just like starting over.
Auston Matthews, who will turn 23 on Sept. 17, has 10 career playoff goals (20 GP), third-most among @MapleLeafs players before age 23 behind Ted Kennedy (20 G in 38 GP) and Wendel Clark (11 G in 23 GP).
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) July 21, 2020
Matthews scored four goals in his first NHL game. He scored five goals in the first three games of this season. In 2018-19, Matthews tallied 10 times in the first six games.
Take the Blue Jackets lightly at your own peril. Last spring, as an eight seed, they made Stanley Cup history. Columbus swept aside the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in four games.
They also don’t mind playing it close to the vest. Columbus has won an NHL-high 20 one-goal games this season.
#CBJ lines at the start of practice today in Toronto:
— CBJ Public Relations (@BlueJacketsPR) July 29, 2020
On the other hand, the Blue Jackets are 20th in five-on-five shot attempts this season, while the Leafs are fifth. Toronto is also sixth in Corsi (52.0), while Columbus is 19th (49.2).
It’s not a wise strategy to offer the higher-skilled team more puck possession.
Isn’t That Special?
This series is that old tale about the irresistible force facing off against the immovable object. The Leafs suit up the NHL’s No. 3 offense and No. 6 power play. But Toronto also surrendered the sixth-most goals in the league.
The Blue Jackets are a bottom-five team in scoring and a top-five team in keeping the puck out of their net.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) July 29, 2020
Early-season games tend to be sloppy affairs and that generally favors skilled teams. Games absent of flow tend to see more infractions and that should help Toronto’s power play.
Take the Leafs to win and even though six is a big number, also play the ‘Over’. This has the feel of a 4-3 or 5-2 final.
The Leafs have gone ‘Over’ 39 times this season.
Pick: Toronto Maple Leafs (-152), Over six goals (-110)
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