The first round of the NHL playoffs is winding down as only three of the eight series’ have yet to be decided. One of the series’ resides in the all-Canadian North Division where the Toronto Maple Leafs have pushed the rival Montreal Canadiens to the brink of elimination.
The Leafs will look to advance past the first round of the postseason for the first time since 2004 in this one tonight while the Habs will look to extend this one for a Game 6 back in Montreal where they’ve announced 2,500 fans would be in attendance, a first for the North Division this season, potentially.
With all that in mind, let’s dive into this Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs NHL Pick from Toronto!
Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs Betting Odds
- Canadiens (+206)
- Maple Leafs (-231)
- Canadiens +1.5 (-124)
- Maple Leafs -1.5 (+104)
- Over 5.5 (+113)
- Under 5.5 (-125)
Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs NHL Pick Breakdown
The Canadiens came out of the gate white-hot on offense, but tailed off as the season went along and wound up in the middle of the pack. However, the offense has hit a wall through the first four games of this series with the Leafs and will need a marked improvement if they are to survive in tonight’s contest.
Indeed, the Habs have been held to just four goals across the first four games of the series with their two tallies from Game 1 accounting for a series high for the club. The Habs were shut out by a 4-0 count in Game 4, but most notably their power play has been stifled in the series as they are 0 for 13 on the man advantage to this point in the series.
Of the 16 teams in these playoffs, the Habs rank 11th in scoring chances for/60, 13th in high-danger chances for/60 and 12th in terms of expected goals for/60 at 5v5, according to Natural Stat Trick. That’s a far cry from their regular-season figures in those departments as they ranked near the top of the league across the board. In terms of their actual goals for/60, they rank dead last with 1.03 as this Leafs defense and netminder Jack Campbell have stonewalled this group to this point.
What was once a balanced Montreal attack has largely scuffled for some time, but has been denied with authority through the first four games of this opening-round series.
It was a solid defensive effort in the Canadiens’ lone victory in Game 1 of this series as they were able to keep the Maple Leafs’ big boys in check and despite being outshot 36-30 in that one, holding this high-octane Maple Leafs offense to just one goal was a major victory in itself.
It hasn’t been the same since.
The Leafs have since averaged 3.67 goals per game since that Game 1 loss as this Habs defense has been unable to contain the speed and skill of this Leafs offense.
If we go back to the underlying data, the Canadiens rank ninth in scoring chances against/60, 10th in high-danger chances against/60 and 14th in terms of expected goals against/60 at 5v5, of the 16 teams in these playoffs, of course. They have surrendered 2.39 5v5 goals/60 in this series, a number that is actually notably below their expected 2.72 mark, so they’ve been somewhat fortunate on the back end in this series.
One of the more interesting decisions in this series so far has been the continued healthy scratching of rookie blueliner Alexander Romanov. Romanov wasn’t without his struggles from time-to-time in his first season in North America, but certainly did not look out of place as he combined his as-advertised physicality with an ability to handle the pack and make plays. Rather, he’s been watching from the press box for the first four games and I’ll be intrigued to see if Dominique Ducharme decided to switch things up and give Romanov a chance in place of someone like Brett Kulak or Jon Merrill on the bottom pair.
The Habs faithful can thank Carey Price that this series isn’t over already as he was able to steal that Game 1 from the Maple Leafs, stopping 35 of the 36 shots he faced, many of which were of the high-danger variety.
Price also played well in their 2-1 Game 3 loss and actually surrendered just five goals across the Game 3 and 4 back-to-back set on Monday and Tuesday, a rate at which he certainly gave his team a chance.
Price will enter tonight’s Game 5 sporting a real solid 2.58 GAA and .920 Sv% for the series despite winning just one of four games so far. It’s simply a continuance from his usual postseason form as he owns a career 2.43 GAA and .917 Sv% this time of the year and is working on his fifth straight quality work in the postseason, ranging back to the 2015 playoffs.
If the Habs are looking to get back into this series, they certainly have the right guy between the pipes as it would appear Price will need to carry his team on his shoulders as he’s largely done throughout his NHL career.
Obviously, the Leafs were stymied in their Game 1 loss but have since found their groove up front with 11 goals over their last three games.
The Habs were always going to be in tough with this group in this series as the Leafs finished the regular season ranked sixth with 3.32 goals per game, a number nearly identical to the 3.25 goals per game they’ve averaged so far in these playoffs.
One key for the Leafs was going to be whether or not they were able to get a struggling power play going in this series. The Maple Leafs sported one of the league’s very best man advantages for a good chunk of the season, but went on a shocking run of futility that saw an superstar-laden group finish 16th with a 20% mark on the PP.
They haven’t scored like gangbusters in the series, but they have at least found some life on the power play as the Leafs have gone 3 for 12 (25%) over their last three games since going 0 for 4 in the series opener. They’ve tallied a power-play goal in two of their last three games.
In terms of even-strength metrics, the Leafs rank eighth in scoring chances for/60, seventh in high-danger chances for/60, but also third in expected goals for/60 at 5v5 in this postseason. The reverse of the Canadiens’ advanced metrics are true here as the Leafs’ 2.39 goals/60 at 5v5 is actually below their 2.72 expected mark, so this group has been dangerous to be sure.
It’s been a balanced attack as well with seven different Maple Leafs skaters collecting at least three points in this series while William Nylander and Alexander Kerfoot pace the club with five points so far this series.
By far the biggest improvement on this Maple Leads team in the 2020-21 season was on the back end as a new-look blueline produced some of the best defensive results we’ve seen out of Toronto in years.
The Maple Leafs have been hovering around bottom-five results for many years, but this year’s version tied for seventh alongside the noted defensive juggernaut Dallas Stars while allowing just 2.64 goals per game. One area that needed to be cleaned up, however, was a penalty kill that actually tied these Habs for 23rd at 78.5%, and they’ve polished that group with authority.
The Leafs have killed off 21 straight penalties entering tonight’s action including a perfect 13 for 13 in this series. They haven’t allowed a power play goal over their last nine games as the special teams have been one of the keys to the Leafs’ 3-1 lead in the series.
It’s a unit that combines physicality with puck-handling abilities. The addition of T.J. Brodie to the top pair alongside Morgan Rielly has been a godsend while the second pair of Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl are usually the group handling the most difficult matchups and a big share of penalty-killing duties. Both men can play a physical style but are also quality puck-movers in their own right.
Travis Dermott entered the lineup for Game 4 in place of youngster Rasmus Sandin on the bottom pair next to an unheralded defender in Zach Bogosian. We’ll see who lines up on the left side tonight, but Bogosian had been a steady, physical presence on this blueline all season long with his veteran presence and Stanley Cup-winning 2020 season with the Tampa Bay Lighting offering some experience to this group.
We’ll see if the Leafs’ blueline can hold this Habs offense in check once again as they’ve done throughout the series.
The defense has been fantastic in front of him, but the story of the Maple Leafs’ season — at least one of the bigger ones — has been the emergence of the ever-likeable Jack Campbell between the pipes.
Campbell battled a lower-body injury throughout the regular season, but was as reliable as you’d hope when in the crease. Campbell put forth a stout 2.15 GAA and .921 Sv% across 22 starts this season, posting an eye-popping 17-3-2 record in the process. All he’s done so far in this series is work to a 1.0o GAA and .965 Sv% across the first four games, of course winning three of the four.
It’s been a great story for a player that’s struggled to live up to his first-round billing from the 2011 draft. The Michigan native has thrived since being dealt to the Maple Leafs ahead of last year’s trade deadline, and his steady presence has been a huge key for the Leafs considering once-No. 1 netminder Frederik Andersen dealt with plenty of injuries himself this season as the Leafs needed four netminders to get through the regular season.
Campbell has been rock-solid in goal and certainly presents another challenge for a scuffling Habs offense in this one tonight.
Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs NHL Pick
Both netminders have been good in this series, and therefore the Under is 3-1-0 as a result with the lone Over behind aided by an empty-net goal in Game 2. That said, I am heading Over the total here at a quality price.
With essentially nothing to lose and starving for offense, I expected the Habs to open things up in this one. That’s not usually the best idea against a superior Maple Leafs offense, but with just four goals in four games entering the series, what they’ve done offensively so far has not worked and as noted, they haven’t generated a ton of chances.
Campbell has been fantastic, but I’d suggest his numbers are due for regression moving forward. That’s not to say he’s due to get torched, but perhaps allow more than the one-goal-per-game average he rides into this one.
On the other side, Price has been pretty good, but the Leafs have also been able to get to him with all four lines contributing on offense. We also haven’t yet seen a big game from the Auston Matthews/Mitch Marner duo, and as they proved throughout the season, you don’t keep these guys down long.
The Leafs power play has found some life and their 21 for 21 PK is likely due to yield a goal or so moving forward.
Considering all of this, I’ll go Over the 5.5 total as I think we’ll see the offenses open up some in this one tonight.