NHL Playoff Predictions – Game 1: Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins may indeed have missed out on a golden opportunity to be the top seed in Eastern Conference, as they lost to the Florida Panthers, who were not playoff-bound, in a make-up game to close out the regular season. What that did was change Boston’s first-round opponent in the NHL playoffs, as instead of New Jersey, they will now face the Toronto Maple Leafs, with Game 1 scheduled for 7 PM ET on Thursday at the TD Garden in Boston. Remember that if you are a BetAnySports customer, you can place wagers even after the game begins, as you take advantage of what is available through Live Betting Ultra.
Yes, losing that game to Florida, which appeared to be somewhat meaningful for them, brought about some disappointment on the part of fans. But this Bruins team has dealt with adversity all season long. Coach Bruce Cassidy has had to manipulate his lineups to compensate for a lot of injuries, and interestingly enough, Boston is #2 in the East despite having used eleven rookies this season. This is one of the more well-rounded teams in the NHL, as they excel on both offense (sixth in goals scored) and defense (fourth in goals allowed). They are also equally adept at scoring on the power play (23.5%, which is fourth in the NHL) and killing off penalties (third in the league with a 3.7%). They also have the ability to control tempo, which is something that would be a concern for Toronto here. On the season, Boston was 50-20-12, with 112 points in the NHL standings.
In the odds posted at BetAnySports upon which we will make our NHL playoff predictions, the Bruins are the favorites for this game:
Boston Bruins -155
Toronto Maple Leafs +135
Boston Bruins -1.5 (+180)
Toronto Maple Leafs +1.5 (-220)
Under 6 Goals -115
Over 6 Goals -105
Boston is also priced at -150 win the series, while Toronto is +130.
Look up and down the Boston lineup and you will see capable players. And that first line of theirs is lethal; Brad Marchand (34 goals), David Pastrnak (35 goals) and Patrice Bergeron (30 goals) can do it on both the offensive and defensive end. They just have to make sure that Marchand can stay out of the penalty box; he is fiery and sometimes uncontrollable, and picked up two suspensions this season. But Pastrnak had 13 power-play goals, and Bergeron built an MVP case with his work on both ends of the ice. Offense can also come from defenseman Torie Krug, who had 14 goals and 35 assists.
Also look out for a raw rookie, Ryan Donato, who came right out of Harvard to play dozen games with a Bruins at the tail end of the season, scoring five goals with four assists. Cassidy liked to use him on the power play. Rick Nash should also be back from injury. And Charlie McAvoy, the promising rookie defenseman, has already returned.
Toronto (49-26-7, 105 points) is a team that likes to play a wide-open brand of hockey, and they have the horses to do it. Auston Matthews is the ringleader there, as he scored 33 goals this season, even though he missed 20 games. Last season he had 40 goals and won the Calder Trophy, emblematic of rookie of the year honors. But he’s not the leading goal-scorer on this team; James van Riemsdyk has 36 on the season. Mitch Marner, who, like Matthews, is only 20 years old, had the most points overall for the Maple Leafs with 69. However, Marner was -1 in his plus-minus figure, while van Riemsdyk was only +1. Why? Because Toronto has lapses on the defense. While it is true that there bac liners can score (like Jay Gardiner and Morgan Rielly), Frederik Andersen has faced more shots than any other goaltender in the league. What the Maple Leafs have to do is capitalize on power-play opportunities, which they were pretty good on (25%, which was second-best in the NHL), but Boston might have too much of an all-around game for them to deal with.
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