The Toronto Maple Leafs have home-ice advantage for every game of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Does that mean anything since there are no spectators allowed in the arena? And they still have to play the game, which is going to be a difficult chore in their best-of-five qualifying round matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Even though both teams finished the regular campaign with 81 points in 70 games, the Maple Leafs were pegged as the -160 favorite. Toronto got the better of the regular season series going 1-0-1 outscoring the Jackets, 7-5.
We'll have NHL odds at BookMaker.eu available for every game of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Series Schedule
Game 1: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, Sunday, August 2, 2020, 8 p.m. ET (NHLN)
Game 2: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, Tuesday, August 4, 2020, 4 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 3: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets, Thursday, August 6, 2020, TBD
Game 4: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets, Friday, August 7, 2020 (If Necessary)
Game 5: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, Sunday, August 9, 2020 (If Necessary)
Series Price at BookMaker.eu
Columbus Blue Jackets +140
Toronto Maple Leafs -160
The strategy hasn’t worked for the Maple Leafs in the past but give them credit for trying to accomplish the same thing using the same methods. Isn’t that the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? The Leafs can score with the best of them. They just have problems keeping the puck out of their own net. The opposite is true for the Jackets, who scored nearly a goal per game less but had much better success on the defensive side.
So, what style prevails? Toronto had the third-best scoring offense during the regular season averaging 3.39 goals per game. Auston Matthews stands out among the bevy of talented forwards with 47 goals, one off the league lead. Mitch Marner and John Tavares hit the 60-point mark with William Nylander one point off that number.
Frederik Andersen gets the nod between the pipes and probably won’t be tested that often. When he is, though, he must come through. The regular season numbers weren’t bad with a 2.85 GAA and .909 save percentage. It’s widely believed that Columbus has the edge in net, but Andersen can negate that with solid play, something he’s more than capable of delivering.
The Jackets are quite familiar with the position they’re in and this time it might be easier. They were huge underdogs against the President’s Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning last year and stunningly swept the opening round series thanks to a throttling defense that negated the skill on the other side.
Two-time Vezina winning goalie Sergei Bobrovsky departed in the offseason but the Jackets didn’t miss a beat with the tandem of Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins splitting time for the third-best defensive team. The Jackets allowed only 2.61 goals per game. It’s hard to say if the netminding will hold up in the playoffs since the two have little to no postseason experience. The return of Seth Jones will certainly help. The top defenseman had ankle surgery in February.
Reinforcements also arrive in Cam Atkinson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Nathan Gerbe and Dean Kukan. However, the biggest question is can the Jackets score enough goals. Three teams scored fewer than their 180 with Bjorkstrand netting a team-best 21. And no one cracked the 50-point mark. The players back in action for the restart will help in that area, but is it going to be enough?
One area that can boost the offensive numbers is the power play, and the Leafs have a good one. With so many talented forwards they can run a few different units out there with little drop off. During the regular season they succeeded on 23.1 percent of their man-advantage situations, the third-best mark in the Eastern Conference, with Matthews hitting the back of the net 12 times. The top four forwards accounted for over 75 percent of the power play goals. Both of Toronto’s regular season power play goals came in a 4-1 win. They were blanked in a 4-3 overtime loss in the other encounter.
Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets Free Picks
Toronto’s postseason failures are going to hang with them until the curse is broke. They haven’t won a playoff series in four tries since 2003-04. The good news is that they aren’t tangling with the Bruins, who bounced them in three of those series, so that’s something. I’m not sold on the Jackets with a goalie duo that hasn’t been in this situation. And they don’t have the firepower to hang with Toronto’s top-six. Playing on home ice without critical fans is what the Leafs need to move on.
Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets Series Pick: Maple Leafs in 4 Games
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