by OddsShark (@OddsShark) – Sponsored Post
The Toronto Maple Leafs carry some potentially discouraging moneyline history into a playoff matchup against a structurally sound opponent, which is the type of team that often leaves them and their loyal fans exasperated.
The Maple Leafs are a -150 home favorite against the +130 underdog Columbus Blue Jackets with a 6.0-goal total on the NHL odds for Sunday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Since the start of the 2019 calendar year, the Maple Leafs are just 3-8 over 11 games at Scotiabank Arena when they were a -140 to -170 betting favorite, with the total finishing UNDER seven times at online betting sites. However, the Blue Jackets are 7-13 in their last 20 games as an underdog of +120 or more, with the total finishing UNDER 11 times.
Blue Jackets vs Maple Leafs | OddsShark Matchup Report
The best-of-five qualifying round series is the first playoff matchup between Toronto and Columbus, who are the nos. 8 and 9 seeds in the Eastern Conference.
The Blue Jackets had a 33-22-15 regular-season record, despite an injury-riddled 3-12 stretch over their last 15 games before the season was paused. The Columbus forward corps, led by centers Pierre-Luc Dubois and Alexander Wennberg and left wing Nick Foligno, typically counts on forechecking to turn pucks over and create opportunities. That may pose problems for Toronto if it re-exhibits the defensive-zone lapses it was prone to during the regular season.
Columbus was 28th in the 31-team NHL in five-on-five shot-attempt percentage (49.2 percent), which corresponds to also ranking 28th in goals scored (2.57). But defensemen Seth Jones and Zach Werenski helped them finish third in goals against (2.61). On special teams, their power play was 27th (16.4) and the penalty killing ranked 12th (81.7).
Joonas Korpisalo, who started four of the Blue Jackets’ last five games before the season pause, has a 5-3-0 record with a 2.87 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in eight career games against the Maple Leafs. Netminding partner Elvis Merzlikins has never faced Toronto, and neither goalie has ever started an NHL playoff game.
The Maple Leafs had a 36-25-9 record in the regular season, including a consistently inconsistent 7-8 mark in their final 15 games. The total finished UNDER in their last three games back in March. Toronto has a strong scoring punch headed by the Auston Matthews-William Nylander-Zach Hyman line, and center John Tavares will again be flanked by Ilya Mikheyev, the rangy left wing who has come back from a serious injury. Toronto thrives at driving the pace offensively, as it was sixth in five-on-five shot-attempt percentage (52.0 percent). That led to being third in goals scored (3.39), but Toronto was 26th in goals against (3.17) as defensemen Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, and Travis Dermott each had sizable absences. All are back now. Toronto boasted a sixth-ranked power play (23.1) and was 21st in penalty killing (77.7).
In goal, it remains to be seen if the 20-week layoff will lead to “October Freddie” appearing in August. Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen is a habitual slow starter in normal circumstances, although he did have a 1.57 GAA and .938 save percentage in his last five starts of the regular season.