NHL Playoff Predictions
It’s a mixed bag of a Saturday in the NHL as we have an elimination game and a series opener on the same night. The Montreal Canadiens host the Toronto Maple Leafs in game six of their series. They will look to stave off elimination in their own building.
Toronto Leads 3-2
The Montreal Canadiens staved off elimination in game five, but the game itself didn’t do much to change the narrative of the series. Montreal jumped out to an early 3-0 lead and then proceeded to blow the lead before winning in overtime on a gift of a turnover.
Game five saw the Leafs play to a 56% expected goal rate while generating nearly 63% of the high danger chances. If you watched that game, it seemed like a matter of “when” and not “if” in terms of the Leafs tying the game in the third period. This matches up pretty well with what we saw in the rest of the series, where the Leafs had played to a 57% expected goal rate and a 56.5% high danger chance share.
There’s simply a wide disparity between these teams and it’s evident on the ice. It’s not like the Toronto Maple Leafs are playing all that well either. If this is the Leafs at the top of their game, they won’t be making any noise in the later rounds of these playoffs. However, Montreal has generated almost nothing offensively and made life very easy for goaltender Jack Campbell.
Montreal took advantage of a slow start from the Leafs to skate out to an early lead. I don’t think we should expect Toronto to spot the Habs another three goal lead in game six. Additionally, it’s not very often when you see an awful turnover like the one Alex Galchenyuk committed in overtime. The Habs got a 2-on-0 breakaway and made no mistake.
Montreal will have fans in the building for the first time all season, but the 2,500 fan capacity will not make much of an impact in an arena that usually holds over 21,000 fans. We’ve seen crowds begin to become a factor in these playoffs, but only once those capacities started nearing 10,000 fans. Canada is behind the United States in their vaccination effort, so don’t expect Montreal’s crowd or any other crowd north of the border to make a significant impact.
Toronto is prohibitive road favorites in this contest, so once again we need to stay clear of the Leafs on the moneyline. Montreal’s coach, Dominique Ducharme, has been very aggressive in terms of pulling his goaltender for an extra attacker in this series. If Toronto has the lead late in the game, they should have ample opportunity to pad it. Therefore, I’d look towards the Leafs on the puck-line in this spot.
Based on their past playoff history and the restlessness and passion of their fanbase, I really don’t think the Leafs want this series to get to a game seven. They should be motivated to finish this series before it gets to that point.
Bet: Toronto -1.5 (+150)