NHL picks: 4 best bets for Canadiens vs Leafs
Our NHL expert has picked out his four best bets for Game 7 between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.
The entire city of Toronto is on edge as the Maple Leafs have failed to close out the Canadiens in two straight games, forcing this Game 7. If the Maple Leafs lose this game, it would be one of the worst collapses in the franchise’s history. If the players are thinking too much about that, it could be a bad thing.
What they should be thinking about, however, is that they were a shot away from ending this series in back-to-back games, as both Games 5 and 6 went to overtime. If this game is close late, it favors Montreal, but Toronto has two games to adjust to a better Canadiens squad than they saw at other points in this series.
This Maple Leafs roster does not have many players with a lot of Game 7 success. Only three players on the roster have won a Game 7. Jake Muzzin is 4-1, Joe Thornton is 5-3 and Riley Nash is 1-0. No one else has been on the winning side. Meanwhile, the Habs have Carey Price who is 2-1 in three Games 7 with a .944 save percentage. Joel Edmundson and Eric Staal are also both 4-0 in Games 7 in their careers. Perhaps one of the factors that evens things up is that neither coach has been in a Game 7 before in their current role as Sheldon Keefe and Dominique Ducharme will be experiencing this for the first time.
It’s so hard to have any faith in the Maple Leafs, given what recent history has looked like for them. However, I can’t make myself believe they’re going to blow this series, too. I’m looking for a quick start from the Leafs and for them to break through the excellent Carey Price, who has been dialed in and giving the Habs a chance in every game. It’s nothing but a gut feel this time around because I think this one will be tight.
Only two games have hit over 5.5 goals in this series, but the intensity of this Game 7 I think could have the opposite effect. The Maple Leafs can’t get caught playing too safe or risk getting away from what made them the top team in the North Division this season. The Habs almost have nothing to lose as no one expected them to be at this point. Stretching this series to seven games gives them a chance and they need all their big guns firing.
Meanwhile, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner have been a little too quiet in this series. They seem destined for a breakout, but we thought the same thing about Connor McDavid against the Winnipeg Jets in the other North Division series and that didn’t materialize. You have to assume both Matthews and Marner have no interest in being scapegoated for this playoff series and the only way to do that is to get on the score sheet.
I expect a whole bunch of shots in this game and if Toronto gets up early in the game, it could be off to the races.
It’s a Game 7, so the referees are not going to be a huge factor in the game. There should be some infractions, but in what will probably be the most-watched game in Canada in a long, long time, I don’t think the referees are going to want to factor in too much by way of calling penalties.
They’ll probably only call the most obvious stuff over the course of the game. Getting over 6.5 minor penalties called seems like a very high bar to clear in a Game 7.
With the nerves going and the intensity racheted up in this game, I think this one is going to be a little more wide open and both teams are going to be throwing pucks to the net any chance they get.
Only two games in this series had fewer than 60 shots on goal. Both teams have gotten a lot of pucks to the net in the series and even though Game 7 situations can tighten things up, I don’t expect either team to change the way they’ve played in this series.