The Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets are polar opposite teams who've split two contests thus far, but after Thursday's Game 3 of their playoff qualifier series, one of them will move to the precipice of elimination.
After Columbus held Toronto's high-octane offense without a goal in a 2-0 opening victory, the Leafs return the favor with a 3-0 shutout in the most recent meeting.
Who's going to get the upper hand in this best-of-five battle? Continue reading for abe Insights' preview, which provides wagers analysis, advanced stats, and the best odds you can find across the major sportsbooks — all designed to optimize your betting experience.
Date: Thursday, August 6
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Maple Leafs 59%; Blue Jackets 43%
Spread: TOR -1.5 (+200); CBJ +1.5 (-200)
Moneyline: TOR -145; CBJ +135
The pandemic-induced hiatus allowed the Jackets to get much healthier. Defenseman Seth Jones is back in action after what turned out to be a well-timed February ankle surgery. Winger Oliver Bjorkstrand was out with an ankle injury, too. He missed 31 games, yet still led Columbus with 21 goals.
Between rookie Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo, the Jackets have two green goalies when it comes to postseason action. The latter made a dazzling shutout debut, but whomever is between the pipes, Toronto figures to have the edge with Frederik Andersen.
22.9 vs. 16.4: Toronto ranked behind only five teams in 2019-20 on power play success rate. Meanwhile, Columbus was ahead of just four clubs; only one of them are in the expanded playoff field.
3.53 vs. 3.47 & 3.42: Courtesy of MoneyPuck.com, these are the rebounds per save percentages for Andersen, Korpisalo and Merzlikins respectively. They comprise the Nos. 3 through 5 spots among the NHL's leaders. Thus, don't expect many second cracks at the net for either side after initial shot attempts.
.810 vs. .579: Pay close attention to the start of this one — a live bet after the first intermission may be in order. The initial number here is Toronto's winning percentage in the regular season when leading after the opening period, followed by Columbus' underwhelming clip, which ranked 29th.
Some more simplistic numbers here to emphasize the dichotomy on display this fine Thursday: the Leafs scored the third-most goals in the NHL; the Blue Jackets tied for the third-fewest. Toronto was in the bottom five in goals allowed; Columbus ranked No. 3 there.
Although that whole sports adage of "defense wins championships" may not apply as directly to hockey, goalie performance is vital. Andersen is definitely the more experienced among Game 3's netminders, but CBJ boasts a far superior defense from the backcheck to the blue line.
Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares are as good a power trio as you'll find in the NHL. Continuing to live up to the hype as the No. 1 overall pick in 2016, Matthews had a career-high 47 goals this season and scored in Game 2, along with Tavares. Marner (51 assists in 2019-20) is more of a facilitator and elevates the play of everyone around him.
It's good that Bjorkstrand is back for the Jackets. They'll need all the help they can get, and the likes of Jones and fellow standout blue-liner Zach Werenski must hold their own on the back end for Columbus to have a real chance at pulling the minor upset.
The goal total is fairly standard across hockey, but these teams hit the Under in each of the first two contests. Since Columbus isn't exactly a paragon of scoring excellence and is so stout on defense, it's easier to see the majority of bets sticking with the Under.
Having said that, there's no question Toronto has more playmakers on their leading lines. The Jackets are putting too much on their young netminder, which means bets should trend toward the Leafs' spread and moneyline.
Note: Odds current as of 12:15 p.m. ET on Thursday, August 6.
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