After a 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on March 26, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been red hot, winning seven of their past eight games, with the only loss coming in overtime to the Florida Panthers.
The Leafs scored at least six goals in five straight games before a 7-6 loss to the Florida Panthers on April 5. That’s a remarkable scoring pace led by superstar center and Hart Trophy favorite Auston Matthews, who has 11 goals over that eight-game stretch, extending his league lead to eight over Leon Draisaitl of the Oilers.
Matthews now has the single-season goal scoring record for both the Maple Leafs and for any American born player in league history. His first of two goals in Toronto’s 3-2 win over the Canadiens on Saturday was his 50th goal in his last 50 games. He became the first player to do that since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96.
The regulated and competitive Ontario sports betting market launched on April 4, in time for the stretch run of the NHL season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Updated Hart Trophy Odds
|⭐ Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs||-160|
|⭐ Connor McDavid, Oilers||+280|
|⭐ Jonathan Huberdeau, Panthers||+1000|
|⭐ Johnny Gaudreau, Flames||+1400|
|⭐ Igor Shesterkin, Rangers||+1800|
|⭐ Leon Draisaitl, Oilers||+2800|
Tough for Leafs to Catch Florida
On a team level, this excellent stretch of hockey likely won’t be enough for Toronto to overtake the Panthers for the Atlantic Division lead. Florida remains eight points ahead of the Leafs with 10 games to play and is a huge favorite to hold onto its division lead at odds of -3000. The Panthers have won seven straight.
Toronto (+1800 to mount a miracle charge and win the division) instead is fighting for playoff positioning with the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning. The top finisher of those three teams gets home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Toronto has a five-point lead on Boston and a six-point lead on the Bolts in this tight divisional race that should go down to the wire.
As it has been since the start of the year, the Leafs won’t be judged by what they do in the regular season. But their play of late provides hope for Ontario sports fans and NHL bettors that their team has a great chance to advance past the first round for the first time since 2004.
Toronto is +900 to win the Stanley Cup and have the second-best odds of any Eastern Conference team, trailing only the Panthers. The Leafs are trying become the first Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup since 1993 and have the best odds of teams in Canada.
NHL Goal Leaders
|⭐ Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs||58|
|⭐ Leon Draisaitl, Oilers||50|
|⭐ Chris Kreider, Rangers||49|
|⭐ Alex Ovechkin, Capitals||44|
|⭐ Connor McDavid, Oilers||42|
Leafs Offense is Flying
The offense has been spectacular, headlined by Matthews. But Mitch Marner is also on pace for 100 points, Morgan Rielly is fifth in points amongst all defenseman, and William Nylander and John Tavares are hovering around the point per game marks as well. These players headline Toronto’s league leading powerplay, which has converted a remarkable 30% of its chances thus far this season.
As mentioned, leading the charge for Toronto has been Matthews. After a slow start to the season and missing a couple of games with injury, Matthews did not score his first goal until Oct. 25. Since then he has put up 58 goals, setting a remarkable scoring pace not seen in years in the NHL.
With two goals in his last game against the Canadiens, Matthews hit the 50 goals in 50 games milestones, one of the most incredible feats of offense since the days of Wayne Gretzky, Lemieux and Co.
Connor McDavid of the Oilers is also on an incredible run right now and had pulled even with Matthews on the odds board for the Hart Trophy recently. But McDavid was scoreless Saturday night in a 2-1 loss to the Avalanche and after Matthews’ performance against the Canadiens he is now -160 to win the award on bet365 Canada, the shortest odds anyone has been for the Hart all season and it appears as though the race will now come down to him and McDavid.
Matthews Adding Assists, Too
Matthews’ recent surge of offense hasn’t been all goals either, as he now trails only McDavid in points per game, with the five games he’s missed this season the only reason he hasn’t yet surpassed 100 points (he’s at 99). The race for the Rocket Richard Trophy, previously a tight battle between Matthews and Draisaitl now looks like a runaway as Matthews is now an unbettable -800 to win the goal scoring race.
Playoff success is never a guarantee, especially in a division as strong as the Atlantic, but after a brief slump the Maple Leafs have done a good job putting themselves in the best position to make it out of the first round of the postseason for the first time in a long time.
They will have to stay ahead of Tampa Bay or Boston for home ice, but recent wins over each of those teams are a positive sign. If Toronto can keep up its strong play, home ice advantage will also be on its side.
The Maple Leafs face the Buffalo Sabres at home on Tuesday.