The Toronto Maple Leafs came into the 2021 season as the fourth favorite team to win the Stanley Cup, checking in at odds of +900 on DraftKings Sportsbook Ontario. The Leafs trailed only Colorado, Vegas and their first-round opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The two-time champion Lightning entered the season at +700.
The Leafs had an exceptional regular season led by the NHL betting Hart Trophy favorite in Auston Matthews. With a record of 54-21-7 Toronto finished fourth in overall league standings and second in the extremely tough and competitive Atlantic Division.
That led Toronto to its matchup with the division’s third-place Lightning, who finished the season eighth in the entire league. Playing the defending champs is a tough task for a Leafs team that hasn’t seen any playoff success in years. But if Toronto is able to defeat Tampa Bay, it will gain years’ worth of winning experience in one series.
Leafs-Lightning Series Schedule
- Game 1: Monday, 7:30 p.m., in Toronto.
- Game 2: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., in Toronto.
- Game 3: Friday, 7:30 p.m., in Tampa.
- Game 4: May 8, 7 p.m., in Tampa.
- Game 5: If necessary, May 10, TBD, in Toronto.
- Game 6: If necessary, May 12, TBD, in Tampa.
- Game 7: If necessary, May 14, TBD, in Toronto.
Maple Leafs Slightly Favored
The Leafs enter the series as slight -120 favorites in Ontario sports betting to win what should be a very competitive matchup. Toronto is currently at +900 to win the Stanley Cup. The Lightning are +1100.
Toronto is looking to become the first Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup since 1993 and currently have the best odds of Canadian teams.
The Ontario sports betting and iGaming markets launched on April 4 and the Stanley Cup playoffs are expected to be popular with bettors in the province.
Current Stanley Cup Odds
Can Toronto's Goaltending Hold Up?
The question mark, as it has been for the past couple of months, is goaltending. Jack Campbell is healthy and looking to bounce back from a poor second half of the season. He shut out the Detroit Red Wings in his final regular-season appearance, so the goaltending appears to be trending up. On the other side of the ice, Andrei Vasilevskiy poses a big threat for the Leafs’ offense as he’s been the best big game goaltender in recent NHL history.
If there is any player who can break through the Tampa Bay goaltending it is surely Matthews. He had an exceptional year with 60 goals in just 73 games. With Matthews and Mitch Marner running the offense, Toronto has put up goals all season.
Those two have questions to answer when it comes to the playoffs especially after last year’s disappointing first round exit. With the experience from that seven-game series loss to Montreal spurring them on the duo should have an excellent series, especially if they get the chance to put their league-best power play to work.
It isn’t just those two providing offense for Toronto, as John Tavares and William Nylander give Toronto another elite duo on the second line. Nylander had 80 points this year and Tavares was right behind him with 76.
They have played with a rotating cast of wings this year but both team up with Marner and Matthews on the power play. Rookie Michael Bunting also had a solid offensive season, taking advantage of his spot on the top line and leading all NHL rookies in scoring.
Lightning Offense Also Strong
Defensively, Toronto will have its hands full with Tampa Bay’s deep offense. Steven Stamkos had his best offensive season ever (42 goals, 106 points) and teams up with Nikita Kucherov, who has been the most potent playoff scorer over the past five years to form a scary offense.
Victor Hedman is a beast on the back end and also set career high offensive numbers (20 goals, 85 points) this year. The Lightning will give Toronto’s defense fits all series, but trade deadline acquisition Mark Giordano has solidified the back end for the Leafs with Morgan Rielly, and they will be up to the challenge.
With the tough first-round matchup Toronto is no lock to advance, but its body of work over the regular season suggests it is ready to take a big step in the playoffs. Tackling the most playoff-tested team in the league in the first round is a tough way to exorcise some playoff demons, but if the Leafs can get past Tampa Bay that will show they are capable of going all the way and delivering Toronto fans their first Stanley Cup since 1967.