The NHL Playoffs are finally upon us, and the action will get underway on Monday. There are four games on Monday and four games on Tuesday, and it’s those latter games that I will take a look at here. My two favorite plays involve the two teams that squared off in the Stanley Cup Finals, and while I am high on one of the teams, I don’t have a lot of faith in the other team.
NHL Betting Odds at BetRivers Sportsbook
Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs ML (-152), -1.5 (+165)
Tampa Bay Lightning ML (+130), +1.5 (-200)
Total 6 (Over -105, Under -113)
I absolutely love the Toronto Maple Leafs in this series. Yes, Toronto hasn’t won a playoff series in 19 years, and the Maple Leafs are known as postseason chokers. That has many people picking the Tampa Bay Lightning, and some of those people don’t seem to see the irony of how Tampa Bay was viewed just a few years ago. The Lightning were portrayed as constant underachievers after being swept in the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets after a season where they tied the single season record for wins (62), and they proceeded to make three straight Stanley Cup Finals appearances (winning two of them).
Three straight deep postseason runs have left Tampa Bay exhausted though. The Lightning have had to play until June with a core that is getting older, and they have lost key players every offseason as they are dealing with major salary cap issues in an effort to keep contending with their stars. That has been underscored by what we have seen from this team over the past month and a half. Tampa Bay has lost four straight games on three separate occasions, and the Lightning have real issues on defense outside of their top pairing.
Additionally, although Andrei Vasilevskiy has been lights out in the postseason over the past few years, he has been simply above average this season. He was between the pipes for all three of Tampa Bay’s games against Toronto, and the Maple Leafs scored 11 goals on their way to posting a 2-1-0 record in those tilts.
Toronto has a very good goaltender in Ilya Samsonov, and the addition of Ryan O’Reilly highlights that the front office knows it needed to get tougher in order to win in the postseason. This offense is fantastic with four 30-goal scorers during the regular season, and the Maple Leafs are hungry after so much playoff failure. That has me ready to roll with the Maple Leafs on the puck line per the NHL betting odds.
Seattle Kraken at Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche ML (-200), -1.5 (+130)
Seattle Kraken ML (+170), +1.5 (-155)
Total 6 (Over -114, Under 104)
If you are a Seattle Kraken fan, you have to be delighted with the progress of the team. Seattle made the playoffs in just its second year of existence, but this is a pretty tall task for the Kraken. They have to face the defending Stanley Cup champions, and Colorado is very hungry after dealing with a ton of injuries throughout the year during their bid to repeat as title holders.
There just isn’t a ton of talent on Seattle. James McCann ended up as the team’s leading scorer with 40 goals, but no one else has 25 goals on the roster. Instead, the Kraken had a scoring by committee approach with 13 players tallying goals at least 10 times. This team does not have a great situation in net either as both Martin Jones and Philipp Grubauer have a save percentage under .900.
Meanwhile, Colorado is largely healthy, The Avalanche ended the season 16-2-1 in order to win their division, and their first line is absolutely fantastic. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen both ended the year with more than 105 points, and MacKinnon was extremely impressive as he tallied 111 points despite missing 11 games.
Colorado doesn’t have great goaltending, but the Avs won’t need it in this series. Cale Makar is arguably the best two-way defenseman in the league, and the backchecking will be important in a quick Avalanche victory in this series.