by OddsShark (@OddsShark)
Deciding whether to trust the Toronto Maple Leafs in a win-or-go-home matchup might well come down to the status of a main obstacle known as the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Zach Werenski.
The Maple Leafs are a -160 home favorite with the Columbus Blue Jackets coming back as a +140 underdog and there is a 5.5-goal total on the NHL odds for Sunday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Maple Leafs are 8-7 in their last 15 home games at Scotiabank Arena as a -150 to -180 favorite on the moneyline, with the total finishing UNDER in six of the last eight games in that sample.
Blue Jackets vs Maple Leafs | OddsShark Matchup Report
While the arena will be fan-free, the Blue Jackets are 5-11 in their last 16 away games as an underdog of +135 or more at online sports betting sites, with the total finishing OVER 11 times.
Toronto sent this best-of-five qualifying round series to a decisive game with a come-from-behind 4-3 overtime win on Friday. The comeback involved scoring three goals in the final four minutes of the third period, all while playing with an extra attacker.
The Blue Jackets blew the lead Friday after Werenski (upper-body injury), Seth Jones’s first-pair defense partner, left the game. The NHL’s return-to-play plan forbids teams from disclosing injury or illness information, so bettors will have to watch to see if Werenski returns or is limited.
In a series that has been tough to figure out, Columbus has outscored Toronto 8-3 during five-on-five play, but has only 6.60 expected goals to the Maple Leafs’ 8.22, according to naturalstattrick.com. Keeping a tight structure and having forwards such as Pierre-Luc Dubois, Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson bury their chances has been a good formula for Columbus, at least through four games. The Blue Jackets’ power play has been a non-factor, going 0-for-12 with one shorthanded goal against.
Goalie Elvis Merzlikins has a 1.96 goals-against average and .946 save percentage over the equivalent of two full games, but was in goal for Toronto’s comeback. Joonas Korpisalo has a 2.05 GAA and .938 save percentage in the series.
There need not be any reminder Toronto faces a winner-take-all game for the third consecutive year, and lost the previous two against the Boston Bruins, both times on the road. Playing in their home arena, without the presence of an angsty fanbase, is an interesting X-factor for the Maple Leafs and their core group of centers Auston Matthews and John Tavares, right wing Mitch Marner and defenseman Morgan Rielly.
Toronto had an 8-5 overall edge in high-danger chances (HDC) on Friday, including 6-2 during five-on-five play, so it is not as though their late third-period comeback came out of thin air. Overall, they have a 52-37 edge over Columbus in HDC, including 40-26 during five-on-five. Toronto’s power play is 2-for-12 in the series.
Frederik Andersen has a 1.79 GAA and .941 save percentage in the series, although Toronto has allowed seven goals in their last 120 minutes of play.
Due to the lower-seeded Montreal Canadiens advancing, the series winner will be considered the Eastern Conference’s No. 7 seed and will face the No. 2 seed Tampa Bay Lightning in the next round of the playoffs.