NHL Betting Preview (April 20): Maple Leafs vs Bruins Game 1 Odds

Photo credit:Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Nicholas Martin
9 days ago
The Leafs’ current core has offered season after season of playoff disappointments, and will likely finally be broken apart if things remain the same in 2024. Toronto has also not bested the Bruins in the playoffs since 1959, which will have some bettors foolishly believing the Bruins have to win this series.
Road teams went 5-2 in the Bruins’ first-round matchup versus Florida last season, while road teams went 5-1 in the Leafs’ first-round matchup against Tampa.
I’ll outline the relevant game notes below, as well as hand out my best bet.

Maple Leafs vs Bruins Odds

  • Maple Leafs Moneyline Odds: +110
  • Bruins Moneyline Odds: -130
  • Puck Line Odds: Maple Leafs +1.5 (-240), Bruins -1.5 (+195)
  • Game Total: 5.5 goals (over -125, under +105)
Toronto Maple Leafs
Part of how you view the Leafs’ chances in this series comes down to how you weigh the significance of the final two weeks of the season versus the last three months, as well as how much of an indicator you believe head-to-head regular season matchups are. Over the last three months, the Leafs were the better of these two sides by a wide margin in most statistical categories. With that said, nobody is going to put too much stock in that for a Leafs core that has continually disappointed in the postseason.
Toronto played to a record of 24-13-2 and allowed 3.10 goals against per game since January 20. It generated 3.79 goals for per game. Their 53.46 xGF% ranked seventh in that span, and even their xGA/60 of 3.11 was superior to the Bruins.
They limp into the playoffs on an 0-4 losing skid though, and went 0-3 versus the Bruins in the regular season.
The most important notes surrounding this game from the Leafs’ side of things revolve around the status of William Nylander, whose status remains unclear. The general consensus seems to be if this was an elimination game he’d be in the lineup for certain, but he is dealing with an injury that could be aggravated, and therefore is questionable for Game One.
The Leafs’ biggest edge over the Bruins in this series is their offensive depth, which takes a considerable hit with Nylander potentially out of the mix.
The Leafs ranked second in the league this season with 3.63 goals for per game, which was far superior to Boston’s 3.21 goal-per-game rating.
The Bruins appear to be stacking Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm on one defense pairing in this matchup, and will surely look to hard match that duo against Matthews line as much as possible. That strategy could prove particularly effective if Nylander’s dynamic offensive play is missing from the second or third line.
Ilya Samsonov’s form is likely to be the greatest deciding factor in this series. At his best, Samsonov is a true number-one goaltender, while at his worst soft goals from a distance seem to become far too common of a flaw. He has played well enough down the stretch to earn this start though, and we should expect him to play get the start in Game One.
This arrangement looks to be the Leafs’ defence core ahead of Game One.
There is no doubt that the physicality of this unit is appealing over a seven-game series. The concern though will be moving the puck out of the defensive zone and helping to generate offensive chances. While the common contention seems to be the Leafs fizzle out in the postseason because they can’t defend, the data has suggested an inability to create offence in the big moments has been the larger issue.
Boston Bruins
The Bruins will have a lot of pressure of their own ahead of this series, as they blew a division lead to get specifically Toronto. Not only that, but this core is also in a pretty notable stretch of disappointing playoff results, including an ugly 3-1 collapse to the Panthers last season.
Whether it’s Jeremy Swayman or Linus Ullmark, the Bruins have a considerable edge in goal. While Jim Montgomery is showing a little gamesmanship by not announcing a Game One starter. Swayman played to a +18.4 GSAx and .916 save %, while Ullmark played to a +14.8 GSAx and .915 save %.
My guess is Swayman gets the Game One start, as he was slightly better this season, and the last playoff was pretty ugly for Ullmark. With that said, the decision holds little weight from a handicapping perspective.
Boston has a lesser offensive core than Toronto, both in its ability to generate offence and in its ability to help drive the overall run of play. That weakness is made up for by a superior defensive unit though, headlined by a true number-one defenceman in Charlie McAvoy.
Brandon Carlo is likely to return to the lineup and will compile half of a high-quality second pairing alongside Matt Grzelcyk.
Best Bets for Leafs vs Bruins:
Personally, I don’t view the Bruins -125 to win the series as the lock that most non Leafs fans think it is. This series should be hotly contested, and I believe it is highly probable we see it stretch to six or seven games. If Samsonov can play at a respectable level the Leafs should have a solid chance of snapping this curse versus Boston.
Yes, the Leafs’ defence core is also a weakness relative to Boston. Even still, over the last several months of the season, these teams owned highly comparable defensive results. A large part of that is because the Leafs’ offensive core does a better job of driving possession than the Bruins’ unit does.
The Leafs are priced at +110 at the time of writing in Game One matchup, which is likely giving nearly cents for home-ice advantage. Chances are Boston will be -110 for games three and four in Toronto, barring notable injuries. Those would be my preferred time to bet the Bruins.
There are few statistics which suggest home ice advantage actually matters in this matchup, and in general home ice is highly overvalued betting-wise come playoff time.
Across the whole NHL in last year’s playoffs, road teams went 42-36. In the first round, teams were extremely profitable on the road as they went 28-17.
In the Sheldon Keefe era, the Leafs are 5-12 on home ice in the playoffs, and 8-5 on the road.
I’m not saying those trends have to continue as a rule, but as a general rule, no data suggests paying 20 cents to bet teams on home ice makes sense based on recent history.
There is a bet I like ahead of Game One of this series though. You can bet the series to be tied at two after the opening four games at +150, and I see value in their number given my belief that neither team is likely to run away with this series.
Bet365 Best Bets: Series tied 2-2 after four games +150

Check out these posts...