Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 12:30 PM EST.
Montreal +169 over Toronto
7:05 PM EST. OT included. We are fully aware that we are zig-zagging here and while that is one of the cardinal sins of sports betting that we often highlight in this space, there are exceptions to every rule and we’ll make a rare one here. With that out of the way, let us offer up the Canadiens, who are taking back such a ridiculous number today that it cannot be ignored. Sure the Maple Leafs were spotting a bigger price in Game 1, but that was with John Tavares in the lineup and before their heads started spinning, all due respect to JT.
While games of the past do not predict the future, we could not help but think back to the Leafs' series with Boston in 2018 and 2019. You may remember that Toronto center Nazem Kadri was suspended in both, and the Leafs would go on to lose both with Kadri on the sidelines when they were in full control with him in the lineup. 2019 was particularly painful, as the Leafs had full command of the series until Kadri was ejected for the remainder of the series JT is the best second line center in the league and his absence cannot be understated. With JT out, coach Sheldon Keefe was leaning hard on his top line and one has to wonder if it is reasonable for Auston Matthews and company to shoulder that load. Or for Nick Foligno to stand in place of the Leafs’ captain, as he did in practice prior to Game 2. One only has to point to the Jets and their masterclass on how to shut down a superstar center to see what happens when a top line gets neutered.
All year, the North Division was the Wild West with goals coming in bunches, but these are the playoffs and this is a different game. First, you need a goalie and while Carey Price was lacklustre for most of the season, he flicked that switch that great goalies seem to find when the stakes are the highest. Who do the Leafs have to answer Price save for save? Jack Campbell who is now 0-1 in his playoff career and gave up the game winning short-handed goal.
We don't envy Campbell's predicament. After all, this is his first rodeo in The Center of the Universe and he must carry the weight of a starved hockey nation that has not tasted even the faintest of playoff success in nearly 20 years. A Game 1 loss, even by a slim 2-1 margin now has the masses saying "I told you so." If winning hockey games came down to just luck and skill, surely the Leafs would have won a series sometime since 2004, but the longer that streak goes, the harder it seems to overcome. When your fanbase and the media are on the edge of their seats waiting for doomsday, that has to weigh on a team. A massive seed of doubt has been planted once again. It's hard to explain but that black cloud can hang over a team. Just look at the Red Sox or Cubs before their curse-busting championships. How many times did you read or hear about Bill Buckner or that fucking goat? Are the Leafs cursed? It wouldn't be the first time. Rather than go on, we'll leave you with a lyric from the great Gord Downie. Enjoy the game.
"Bill Barilko disappeared that summer, He was on a fishing trip, The last goal he ever scored, Won the Leafs the cup, They didn't win another till 1962, the year he was discovered"
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Montreal +169 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 3.38)