Free Picks: Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens, 2021 Stanley Cup Round 1

Montreal Canadiens vs Toronto Maple Leafs NHL Stanley Cup 2021 Round 1
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens, Round 1, Canadiens wins series, 4-3

Series Results: Canadiens wins series, 4-3

The unthinkable happened.

The curse of the Toronto Maple Leafs continues. Up 3-1 against rival Montreal Canadiens, the Leafs lost 3 straight games to bow out of the first round of the NHL Playoffs in 7 games at home.

Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner were nowhere to be seen, while Carey Price stole the show for the Canadiens.

Now, the Canadiens turn their attention to the Winnipeg Jets after upsetting the Maple Leafs in the first round. Toronto has failed to meet the second round since 2004, while the Canadiens reach the second-round for the first time since 2015.

We’re back in Toronto for a 7th and decceisive game. Can the Candiens break the hearts of their rivals, or will it be the Maple Leafs escaping the first round?

Game 1

May 20, 07:30 p.m., Scotia Bank Arena

What is Montreal thinking?

It’s never a good sign when an article starts like this. But I have to question what the Habs are thinking ahead of their round-one match-up.

Montreal confirmed Tuesday that Kotkaniemi, Caufield, and Romanov would be on the outside looking in to start this series. All I have to say is, WHY?

Kotkaniemi I can understand, but Caufield’s absence is mind-boggling. With that being said, for this NHL prediction, I am all Toronto Maple Leafs.Toronto were already considered the stronger team entering this series. Montreal is not doing themselves any favors by sitting one of their emerging stars. I could be proven wrong, but right now I am puzzled by this decision.

In the regular season, Montreal went 3-6-1 against Toronto, allowing 34 goals in 10 games.

Toronto outclasses Montreal in basically every category. The Maple Leafs are stronger on offense and defense, which is why taking the Maple Leafs straight up -200 (888Sport) makes sense from a betting perspective. I would also potentially look at the over 4.5 goals (888Sport) because of Montreal and Toronto’s ability to have high-scoring games.

Looking at game 1, I think Montreal fans will be disappointed. Toronto tore up the North and I don’t see Montreal making this much of a series.

Things could change for game 2, but I think we’ll see the Maple Leafs open this series with a victory.

Of course, Carey Price is the ultimate equalizer. Hockey fans know how important goaltending is. If he stands on his head that would greatly impact Stanley Cup odds.

The only way I see Toronto losing this game is if they break down defensively or they run into a hot goaltender. I wouldn’t consider the Habs a threat on either end of the rink, so Price will need a huge game on Thursday if Montreal wants to take this victory.



Game 2 (Canadiens leads 1-0)

May 22, 07:00 p.m., Scotiabank Arena

I owe an apology to Montreal.

When it was revealed that Caufield and Kotkaniemi were healthy scratches for Game 1, I was completely puzzled. I thought Montreal was giving the game away and Toronto would take a 1-0 series lead.

Evidently not.

Entering game 2, the Maple Leafs will be without John Tavares for the foreseeable future due to a nasty collision with Corey Perry. While it seems Tavares is doing alright under the circumstances, we can’t expect to see him skate in the near future.

The biggest takeaway from game 1 for me was goaltending. Jack Campbell stood tall in the loss and Carey Price was brilliant as usual. With all the talented goal scorers on both sides, I was rather surprised that we saw such a low-scoring game.

This leads me into my free NHL pick. A total goals wager is intriguing. Both goaltenders stood on their heads in game 1, but I’m not sure that trend will continue. With the number of shots tallied by both sides, it will be incredibly difficult for both goalies to play as they did in game 1. The total goals is listed at 5.5 +100 (Betway) and while that is relatively high, I think Montreal and Toronto are itching to score some goals. Price and Campbell stood tall before, but how long can they bend without breaking?

I think this game changes the entirety of the series. With the series about to head back to Montreal, the Maple Leafs cannot afford a loss on Saturday.

Looking at the Moneyline for an alternate wager, Toronto is still listed as favorites at -175(888Sport). The Maple Leafs are a solid option for Stanley Cup odds, considering they were the favorites to come out of the North. For this specific game, I would roll with the Maple Leafs. Toronto is stacked and I see them splitting at home.


Game 3 (series tied 1-1)

May 24, 07:00 p.m., Bell Centre

The Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens is must-watch hockey.

When starting a playoff series on the road, the goal is to head home with at least a split. Of course, winning both games is ideal, but you at least want to take one victory on the road.

And Montreal did exactly that.

Toronto left it all on the ice during Game 2, storming back to tie this series up at one game apiece. Still, the Canadiens head back to Quebec with an evened series and a chance to take the lead.

Looking at this Stanley Cup playoffs prediction, I want to go off usual paths and recommend a bet that I think has great value.

The first period has been crucial to team success for both Montreal and Toronto. I think betting on both teams to score in the first period (+190, 10Bet) will be your best NHL bet for this game.

Game 2 saw both teams open the scoring relatively early and I believe that trend will continue. Historically, this season, the Canadiens and Maple Leafs have been high-scoring.

Both Montreal and Toronto have been confident on offense and I think they both tally a goal in the opening 20 minutes.

As for the winner straight up, it’s hard to not go with the Maple Leafs. Toronto enters this game as favorites at -160 (10Bet). Even without John Tavares, the Maple Leafs are deeper on offense than Montreal.

Of course, Carey Price is an elite goaltender and can steal games for the Habs. But with the number of scoring chances Toronto produces coupled with their offensive star power, I am confident in Toronto for this NHL playoff pick.

Game 3 changes the outlook of this series. Toronto is on the road and Montreal needs to win at home. Monday night should produce some compelling action across the NHL as well as the Bell Centre.


Game 4 (Leafs leads series 2-1)

May 24, 07:30 p.m., Bell Centre

Toronto looks to put more pressure on Montreal.

While the Canadiens were heavy underdogs entering this first-round match-up, Montreal has stuck with Toronto for the majority of this series. However, the buds of Toronto have been able to capture two straight victories and currently lead the series, 2-1.

Looking back at game 3, Montreal peppered the Toronto goal with shots. If Montreal can continue to wear down Toronto’s defense, good things may come to the Canadiens.

Kicking off this BetPicks Prediction, I want to take a look at a wager that entices me. Total goals. Jack Campbell and Carey Price have been showstoppers in the blue paint, and I am banking on that to continue on Tuesday.

This NHL prediction relies solely on good goaltending, but I am fine with that.

Campbell has a .951 save percentage through 3 games, while Price has a .929. Price and Campbell have stood tall for the majority of this series. The total goals is listed at 5.5 -120 (10Bet) and I think taking the under will be smart. Despite how offensive-minded the Canadiens and Leafs have been, they are running into two hot goaltenders.

Price was lit up in game 2, but we’ve seen what he can do before. I wouldn’t worry about the 4 allowed goals. But if Toronto manages to rack up over 30 shots again, it could be a difficult night for Montreal.

Toronto is the obvious favorite entering game 4, but there is a case to be made for Montreal. As mentioned, the Canadiens are firing everything towards the goal. Campbell has been solid, but it’s incredibly difficult to be sharp when facing nearly 30 shots per game.

Montreal proved that timely scoring and stellar defense could win hockey games. If Montreal can do that, I see the Canadiens evening up this series.

However, I think Toronto is just a step ahead of Montreal which is why I think the Maple Leafs will take a 3-1 series lead.


Game 5 (Leafs leads series 3-1)

May 27, 07:00 p.m., Scotiabank Arena

Can Montreal extend the series?

Through 4 games of this NHL Playoffs first-round match-up, it’s evident that the Maple Leafs have overpowered the Canadiens. With their backs against the wall and on the road, Montreal looks to keep their season alive on Thursday.

As expected, the Toronto Maple Leafs are heavy favorites at –170 (10Bet) on the Moneyline.

But for this BetPicks Prediction, I want to stay away from the winner straight up. Before I jump into my expert picks for this game, I just want to say that Toronto straight up would be the play if you’re interested in the Moneyline. It’s evident that Toronto is stronger on both sides of the puck which is something Montreal cannot combat.

For Game 5, I want to look at the Puck Line. Toronto is listed at -1.5 (10Bet) and I think taking this wager will be smart.

I think Toronto will end the series in 5 games, but that means they will take the lead (hopefully late). From there, the Canadiens will be desperate for a goal and will resort to an empty net. This means that a one-goal advantage for Toronto could easily become two or three goals (depending on when/if Montreal pulls their goalie).

Toronto to win by exactly 2 goals +325 is another NHL free pick I would recommend based on what was said above.

The Maple Leafs have won 3 straight against Montreal. If the Maple Leafs muster up another W against Montreal, the Canadiens will pack their bags.


Game 6 (If necessary)

May 29, 07:00., Bell Centre

It will be a historic evening in Montreal.

While the Canadiens try to tie their first-round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Bell Centre will welcome back fans to the arena. This is the first-time hockey fans have been allowed back in the arena in Canada since the start of the pandemic.

We have seen how having fans in the stands impacted the outcome of the game during American contests, but will the same happen in Game 6?

For this BetPicks prediction, I want to look at the over/under for the first period. Of course, total goals wagers are always popular between these teams, but I think Montreal having a crowd behind them will cause a huge momentum swing.

The current line is 1.5, and I think Montreal and Toronto can score in the opening frame to win this bet. The over is listed at -105 (888Sport) and provides better return than the under (-120) as well.

2 of the 5 games have seen 2 (or more) goals scored in the opening frame. Game 1 saw one goal scored in the first period. I think these teams score at a high enough pace that I am confident that we will see at least 2 goals in the first 20 minutes.

As for the outright winner of this game, I think it’s a tough choice. Montreal is back at home, but Toronto is the better team. While the Maple Leafs have outclassed Montreal this series, the Canadiens will have their fanbase in their corner. Will home-ice advantage ring true in Game 6?

If selecting a winner, I think taking the Canadiens straight up +163 (888Sport) will be your best NHL bet. The Habs own all the momentum entering this game and will have their fans on their side.


Game 7 (series tied at 3-3)

May 31, 07:00 p.m, Scotiabank Arena

It all comes down to this.

It’s only fitting that the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs’ opening-round playoff series goes the distance. Two teams with historic backgrounds in the sport and a fierce rivalry square off to eliminate one another.

The Maple Leafs are at home for Game 7 after dropping two straight games to the Canadiens. Montreal, the jagged underdogs have pushed the favorite Maple Leafs to the brink of elimination.

From a betting perspective for Game 7, I am all in on the under. The total goals is your usual line of 5.5 -135 (Betway) and I think taking the under will be your best NHL bet for this contest.

It’s the Stanley Cup playoffs and goaltending wins championships. There will be an extra emphasis on defense during Game 7 as one mistake could cost you your season. Carey Price and Jack Campbell have been strong this series and I think we see another tight performance in Game 7.

As for the winner straight up, I think the burden of another loss of Toronto will be weighing heavily on their minds. While both teams want to obviously win, the Maple Leafs have a ton of pressure on them – I think that dramatically impacts this NHL playoffs prediction.

With that being said, the Canadiens are underdogs on the Moneyline (+170, Betway) and I am inclined to take Montreal to win this game and the series.

The Canadiens are trying to secure their spot into the next round, but have no pressure. With Toronto being the favored team throughout this series and even popular picks to win the North, there is immense pressure on the Maple Leafs.

For these expert NHL picks, I think we’ll see a grind until the final minute. I wouldn’t be surprised if this game goes to OT as well. But either way, I am taking the under and the Habs’ ML.



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have always wanted to be a writer and sports are my favorite thing in the world, so I combined the two to make a career. I have been a long-time gambler and sports betting writer that isn't afraid to look at the underdog or specials. I am covering the NHL, MLB and NCAA Football for and am a huge fan of both sports - as well as many others. Follow me on Twitter (@Patrick_Trudeau) so we can talk betting, sports, or why ketchup DOES belong on Poutine.