NHL Betting Guide: Saturday 5/22/21

The four-game slates continue Saturday with an all-day schedule. Games start at 12:30 p.m. EST when the Florida Panthers try to level their series with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The New York Islanders face a similar challenge at 3 p.m. EST when they try to stop their two-game slide and get even with the Pittsburgh Penguins. We're shifting our attention to one of the later games, where our projections indicate there's an advantage in a North Division matchup.

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Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens

Maple Leafs moneyline (-188): 1-Star Rating Out of 5

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been metrics darlings all season, and that continued in their opening game of the 2021 playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens. The result didn't go their way, but based on our projections, they are the team to beat on Saturday.

Toronto put up an expected goals-for percentage of 54.5% in Game 1. The Leafs dominated possession and shots by posting a 58.2% Corsi rating and outshooting the Habs 28-17. Production metrics were less impressive, with the Leafs attempting just 13 scoring chances and five high-danger attempts, both of which were marginally lower than what Montreal did.

The Leafs' biggest challenge will be finding a way to beat Carey Price. Price stymied Toronto by stopping 97.2% of shots in Game 1, including stopping all seven of the Leafs' power-play shots. In four starts against the Leafs throughout the regular season, Price stopped only 86.8% of shots. His effort in the first game of the series was impressive but won't be easily duplicated.

Montreal was out-possessed, out-shot, and out-chanced in scoring chances across all strengths in Game 1. The difference was a shorthanded tally by Paul Byron in the third period. The Leafs controlled the entire third period, out-possessing the Habs by a 64.3% margin and out-shooting them 8-2. However, one misplay at the blue line in the attacking zone was the break the Canadiens needed to capitalize on only their second shot of the stanza.

All things considered, the Habs were lucky to escape with a win. Taking two games on the road against the best team in the North Division may be too tall of an order to replicate for Montreal.

Based on our projections, there's a slim advantage in backing the Leafs. Toronto's moneyline price carries an implied probability of 65.3%, but our model gives them a 67.3% chance of winning. It's on that basis that the Leafs' moneyline wager is listed as a one-star play.