The Toronto Maple Leafs are most definitely a team of the future, but the question as we enter the opening round of the NHL playoffs is whether they are going to be a team of the here and now. This freewheeling squad has some of the best young players in the National Hockey League, and they may offer a daunting challenge to the Boston Bruins, who they will encounter starting on Thursday in Beantown. Remember that if you are a BetAnySports customer, you can place wagers while all the games of this best-of-seven series are happening, thanks to the incredible software from Live Betting Ultra.
2018 Stanley Cup Betting – Bruins vs Maple Leafs:
In the 2018 Stanley Cup Betting odds posted on this series at BetAnySports, the Leafs are the underdogs, but not by much:
Boston Bruins -150
Toronto Maple Leafs +130
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The Leafs, who registered 105 points with their 49-26-7 record, actually beat Boston three out of four times in the regular season and finished with the #7 record in the NHL. Leading the scoring parade for them this year was 20-year-old Mitch Marner, who had 22 goals and 49 assists, and is among a trio of young guns that will take Toronto well into the future. Also on that list is 22-year-old William Nylander, who had 20 goals and 40 assists, but the guy who is on track to become the biggest superstar in this town is Auston Matthews, who interestingly enough is a California native who was raised in Arizona. Matthews, who was the first pick in the 2060 NHL Draft, scored four goals in his first NHL game, and won the Calder Trophy with 40 goals in his rookie season. This year, even though he missed 20 games, he has tallied 33, and he makes for a great combination with Marner, the playmaker, and, among others, veteran winger Patrick Marleau, who scored a career-high 44 goals with San Jose back in 2009-10 and had 27 goals this season at the age of 38.
Toronto certainly expects to benefit from last year’s experience, when they were the #8 seed in the East and lost their initial playoff series in six games to the Washington Capitals. This is the kind of team that has the potential to break out at any given time, because there are a lot of guys who can score. Nobody had as many as 70 points for them, but they had ten players posting at least 40, and this was the second best team in the NHL on the power play, converting 25% of the time.
James Van Riemsdyk was the team leader with 36 goals, mostly because Matthews missed so many games, but he is a potent weapon, as isNazem Kadri, who scored 12 times on the power play and is known as a ferocious back-checker. Kadri, however, needs to play better in the post-season; he has scored only two playoff goals in 13 games.
Frederik Andersen, the goaltender, faced more shots and made more saves than anyone else at his position. There is no question that Toronto has to protect him better if they are going to go places in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Defensemen Jake Gardiner and Morgan Tielly both had 52 points, but this defensive crew sometimes leaves too many holes, which become headaches Andersen has to solve.
The Maple Leafs last won the Stanley Cup in 1967, so there has been an awful lot of frustration for a long time in one of the league’s traditional hockey cities. If they defend well, they have a chance. If not, they won’t.
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By Charles Jay