The Toronto Maple Leafs will be listed as betting favourites for their play-in series matchup when the NHL resumes play this summer. After being set as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Maple Leafs will take on the Columbus Blue Jackets as early -160 favourites on the NHL series prices at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Hobbled by injuries and inconsistent play, the Maple Leafs were far from assured of a playoff spot when the NHL suspended play on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Toronto held a narrow three-point lead over fourth-place Florida in the Atlantic Division standings, and was on pace for a first-round matchup with Tampa Bay going into the pause.
But a difficult series with the Lightning or another top-seeded Eastern Conference team remains a real possibility if the Maple Leafs can get past the Blue Jackets, who lag as +140 underdogs for the series at sports betting sites. The Maple Leafs enjoy a strong record in recent games against Columbus, picking up at least a point in six of seven meetings since the end of 2017. However, drawing Columbus as their first opponent has done little to boost the team on the Stanley Cup odds, where they lag behind the favourites at +1800.
While the Maple Leafs have opened as strong favourites on the NHL play-in series prices, the Montreal Canadiens are listed as +175 underdogs for their best-of-five set against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
A full 10 points out of playoff contention when play was suspended, the Canadiens are the biggest beneficiaries of the NHL’s decision to return to action with the league’s top 24 teams. But Montreal will need to show dramatic improvement if they are to have any chance of getting past Pittsburgh after scoring fewer than three goals in nine of their 15 most recent contests, and posting just 14 wins on home ice this season.
The Canadiens have also struggled badly against Pittsburgh, who sport the strongest NHL series odds of any team competing in play-in action at -210. The Penguins have taken home the win in 10 of their last 14 meetings with Montreal, but still face a big challenge to rebound from the shaky 3-8-0 slide they were on when the season was suspended.
Elsewhere on the Eastern Conference series prices, the Carolina Hurricanes are listed as -145 favourites on those NHL odds as they prepare to take on the rapidly improving New York Rangers, who are sporting a line of +125. As well, the clash between the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders is listed as a virtual pick’em, with both clubs sporting -110 odds.