NHL betting: Will the Leafs push Montreal to the brink of elimination?

·3 min read

There's just a two-game slate on tap Tuesday night, as a couple of teams have already secured their spots in the second round.

Let's get to the picks.

All betting odds provided by BetMGM

Toronto Maple Leafs (-175) at Montreal Canadiens (+145) — Total: 5.5

Montreal shocked Toronto — and most bettors — in Game 1, smothering the Leafs en route to a 2-1 victory. A vintage performance by Carey Price certainly helped, but the Leafs also suffered some bad puck luck, especially when you consider they fired 36 shots on net.

The Leafs now have a 2-1 series lead, and that could easily be 3-0, especially when you consider how Toronto has been outplaying the Habs 5-on-5. I won't blame anyone for going with the Leafs on Tuesday night, either on the money line or the puck line (which is at +150 at BetMGM).

I'm more interested in this total, however. The under has cashed in five of Montreal's last seven games against Toronto, and seven times in their last 10 home matchups. And, for all the firepower the Leafs have — they've also held a top-seven defense all season — they've gone 12-15-2 to the under away from Scotiabank Arena, and their last four games cashed the under away from home, too.

Montreal doesn't have much of a hope to outscore Toronto if it comes to a high-scoring affair; its best bet (no pun intended) to make this series 2-2 is to play as it did in Game 1. That means winning face-offs, delivering punishing hits (the Habs laid 55 hits in Game 1 to just 27 by the Leafs), and controlling the puck. They'll also have to hope Price has another strong outing in him for this all-important Game 4.

Ultimately, with all that said and the matchup being the second-leg of a back-to-back, I'll take the under.

Pick: Under 5.5 (-115)

Nashville Predators (+155) at Carolina Hurricanes (-190) — Total: 5.5

This series has turned out tighter than probably most expected, but that's been the story of the Predators this season — they seem to undermine expectations time and time again. And they undoubtedly have to be riding high heading into Game 5, while the Hurricanes must be wondering where they went wrong the last two games.

Aided by inspired, timely offense (as well as some oddly sloppy play on the Hurricanes end), the Preds have made this a 2-2 series. The Hurricanes have stumbled late in the last two games, whether that's giving up a late goal to force overtime or giving up the winning goal in the extra period(s). That's very unlike a team that was ranked fourth in overall defense and third on the penalty kill during the regular season (of course, this is the playoffs — anything can happen in the playoffs, especially in a sport played on ice).

But now, the Predators have to go back to PNC Arena, where Carolina has been notoriously difficult to defeat this season. The Hurricanes went 22-3-5 at home, and they completely outclassed Nashville the first two games of this series on their home ice.

Young Canes goalie Alex Nedeljkovic has been elite all season, but there's a slight uptick in his prowess when playing at home. I'm thinking a trip back to their friendly confines will remind the Hurricanes of who they are and what they can do. The Predators have lost six times in a row at PNC Arena, and as much as I am a fan of variance, I don't think they break the streak in this pivotal Game 5.

I'm taking the Hurricanes at home — where they've been utterly dominant and have outplayed the Predators time and time again (in fact, they've outplayed them this whole series, but sloppy play late gets you sloppy results late) — to win a decisive Game 5 victory.

Pick: Carolina Hurricanes -1.5 (+140)

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