NHL Betting Odds, Picks and Predictions: Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (Sunday, August 9)

Credit:

Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Auston Matthews

  • The Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in a decisive Game 5 on Sunday after the Leafs pulled off a historic Game 4 comeback Friday night.
  • Bettors might not want to back Columbus after what happened on Friday, but Michael Leboff likes the Jackets at +130 or better.
  • Read his full betting preview for Game 5 below.

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Blue Jackets Odds +128 [BET NOW]
Maple Leafs Odds -148 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 5.5 (-103/-120) [BET NOW]
Time 8 p.m. ET
TV NBCSN

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The first thought that passed through my head after Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews scored the game-winning goal on Friday night was not fit for print.

The goal completed a historic comeback for the Toronto Maple Leafs, erasing a three-goal deficit with under five minutes to go and ruining a bet and my evening. As my mind cleared, the next thing I felt was dread because I knew that Columbus’ price was going to be inflated for Game 5 and I was going to have to bet the Blue Jackets coming off that loss.

This game figures to generate a huge handle by NHL standards and it’s pretty much a lock that the Maple Leafs will be the popular side on Sunday night. Bettors don’t want to back a team on the heels of a season-defining meltdown.

If the Atlanta Falcons played another game a week after Super Bowl Super Bowl LI, how many people would be champing at the bit to bet the Falcons? I know it’s not apples to apples, but you get the point.

The narrative that Columbus blew it and Toronto is riding momentum should skew the market and provide some value on the Jackets.

After closing at +128 for Game 4 and opening in that same range for Sunday night’s series-decider, I’d expect the Blue Jackets to find themselves in the +135/140 range across the market by the time the puck drops.

Part of the market-shift has to do with the collapse-narrative and part of it has to do with the fact that Columbus is likely to be without No. 1 defenseman Zach Werenski as well as middle-pair rearguard Ryan Murray (Update: Werenski and Murray are both in, but goaltender Elvis Merzlikins is out for Columbus. Joonas Korpisalo will start in goal).

Columbus Blue Jackets Toronto Maple Leafs
Game 1 +142 -165
Game 2 +143 -167
Game 3 +130 -150
Game 4 +128 -148
Game 5 +128 -148

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Werenski would certainly be a gigantic loss for John Tortorella. The smooth defender chomps a ton of minutes, directs Columbus’ power play and brings out the best in his usual partner, Seth Jones.

The only solace to take is that the Jackets play great team defense, so they can survive a loss like that for a game or two.

Toronto will also be without a top-pair defenseman as Jake Muzzin is set to miss out on Game 5. The Leafs are not a committed defensive team so the Muzzin loss stings a little differently than the Werenski one.

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Toronto can always outscore its defensive woes, but Muzzin’s presence makes that task a little bit easier.

Despite getting outscored, 8-3, the numbers show that the Maple Leafs have been the better team at 5-on-5 over the first four games. Toronto has controlled 55.8% of the expected goals, 60.6% of the high-danger scoring chances and 52.5% of the shot attempts at 5-on-5.

None of those numbers are particularly surprising. Even if you liked the Blue Jackets’ chances in this series, you were never expecting them to outplay the Leafs. You were betting that they would be able to hang tough, get good goaltending and get lucky here and there.

That being said, spending a little more time in the offensive zone would go a long way in helping the Jackets’ cause. Toronto’s defense is a mistake waiting to happen but Columbus has only been able to muster 1.78 expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5.

Much was made about the strength-vs-strength matchup between Toronto’s high-flying offense and Columbus’ fantastic defense, but nobody is paying attention to the weakness-vs-weakness battle on the other end of the ice. Columbus is scoring more at even strength, but some sustained offensive pressure on the Buds’ blueline could be the difference.

Blue Jackets Maple Leafs
5-on-5 Goals For 8 3
5-on-5 Expected Goals For 6.6 8.22
5-on-5 Shot Attempts 222 245
5-on-5 High-Danger Scoring Chances 26 40

Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.


I understand that a lot of bettors can’t fathom the idea of putting their hard-earned money on Columbus after what transpired on Friday night. But the cold reality of sports betting is that these situations often provide the most value. If you ignore the noise you will have a better chance at succeeding over the long run.

I’m expecting all of the hoopla to create a lot of value on the Blue Jackets on Sunday night. They may not win, in fact the odds already tell you the Leafs win this game close to 60% of the time, but you need to be comfortable with that if you’re betting on an underdog.

The best number on the Jackets at the time of writing (10:30 p.m. ET on Saturday) is +135 at bet365. If you convert that price to implied probability, Columbus comes out with a 42.6% chance of winning Game 5. Even without Werenski I think that number underrates the Jackets a little bit on Sunday night.

I’d suggest being patient and seeing where the market tops out on Columbus, but I’d be in on the Jackets at +130 or higher on Sunday.

Pick: Columbus Blue Jackets +130 or better

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