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Lightning vs. Maple Leafs Game 1 Odds, Pick, Prediction: Bet This Total While It’s So Low (May 2)

Lightning vs. Maple Leafs Game 1 Odds, Pick, Prediction: Bet This Total While It’s So Low (May 2) article feature image
Credit:

Eakin Howard/Getty Images. Pictured: Andrei Vasilevskiy

  • The Maple Leafs are slight home favorites in Game 1 against the Lightning.
  • Is this finally the year the Maple Leafs break through in the playoffs?
  • Nicholas Martin breaks down the matchup and shares his best bet below.

Lightning vs. Maple Leafs Game 1 Odds

Lightning Odds +105
Maple Leafs Odds -125
Series Moneyline TB +100 / TOR -120
Over/Under 6.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
TV ESPN2
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

Toronto posted a franchise-record 54 wins this season while offering the most well rounded play in the Auston Matthews/Mitchell Marner era. Consequently, the Maple Leafs enter the postseason with high expectations yet again.

Putting a halt to their playoff misery and winning their first series since 2004 will be a tall task as they will face the back-to-back defending champion Lightning.

Tampa Bay will look to become the first NHL franchise to three-peat since the Islanders won four consecutive championships from 1980-1984. They will have an excellent opportunity to do so with 14 players returning from last season’s championship roster.

Should we expect Toronto’s regular season excellence to finally translate into some playoff success this year?

Stat Tampa Bay Lightning Toronto Maple Leafs
Goals For per 60 minutes (5-on-5) 2.83 3.1
Goals Against per 60 (5-on-5) 2.3 2.7
Expected Goals per 60 (5-on-5) 2.7 2.9
Expected Goals Against per 60 (5-on-5) 2.4 2.3
High-Danger Scoring Chances per 60 (5-on-5) 12.9 13.3
High-Danger Scoring Chances Allowed per 60 (5-on-5) 10.7 10.6
Power Play % 23.6% 27.2%
Penalty Kill % 80.1% 82.4%
Save Percentage (projected starting goalie) .917 .913
Goals Saved Above Expectation (projected starting goalie) +16.7 -8.2

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 and advanced stats cited from Evolving Hockey, MoneyPuck and Natural Stat Trick.

Can the Lightning Flip the Switch?

It’s frightening to consider that the Lightning had a 51-win, 110-point regular season, and it felt like they were on cruise control. Handicapping Tampa’s bid for a three-peat is somewhat tough because it’s unclear how much they can up the ante now that the games truly count.

Captain Steven Stamkos put together a career season with 106 points. He stepped up after Nikita Kucherov played just 47 contests, and Brayden Point posted less dominant play.

The key pieces remain intact for this Lightning group, with each of their five most important skaters back in Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Stamkos, Point, and, of course, Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Alongside them remain key depth pieces in Ryan Callahan, Mikhail Sergachev, Alex Killorn, and Ondrej Palat, and it’s very reasonable to believe this group can three-peat in 2022.

Tampa put together a worse Expected Goals Against rate than Toronto this season and allowed slightly more High-Danger Chances Against. Down the stretch, the gap widened defensively between the two clubs as Tampa allowed a 16th-worst xGA/60 over the final 10 games at all strengths.

It’s very likely that the urgency and intensity will be raised significantly from this group when the puck drops Monday. Tampa will likely find better defensive results then.

The Lightning Power Play unit has been a big X-factor over the last two postseasons, including clicking at a ridiculous 32.4% success rate in 23 games in last year’s cup run.

The unit has succeeded at a more modest 23.9% success rate so far this year. However, it has had a notable uptick in Kucherov’s 47 games played and will enter skating the same five-man unit which dominated the last two postseasons.

Vasilevskiy, last year’s Conn Smythe trophy winner, offers what will likely be the Lightning’s most clear-cut advantage over the Maple Leafs. His form has remained excellent throughout this year, playing to a +28.4 Goals Saved Above Expected rating with a .917 save percentage in 63 games played.

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Maple Leafs Looking to Prove Doubters Wrong

The Maple Leafs head into the postseason looking to prove that they are not just a regular season team.

It’s foolish to discount this club’s chances because things haven’t gone their way historically. This is the best Leafs team since their resurgence to relevancy with this young core and since the signing of Captain John Tavares.

Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander are playing their best hockey, and behind them is far more offensive support than we have seen previously.

Michael Bunting has been the perfect compliment to Marner and Matthews on the top trio. Ilya Mikheyev has been spectacular and will be a big reason why things could go differently. Tavares has remained very solid, and overall this is a very deep group of top-three units.

Defensively, Toronto has been very sound this season with a fourth-best xGA/60 rating in April at 2.66.

Bunting appears likely to miss this opening contest and will be a big loss for the Leafs. It appears Alex Kerfoot will skate in his spot on the top line, while Ondrej Kase will return from concussion and fill in on the second unit.

Jack Campbell will start Game 1 in goal for the Leafs and is the club’s biggest question mark. Campbell has bounced back from a dreadful run of form with a .909 save percentage over his last six outings. This season Campbell has played to a -2.3 GSAx rating, with a .914 save percentage in 49 games played.

Lightning vs Maple Leafs Pick

Both of these teams have the upside to win it all this year, and this is a conference-final-worthy series happening in the first round.

It’s possible the Leafs have more elite offensive talent, but again that remains to be seen in the postseason, especially if Point posts another spectacular playoff run after a more average regular season.

While both sides feel properly priced for Game 1 and the series, there is value on the total. Expect fewer totals to open at 6.5 or higher as the playoffs continue, although this game has opened at a juicy total of 6.5.

With the refs finding their traditional playoff form and allowing defenders to get away with a lot more, there will be fewer power plays and less scoring at five-on-five at the same time. Both of these clubs feature unreal power play units, and with fewer man advantages, offense will be harder to generate than in the regular season.

Unless Jack Campbell falters badly, which is a real possibility, I don’t expect to see totals of 6.5 with near-even odds to the under as this series continues.

My favorite play in Game 1 is Under 6.5 at -110 on FanDuel, and I would play this down to -120.

Pick: Under 6.5 -110 (FanDuel)

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