Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs Odds & Pick: Columbus Still Undervalued Despite Defensive Dominance (Friday, August 7)

Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs Odds & Pick: Columbus Still Undervalued Despite Defensive Dominance (Friday, August 7) article feature image
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Mark Blinch, Getty Images. Pictured: Morgan Rielly.

Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs Odds

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Maple Leafs Odds -143 [BET NOW]
Blue Jackets Odds +123 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 5.5 (+108/-132) [BET NOW]
Time 8 p.m. ET
TV NHL Network

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The margin of error for the Columbus Blue Jackets is razor-thin. A team that lacks scoring talent but succeeds due to defensive structure just can’t survive mental mistakes, soft goals or bad breaks.

Or at least so we thought.

The never-say-die Blue Jackets erased a 3-0 deficit in Game 3 to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 in overtime. The comeback was out of character for Columbus, who has struggled to score all season. However, the same cannot be said about the Leafs, who have made a habit of losing games in this exact fashion.

Columbus Blue Jackets Toronto Maple Leafs
5-on-5 Goals For 5 3
5-on-5 Expected Goals For 4.43 6.07
5-on-5 Shot Attempts 162 178
5-on-5 High-Danger Scoring Chances 22 34

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 Natural Stat Trick.


Even though the Blue Jackets have scored more goals at 5-on-5, the Leafs have attempted more shots, created more expected goals and generated more high-danger scoring chances. Columbus has deployed a bend-but-don’t-break strategy in this series, and so far that strategy has been successful to the tune of a 2-1 series lead.

Those numbers are generally inline with what I expected from this series. The Leafs are the better team and deserve to be favored in every game, but Columbus’ defensive prowess — combined with Toronto’s defensive ineptitude — levels the playing field in this chaos-friendly environment.

Over the long term, Toronto’s talent and ability to drive play would win out, but we’re not talking about the long-term right now. We’re just trying to find betting value in a single game.

Columbus Blue Jackets Toronto Maple Leafs
Game 1 +142 -165
Game 2 +143 -167
Game 3 +130 -150
Game 4 +123 -143

Odds via DraftKings

After closing north of +140 in the first two games, the price on the Jackets came down to +130 for Game 3. Part of that movement is due to the absence of Toronto’s most trustworthy defenseman, Jake Muzzin, who is out for the series.

I’m not surprised that oddsmakers opened Columbus at an even shorter price for Game 4, but I don’t expect the Jackets to close there. We’ve been seeing some betting support for the Jackets in the +135 range, but I doubt we’d see a ton of money come in on the dogs at their current price of +123.

So, I’m going to be patient and wait to see where Columbus ends up around the market. I would jump back in on the Blue Jackets at +130 or higher, and I’m hopeful we’ll get there.

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