NHL Betting Preview (April 20): Bruins vs. Maple Leafs Predictions

It all starts again tonight, as the Stanley Cup playoffs begin, and along with them, the Toronto Maple Leafs make another attempt to get this thing right. After going on a slightly better run than usual in 2023, fans still aren’t eager to settle for just one series victory, and now a city has their sights on an old rival in the Boston Bruins. It’s time to both re-open some wounds and try to heal them properly once and for all, beginning with Saturday’s opening Game 1.

Bet on Maple Leafs vs. Bruins

TOR +115
BOS -135

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The Maple Leafs are road underdogs, coming in at approximately +105 to +115 on the moneyline. Odds have shifted slightly towards Boston’s favour overnight.

Bruins vs. Maple Leafs Best Odds

Maple Leafs Moneyline Odds+115 @ Bet99
Bruins Moneyline Odds-122 @ Betano
Puckline oddsMaple Leafs +1.5 (-223) @ Pinnacle
Bruins -1.5 (+200) @ BetMGM
Total Over 6.0 goals (+101) @ Pinnacle
Under 6.0 goals (-114) @ Pinnacle
Time/DateApril 20, 8:00 p.m. ET
TVBroadcast: CBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Stream: Sportsnet+
(How to watch the NHL in Canada?)

Betting Toronto Maple Leafs (46-26-10 SU, 32-50 ATS, 45-35-2 o/u)

Is a little bit of an end-of-regular-season distraction a good thing? The Maple Leafs are certainly about to put this to the test. Once the final few games stopped being about jockeying for standings position and shifted to the pursuit of cleaning up some individual milestones, it did feel like Toronto struggled to play the type of hockey that you would normally like to see a team carry into the postseason. Certainly, they paid for it on the scoresheet, blowing leads against New Jersey and Detroit, playing what may have been their worst period in years against the Panthers, and never really looking in the game against Tampa Bay, resulting in four consecutive losses to end the year.

At the same time, the group’s pursuit was one of trying to uplift each other, and they did close the Tampa game off with a decent push, reminding everyone that they could still play hockey. While it doesn’t look great, the games were still treated as having something to play for in some respect. Toronto was also resting several key players across the lineup, even opting for Martin Jones in goal for the finale.

The easiest way to shake off concerns would be to come out hard and heavy tonight. If the pursuit of “snot” and physical presence is to mean something, they’ll want to show it tonight, setting an early tone in TD Garden that they haven’t quite been able to display against the Bruins this year. The team’s mental fortitude has visibly evolved since a November shootout loss against Boston sent them into an identity crisis, but the results against their Atlantic Division foes still haven’t matched. That has to change beginning tonight.

Betting Boston Bruins (47-20-15 SU, 39-43 ATS, 37-44-1 o/u)

So are these the same old Bruins that the Maple Leafs have to worry about, the ones who carry their demons? If we’re being honest, not really.

Dating back to the 2013 collapse, only Brad Marchand remains from the Boston roster. From the 2019 group, they have Marchand, David Pastrnak, Jake Debrusk, Danon Heinen, Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Brandon Carlo, and Charlie Coyle – so eight players who played in that most recent playoff series against Toronto. It’s a bit of a core, with a couple of really great players, but it’s not the full group, and certainly not the ones who dominated Toronto’s nightmares for the whole of the 2010s.

It’s also a group that, while they overachieved the expectations of everyone following Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci’s retirements last season, haven’t been quite as scary as they once were. Their 48.4% score-adjusted shot attempt share ranked 22nd in the league (Toronto 11th at 51.8%), and their share of the expected goals sat at 51.2%, good for 15th to Toronto’s 11th. Once again having elite goaltending (0.929 5v5, 0.912 overall) was the difference maker, and a lack of finishing success has been the Leafs’ nightmare in the postseason in the past.

The biggest concern for the Leafs is that while the Bruins aren’t what they once were, they’ve matched up well against Toronto this year, taking a 4-0 sweep of the season series with a combined score of 11-7, using a heavy forecheck to stop the Leafs’ counter-attack in its tracks, bringing back memories of the 2018 series where Boston exploited a blue line similarly lacking puck sills and took the series in seven games. If they can repeat that in this series, it could be another quick spring for the Buds.

Last Matchup

The last game between these two teams was a little over a month ago, played in TD Garden on March 7th. It went the way the rest of them have this year, ending in a Boston win, and it wasn’t a particularly encouraging one for Toronto. David Pastrnak scored a powerplay goal five minutes into the first period after the Leafs took two penalties at once. In the second, Trent Frederic gave them a butter, which meant that when Mitch Marner cut the lead down to one near the midway mark, they were in no danger. Two late-period goals from Morgan Geekie and Brandon Carlo allowed the Bruins to cruise to a relatively easy win.

Projected Bruins and Leafs Lines

Today’s Toronto Maple Leafs LinesToday’s Boston Bruins Lines
Tyler Bertuzzi – Auston Matthews – Max Domi
Matthew Knies – John Tavares – Mitch Marner
Nick Robertson – Pontus Holmberg – William Nylander
Connor Dewar – David Kampf – Ryan Reaves

Morgan Rielly – Ilya Lyubushkin
Simon Benoit – Jake McCabe
Joel Edmundson – Timothy Liljegren

Starting In Goal (Maybe?)
Ilya Samsonov
23-7-8, 3.13 GAA, 0.890 SV%
Danton Heinen – Pavel Zacha – David Pastrnak
Brad Marchand – Charlie Coyle – Jake Debrusk
Jakub Lauko – Morgan Geekie – Trent Frederic
John Beecher – Jesper Boqvist – Pat Maroon

Hampus Lindholm – Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk – Brandon Carlo
Kevin Shattenkirk – Andrew Peeke

Starting In Goal (Maybe?)
Jeremy Swayman
25-10-8, 2.53 GAA, 0.916 SV%

The Maple Leafs have gone back to their top line from much of the back end of the season, with Max Domi expected to return to the lineup tonight. The Bertuzzi-Matthews-Domi trio has been very impressive down the stretch, getting about a 65% share of the expected goals at 5-on-5 and producing plenty of actual goals as well. It looks like the team will start with Mitch Marner and William Nylander spread down the lineup as well, with the fourth line’s status as a traditional trio dependent on who else might return tonight.

The Bruins are sticking with their usual forwards, but the most interesting development is that they’ve loaded up the first pair, having Hampus Lindholm and Charlie McAvoy ready for whichever of the top Toronto lines they plan on attacking. That isn’t to say that their back four are pushovers, but they pale in contrast to what instantly becomes one of the league’s best pairs.

The goaltenders tonight are very much in Fog of War mode, with neither team tipping who will start. Ilya Samsonov is the very likely answer for Toronto as he’s been used as a starter down the stretch. You would think Jeremy Swayman gets the nod for Boston given that he’s played more games, appears to be the long-term answer, and has been excellent against Toronto this year, but he’s struggled a bit down the stretch, so questions remain.

David Pastrnak over 4.5 shots on goal


Bruins vs. Maple Leafs Injury Concerns

Calle Jarnrkok and Bobby McMann’s status for this game is still up in the air, with some thought that they might miss at least Game 1 of the series. William Nylander is a game-time decision, though given that his powerplay spot was seat-filled in practice yesterday, I’d expect that he’ll play.

The Bruins are without Matt Poitras (shoulder, out for the season), Derek Forberg (undisclosed), and Justin Brazeau (upper-body, week-to-week). Brandon Carlo missed their last game but is expected back tonight.

  • The Bruins are 7-3 in the last ten games between the two teams, dating back to March 2022. This includes a seven-game winning streak. The puckline is split 5-5, as is the total goals line.
  • Toronto closed off the regular season with a 5-5 record in their last ten games, going 4-6 against the puck line and clearing the total goals over in six of ten games.
  • Boston wrapped their season up with a 6-4 record in their final ten games, going 4-6 against the puck line and clearing the total goals over in just two of ten games.
  • Auston Matthews closed the season as Toronto’s top point-getter in their final ten games (13 points), largely on the back of his ten goals and 53 shots on goal. Mitch Marner led the team in assists with eight.
  • Toronto’s blue line has not been very productive. Outside of Morgan Rielly’s seven assists, the rest of the group contributed just four points to the final ten games – an assist for Ilya Lyubhskin, and a goal and two assists from Jake McCabe.
  • Pavel Zacha has the most goals of any Bruins player in their final ten games, finding the back of the net four times. He also leads the team in points in that time with twelve and shares the lead in assists with David Pastrnak with eight. Pastrnak leads the team in shots on goal with 39.

Bruins vs. Maple Leafs Predictions

  • David Pastrnak has burned the Maple Leafs in playoff hockey before – I was at Game 2 in Boston back in 2018 where he lit them up for three goals and three assists, and that’s just one game of many great performances against the blue and white. He’s now the franchise player of this group and they’ll be looking to him to step up. I expect a strong effort from him tonight, starting with him peppering the net. The best value you’ll find on a shot prop for him is at bet365, where you can get over 4.5 shots at +120.
  • I think we’re going to see two teams feel each other out in this one, and Boston in particular has been happy to play low-event hockey of late. Even with the lower line, I’d consider the total goals under tonight – your best value is at Pinnacle with under 6.0 goals coming in at -114.
  • After playing so well for the Bruins in last year’s playoffs, wouldn’t it be something if Tyler Bertuzzi burned them right back? The best value you can find him for an anytime goal is +310 at FanDuel.

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