HNIC Coast To Coast: Canada’s Teams Get Playoffs Underway

The Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway on Saturday Night, and there are four Canadian teams still in the mix! Unfortunately, we say goodbye to the Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens, and Ottawa Senators for the remainder of the year, but between the Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, and Winnipeg Jets, there is a one-in-four shot that this ends up the year that a team from the north brings the cup home for the first time in over three decades.

It’ll take 16 wins for one of them to get there, though, so let’s look at what they have to do in their respective Game 1s this weekend.

8:00 p.m. ET Saturday Headliner: Toronto Maple Leafs @ Boston Bruins

A year after the Toronto Maple Leafs slayed the first-round victory dragon, they’re facing a new challenge in a Boston Bruins team whose history with them in the spring really depends on who you ask. Younger fans will remember the back-to-back defeats in 2018 and 2019. A generation before them still has nightmares about the “4-1” Game 7 in 2013. Historians will point out that Toronto hasn’t been able to defeat the Bruins in a series since 1959. It’s all pretty crazy to think about.

Most of what’s left in this battle is in the crests, with just two players left from the 2013 series. Even going back to 2019 draws just 12 combined players across the two teams, with different coaches at both helms. Playing in the present, Boston’s rush play and pacey forecheck was a lot for Toronto to handle in the regular season, leading to a season series sweep in their favour. Toronto’s offensive roster is no doubt deeper on paper, but the highs of Boston’s blue line are greater, and there is significantly more trust in their goaltending. We’ll find out quickly if the hopes of Toronto possessing more “playoff-style talent” are to come to fruition. We’ll have a deeper preview of this specific game on Saturday morning.

Bet on Maple Leafs vs. Bruins GM1

TOR +112
BOS -129

7:00 p.m. ET Sunday Headliner: Colorado Avalanche @ Winnipeg Jets

By measure of the books, this series looks to be the tightest one of the bunch, with the early looks on the books implying this ends up close to a coin toss, with a slight edge to the Avalanche. For Game 1, NorthStar Bets and other books have it at, or close, to a pick’em.

This might surprise people, given the recent history of the two teams, both in their overall regular season and in their season series against each other. The Jets finished three points and two wins ahead of the Avalanche, giving them the home-ice advantage, and they cleaned up in the season series, beating Colorado 4-2, 6-2, and 7-0 in their three games against each other, the last of which coming just last week. So how are they not ahead?

The markets are likely banking on star power and winning pedigree in this case. The Jets have had a fantastic, expectation-clearing year, eclipsing their regular season points line by a whopping 16. But much of that comes on the back of stingy defensive runs and unbelievable goaltending from Connor Hellebuyck and Laurent Brossoit, which can be difference-makers if they can continue but are tough to hold onto consistently, especially when the opposition has Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Mikko Rantanen, and other star talents that have done this to the tune of a 2022 Stanley Cup in the past. If the Jets can start off on the right foot in front of their home fans, then the expectations will likely shift quickly, but the Avs will be hard-pressed not to get love until they prove otherwise.

Bet on Avalanche vs. Jets GM1

COL -108
WPG -108

10:00 p.m. ET Sunday Headliner: Nashville Predators @ Vancouver Canucks

Speaking of teams that cleared early season expectations, neither the Predators nor Canucks were expected to be in the positions they’re in now when the year started. Nashville had a season point total of 87.5 and an expectation to be amid a re-tool, while Vancouver’s line was placed one point above them at 88.5 and the team was projected to finish about sixth in the Pacific Division.

Instead, the Predators made a late-season surge to secure their position, going on a 16-0-2 run in February and March, while the Canucks started molten hot and barely looked back, ultimately winning their division for the first time since 2013. Things haven’t been quite as shiny for either down the stretch, with Nashville finishing the season on a 4-5-1 run, while Vancouver’s pre/post All-Star splits saw them go 33-11-5 prior, and 17-12-4 after.

Ultimately this series is found money for both, but I’d still handily lean towards the Canucks here. They’ve got more star power across the lineup, and more scoring depth, and they had the decided edge in the season series. Coaching could be a deciding point in this series, with many Jack Adams voters probably wishing that they could see this battle between Rick Tocchet and Andrew Brunette play out before making their decisions. Either way, expect a loud Rogers Arena to kick things off on Saturday night, as they host a home playoff game with a full home crowd for the first time in a decade.

Bet on Predators vs. Canucks GM1

NSH +135
VAN -157

Other Stanley Cup Playoff Games This Weekend

There are three other series opening up this weekend. For those wondering about Los Angeles vs. Edmonton, that series won’t be kicking off until Monday, beating out Vegas-Dallas by half an hour to be the very last of the eight matchups to begin. All of these games will be available in Canada on Sportsnet in English, and TVA Sports in French.

New York Islanders @ Carolina Hurricanes, Saturday 5:00 p.m. ET– The Islanders were able to turn around their season at just the right time, with Patrick Roy leading the way behind the bench. The Hurricanes are going to be one tough litmus test for them, though, having posted the league’s third-best record and having the roster to match – one as deep in skill as ever and heavier than in recent years. It’s hard to not think this will be Carolina’s series in short order, but stranger things have happened.

Tampa Bay Lightning @ Florida Panthers, Sunday 12:30 p.m. ET – The two most successful teams in the Eastern Conference face each other in the playoffs for the third time in four years, and for the Panthers, they’re hoping that this is the time they beat their interstate rivals to the north. The Lightning won this matchup in six games in 2021, and swept it in 2022, with the latter win coming despite the Cats finishing first overall. They once again have the regular season advantage here, winning seven more games than Tampa Bay, but the marathon matters less during the sprint, and the core that found ways to win in previous seasons is still lingering now. I think Florida breaks through, but neither potential victor would surprise me, and I could see this being the most exciting series of the first round with the history of bad blood and heaps of talent at the ready.

Washington Capitals @ New York Rangers, Sunday 3:00 p.m. ET – Like Toronto/Boston, this is one of those matchups that feels like it’s happened more recently than it has. After matching up in the 2011 first round, 2013 first round, and 2015 second round, it’s been nearly a decade since the last matchup, with most of the players and staff on both sides long gone. At the same time, it feels so right for this to be the matchup, especially if this ends up being Alex Ovechkin’s last playoff run. The odds are heavily stacked in New York’s favour, as the Presidents’ Trophy winners have been great both on and off the puck this year. Washington’s stumble into the playoffs defied common sense, seeing the team get into the postseason with a -36 goal differential, finishing 28th in goals for and 16th in goals against. Wouldn’t it be something if the Caps did what was done to them by the Montreal Canadiens in 2010 and pulled off a miracle upset?

Away TeamHome TeamTime (ET)
New York Islanders+195-235Carolina HurricnaesApril 20, 3:00 PM
Toronto Maple Leafs+112-129Boston BruinsApril 20, 8:00 PM
Tampa Bay Lightning+140-165Florida PanthersApril 21, 12:30 PM
Washington Capitals+200-245New York RangersApril 21, 3:00 PM
Colorado Avalanche-108-108Winnipeg JetsApril 21, 7:00 PM
Nashville Predators+135-157Vancouver CanucksApril 21, 10:00 PM
All Odds Courtesy of Northstar Bets Sportsbook Ontario