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Odds Taken from FanDuel Sportsbook
Toronto Maple Leafs
42-32-8 (4th in Atlantic Division)
50-21-11 (2nd in Atlantic Division)
Matthew Tkachuk (11)
Mitchell Marner (11)
Matthew Tkachuk (5)
Auston Matthews (5)
Matthew Tkachuk (6)
Mitchell Marner (9)
Aaron Ekblad (7)
Mitchell Marner (9)
Sam Bennett (3.33)
Shots (Per Game)
Auston Matthews, William Nylander (3.83)
The Florida Panthers will travel north of the border to face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round of the Playoffs. Neither of these teams were expected to make it past the First Round, but both shocked the NHL.
The Panthers pulled off an incredible First Round upset. They faced the Boston Bruins and were expected to lose quickly. It looked like that prophecy would come true when they were down 3-1 heading into Game Five. However, Florida pulled off the unexpected and won the next three games. I cannot understate how impressive this is. The Panthers finished the season with 43 fewer points than the Bruins and won three elimination games in a row against them. They now have the necessary momentum to win it all.
The Panthers have been led by Matthew Tkackuk, Brandon Montour, Carter Verhaeghe, and Aleksander Barkov. Tkackuk was dominant in the regular season and leads his team with 11 points in the Playoffs. With that being said, Montour, Verharghe, and Barkov have also been impressive and have eight, eight, and six points, respectively.
Sergei Bobrovsky will likely get the start in net for the Panthers. Bobrovsky did not start the first three games of the First Round but was given the keys in Game Four. He may be Florida's best option, but he has not been excellent in these Playoffs. The 34-year-old has an .891 save percentage and will probably need to improve in this series.
The Maple Leafs are playing in the Second Round of the Playoffs for the first time since 2004. They broke nearly a 20-year curse by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games. Toronto has one of the most well-rounded teams they have seen in years and momentum they have not possessed since the mid-2000s. It is also worth noting that the Maple Leafs have the best odds to win the Stanley Cup.
The Maple Leafs have seen huge performances from Mitchell Marner, Auston Matthews, Morgan Reilly, William Nylander, Ryan O’Reilly, and John Tavares. Marner leafs this group with 11 points (nine assists), and the other five have seven-nine points each. With that being said, the Maple Leafs are seeing limited production from everyone else. No other Toronto player has more than three points.
Ilya Samsonov will get the start in net for the Maple Leafs. Samsonov has a .900 save percentage in the Playoffs but is coming off an incredible Game Six performance. The 2015 1st Round Draft pick has the ability to be the best netminder left in the Playoffs.
The Maple Leafs are playing at home and are the better team, so I expect them to win Game One. Bet on Toronto.
The Panthers are the underdogs but can win if they slow down Mitchell Marner and draw penalties.
Mitchell Marner has been a monster in the Playoffs. His nine assists lead both teams, and he also has two goals. Marner is putting on an incredible performance, which is exactly why the Panthers’ defensemen must slow him down. So much of the offense centers around Marner, so if Florida takes him out of the picture, the Toronto offense will be very limited.
The Panthers converted over 22% of their power plays during the season and 25% in the First Round. They do not have the best power play unit, but they can hold their ground. Florida must draw penalties and give this unit a chance. That will be the difference between and win and a loss.
The Maple Leafs are the favorites but will only win if they score first and win faceoffs.
The Maple Leafs will have the home crowd on their side but must harness their energy by scoring first. That would greatly increase their chances of winning.
The Maple Leafs are facing a Panthers team that averaged almost 37 shots per game during the season. They have to limit Florida’s shooting and can do so by winning faceoffs.
Sam Reinhart may sound like a surprising choice, but I picked him for a reason. Reinhart has been the Panthers’ most efficient shooter and scored on 25% of his shots in the First Round. Reinhart only took 16 shots but proved to be efficient. His accurate shooting will be necessary in this series.
I rarely pick goalies for this honor, but Ilya Samsonov is coming a huge Game Six. Samsonov played over 64 minutes and only gave up one goal. He saw 32 shots and saved 31. That is an outstanding performance and one that he may need to replicate in this game.
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Max Heering graduated from the University of Kansas Sport Management program in May 2020. Max follows and writes about the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS, college football, and college basketball. In his free time, you can catch Max draining threes on the basketball court. Email: [email protected]More info on Max Heering
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