Either the Blue Jackets or Maple Leafs will be playing their last game of the year on Sunday, as Game 5 comes with no second chances. The big stories are who the Jackets will be starting in the net, with Elvis Merzlikins falling apart late on Friday and the absence of top defenseman Zach Werenski late in Game 4. Toronto opened as the favorite (-140) as they were in all of the four proceeding games with a total of 5.5 paying plus-money (+105) for the Over.
Maple Leafs: Frederik Andersen - playoffs - 2-2, 1.79 GAA .941 SV% (season - 27-16-0, 2.45 GAA, .915 SV%)
The Blue Jackets have a big question come Sunday about who their starting goalie will be. Merzlikins shut out the Leafs for 56 minutes in his first-ever playoff start but unraveled and allowed three goals in the final 240 seconds, then gave up the OT winner. The possible injury to defenseman Zach Werenski is a big deal for whoever suits up, as Werenski is a stud defender.
Freddy Andersen did enough to keep his team in Game 4 but the veteran netminder allowed some soft goals that deflated his team. This will be the goaltender's third series-deciding game (Game 5s and Game 7s) in three years, and in his previous two Game 7s, Andersen has allowed nine goals on 65 shots which works out to an underwhelming .861 SV%
Betting Trend to Know
It’s good to be the favorite, as the juicier of the two plays has won seven of the last 10 head-to-head meetings. The third period has also contributed to 10 of the series’ 19 total goals while the first period has accounted for just two goals through four games. Find more NHL betting trends for Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs.
One would think that coming off a historic win in Game 4, the Leafs could almost win this game on momentum alone. However, stringing back-to-back wins has been something the Leafs have struggled to do recently. Over the Leafs’ last 12 wins, they have lost the following game eight times. In last year’s playoffs, they went 0-3 SU after coming off a win, and in 2018 they went 1-2 SU after a win.
Andersen is 3-5 SU in his career in elimination games, which doesn’t look great, but T.O. still has the advantage in net with the Jackets unsure of who will even be between the pipes (and their lack of experience in big games). This moneyline is a tough line, as there is little value in Toronto at -150. Columbus at +125 looks like a bargain, but possibly without Werenski, the BJs could have a big hole at the backend. In elimination games this year, favorites have covered the -1.5 in three of the seven series and with everything on the line, the Leafs could see a lot of the empty-net if they are leading late.
PREDICTION: Maple Leafs -1.5 (+160)
Early scoring hasn’t been the norm, but late scoring has been the trend with the Buds and BJs, which can make things a little sweaty for Over backers. Fans rooting for goals have a few things in their favor heading into the final game of the series. The Blue Jackets could be starting Merzlikins, who could still be shaky after his late meltdown. If the Jackets decide to start Joonas Korpisalo, it won’t be much different, as both netminders have never started an elimination game.
A very key injury to keep an eye on is Werenski. The blueliner was averaging nearly 30 minutes a game. The potential loss could be massive as Werenski was tasked with shutting down Toronto’s top line while also pushing the offense and running the powerplay. There could be more space for Toronto’s skilled players come Sunday while Andersen has been known to let in a few softies in big games.
PREDICTION: Over 5.5 (+105)
FIRST PERIOD TOTAL PICK
The first-period total of 1.5 is 0-4 O/U over the first four games of this series with just two goals being scored in total. Both teams will likely come out a little less aggressive in the first frame, being afraid to make mistakes in a deciding game. As we mentioned in our NHL Picks for Sunday, the lack of early scoring and the excessive amount of late scoring opens up a great spot to hit the in-game Over as it reaches 4.5 or even 3.5.
Referees could also play a big part in the first period. It would be uncommon for officials to come out of the gates calling every minor penalty in a deciding game. This would lead to less powerplay time for each club, even with both PP units struggling (2-for-24 in the series combined).
PREDICTION: First period total Under 1.5 (-120)
BLUE JACKETS VS MAPLE LEAFS BETTING CARD
• Leafs -1.5 (+160)
• Over 5.5 (+105)
• First period Under 1.5 (-120)