The Boston Bruins (50-20-12) begin what they hope will be a long NHL playoff run on Thursday against the Toronto Maple Leafs (49-26-7) as solid home favorites for Game 1 of their first-round series.
NHL betting line: The Bruins opened as -167 favorites (wager $167 to win $100); the total is at six goals, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark. (Line updates and matchup report)
NHL betting pick, via OddsShark computer: 3.2–2.4, Maple Leafs (NHL picks on every game)
Why the Maple Leafs can pay on the NHL lines
The Maple Leafs battled injuries throughout the season (Auston Matthews missed 20 games) but still finished with 105 points, tied for third-best in the Eastern Conference. That was a 10-point improvement upon last year’s performance, which marked the first time they had appeared in the playoffs in four years.
Toronto head coach Mike Babcock has done a fantastic job rebuilding a team that could be a sleeper in the East.Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
The Maple Leafs won three of the four regular-season meetings, according to the OddsShark NHL Database, and the confidence gained from that series victory should give them a boost.
Why the Bruins can pay on the NHL lines
Boston made a late run at the Atlantic Division title and had an opportunity to win it with a victory versus the Florida Panthers in the regular-season finale. Unfortunately, the Bruins fell 4-2 in the second of back-to-back games last Sunday and had to settle for this matchup instead.
While they lost the season series, two of the games were decided by just one goal, including one in overtime.
Even with four losses in its last five games, Boston seem to be peaking late in the season and getting healthy at the right time, with a solid mix of veterans and youngsters ready to make a run at the Stanley Cup.
Smart betting pick
You could say the Bruins choked a bit in April after briefly taking over the division lead from the Tampa Bay Lightning, who had sat atop the Atlantic almost all year.
However, the playoffs are a new season and that could also help a team such as Toronto, who underachieved a bit after being considered one of the preseason favorites.
Along with this year, the Maple Leafs have won seven of the past eight meetings dating back to 2016, so look for them to continue that success in this series by taking Game 1 in an upset.
NHL betting trends
Toronto is 10-4 in its last 14 games.
The total has gone over in 14 of Toronto’s last 20 games.
Boston is 1-4 in its last five games.
All NHL odds and betting trends courtesy of Bleacher Report’s official odds partner, OddsShark. Check out OddsShark on Twitter and Instagram or head to YouTube for more betting picks and analysis on this week’s top games. You can also download the free odds tracker app.