|Team||Season Record||Record (Last 10)||Stanley Cup Odds|
|Toronto Maple Leafs (1)||35-14-7 (77)||7-1-2||+650|
|Edmonton Oilers (2)||35-19-2 (72)||7-3-0||+1800|
|Winnipeg Jets (3)||30-23-3 (63)||3-7-0||+2800|
|Montreal Canadiens (4)||24-21-11 (59)||4-4-2||+3000|
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal Canadiens
The Maple Leafs enjoyed the breakout North Division, the result of border restrictions between the United States and North America, and after years of finishing below the Bruins and Lightning, the Maple Leafs claimed the division title this season with a record of 35-14-7.
For the most part the Toronto side cruised to their first place finish, only losing more than 3 straight games on one occasion, remaining quite consistent for the bulk of the campaign.
The division proved to be quite lopsided, with a big disparity between the top and bottom teams, not that that was a concern for the Maple Leafs, which boasted a winning record of every team in the North, none more so than their bitter rivals, the Montreal Canadiens (7-2-1).
The Habs were mostly unimpressive, finishing the regular season with a losing record of 24-21-11, never managing to secure more than 3 consecutive wins, and often struggling to get the job done past regulation time, winning just 4 of 15 games past the third term.
Maple Leafs Preview
The Maple Leafs topped the North Division for both goals scored and goals conceded with 187 and 148 respectively, pitting them 6th and 7th in the NHL for average goals scored and conceded.
Nearly a quarter of their goals came from one man, Auston Matthews, the freakishly talented goal scorer had the best season of his short career, burying 41 goals from just 52 games, converted at a personal best rate of 18.5%.
Matthews added 25 assists on top of his 41 goals, placing him 5th in the NHL for points scored, just 1 point behind the Maple Leafs’ other main man, Mitchell Marner, who crossed the finish line of the regular season with 20 goals and 47 assists.
“We’re excited about the challenge ahead.”
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) May 19, 2021
Marner pulls the strings from the centre, and plays perfectly in sync with Matthews, frequently assisting in his goals and displaying their chemistry. After the Maple Leafs’ first round exit in last seasons’ playoffs, the pair had 10 points between them from 5 games, the success of the teams playoff run this year will largely come down to their performances.
In a rare twist, the Maple Leafs were treated to some extremely solid goaltending this season, with Jack Campbell looking leaps and bounds better than his peers, conceding just 2.15 goals per game, and boasting a record of 17-3-2. With no postseason experience it remains to be seen how he will perform, but expect him to play the bulk of the games.
With just 24 wins to their name, none of the remaining 16 playoff teams had less than the Habs this season, failing to impress both going forward and on defense, the Montreal side rank 14th and 15th for average goals for/against respectively.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) May 19, 2021
Tyler Toffoli posed the Habs biggest offensive threat this year, with his 28 goals pitting him amongst the leagues’ top 10, and he was one of 3 players to finish the season with 40+ points alongside Jeff Petry and Nick Suzuki.
After a solid 2019/20 campaign, Suzuki experienced a breakout season in just his second year of NHL, his 41 points equalling his tally of last year from 15 less games, even scoring twice on the closing game of the season.
The Maple Leafs take the home advantage for the first two games, and considering they have led the Canadiens 4-1 in Toronto this season, they will be going in very confident.
While the Maple Leafs have the bulk of the wins on the head to head, the aggregate score is 34-25, only a 1 goal margin on average over the 9 games played, however, with 5 straight defeats under their belt, the Habs enter this series in the worst form of their season, we are backing in the Maple Leafs in 6.
Edmonton Oilers vs Winnipeg Jets
Another team which reaped the benefits of the North Division were the Edmonton Oilers, with a record of 35-19-2 the Oilers won at a rate of 64.3%, the best return they have had in years.
The Oilers were a great team to watch this year, bringing it to their opposition when playing on the road, boasting the joint best away record in the league (19-7-2), as well holding a flawless 9-0-0 record over the Senators.
The Edmonton side lost just 7 of their last 20 games, shooting them up the table for a second place finish, just 5 points behind the Maple Leafs, which placed them against the Jets in round 1.
The Jets were one of the most consistent sides in the North for the majority of the season, right up until the middle of April they had never lost more than 2 consecutive games, unfortunately, something stopped clicking from then on as the Jets went on to lose 9 of their final 12 games.
Luckily for the Winnipeg side, their slump in form came late, with their positive workout throughout the bulk of the season still enough to earn them a place in the playoffs, however, they now go up against the Oilers, which they have beaten just twice from 9 games this season.
It is simply impossible to talk about the Edmonton Oilers without mentioning Connor McDavid, the generational talent is undoubtedly the best player to grace the game since Gretzky, and this season was no different, infact, it has been his best to date.
From just 56 games McDavid managed to bag a whopping 105 points, a whole 21 more than his right hand man, and last seasons’ MVP, Leon Draisaitl, consistently blowing the minds of viewers with his speed and ability to create a goal from anything.
McDavid was the top performer in 17 of 56 games, and somehow finished the season in the best form of his year, scoring a ridiculous 21 points from his final 8 games.
Pressure is a privilege.
— x – Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) May 19, 2021
It would be enough for a team to have just one of McDavid or Draisaitl, but they have both, as well as one of the best defenseman in the league in Darnell Nurse, who, having scored 46 points and boasts a +/- of 27, is enjoying the best season of his career.
With their star players looking unstoppable this could be an incredibly successful playoff series for the Oilers, granted that Mike Smith stays fit, as their goaltending backup is thin in quality.
After looking so strong for the bulk of the year it is hard to pinpoint what went wrong with Jets towards the end of the season, however, over the final 2 games they picked up home wins over the Canucks and Maple Leafs, which were technically inconsequential, but will do a lot for the momentum of the team.
Amongst the scorers over those wins was Kyle Connor, who had been stuck in a scoring slump almost the length of their losing streak, to be back amongst the scoreboard will likely do heaps for his confidence ahead of this tough playoff run.
Bringing the heat to Edmonton! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/u695D42s1j
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) May 20, 2021
Connor topped the Jets for goals scored this season with 26, and finished second to Mark Scheifele for total points with 50. Scheifele topped the charts with a stellar 63 points, placing him in 9th across the NHL, and just like Connor, he has picked up his form towards the end of the season, picking up 8 points over his final 5 games, just 3 less than he racked up throughout the entire month of April.
Where the Jets outshine the Oilers is in their goaltending, with Connor Hellebuyck in net they are in good hands. Hellebuyck sported a 91.6% save percentage, and conceded an average of 2.58 goals per game, which on paper may not seem great, but factor in the over reliance the Jets place on him, with no goalie in the NHL playing more than his 45 games, and nobody facing more than his 1335 shots.
The Jets travel to Edmonton for the opening 2 games, and it is no secret that they have had their struggles there this season, winning just 1 of 4 games, coupled with the level of play that Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are hitting lately, it is hard to imagine the Oilers giving up these home fixtures early.
With Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele hitting their stride again this should be an incredibly high paced series, but we back the Oilers to progress.
The 2021 NHL playoffs aren’t far away! If you want to catch up with all the latest information, make sure you visit our NHL hub page.
Want more picks? We have just launched our Premium Picks service, and for a limited time only, it is free! *T&Cs Apply.
*Odds and spreads correct at time of publication, courtesy of FanDuel.
Image by: Flickr – Canuckeers