VLOG – NHL Playoffs Game 7 Picks: Maple Leafs at Bruins, Golden Knights at Sharks

If there’s one constant in the sports world, it’s the excitement that builds around a series any time a Game 7 becomes necessary. One team advances, one team goes home, and – in the case of the NHL – a guaranteed handshake line at the end of the night. It’s tough to beat. Game 7s can also be very difficult to bet on, as the series has to be at least somewhat even or back-and-forth for the winner-takes-all game to be needed. But here, we’ll try and help you figure out where to place your money when it comes to the First Round Game 7s being played on Tuesday night.

In the early contest, the Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Boston Bruins at 7:00pm ET. These teams have alternated wins in the series, with the Leafs winning the odd-numbered games and the Bruins the even-numbered contests. That included Boston avoiding elimination in Game 6, a 4-2 road win in Toronto on Sunday. The four-goal output continued a trend for the B’s in this series, as they’ve averaged scoring 4.5 goals in games they’ve won (Games 2, 4 and 6), compared to just 1.3 goals/game in their losses (Games 1, 3, and 5).

The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, have had a consistent offensive output across the series, averaging 3.0 goals/game in wins and 2.3 goals/game in losses. The key becomes the Bruins’ offense against the Leafs’ defense, especially on the Power Play, as Boston has scored at least one Power Play goal in five of the six games in this series. The only time that the Leafs managed to keep the Bruins off the board with the man-advantage came in Toronto’s Game 5 win (a 2-1 final score).

These are two Original 6 teams with rich and deep histories, but you don’t have to look too far back to find examples of Toronto and Boston meeting in decisive Game 7s. The teams faced off in Boston just one year ago, as Boston knocked out Toronto thanks to a massive third period push that saw the Leafs give up four goals in the final frame to lose 7-4. Prior to that, the teams met in the First Round of the 2013 Playoffs in a series that also required a seventh game. Boston won that contest 5-4 in overtime, after the Bruins overcame a 4-1 deficit in the final 11:00 of the game to force OT (with Patrice Bergeron netting the series-winning goal 6:05 into the overtime period).

That said, those Toronto teams are very different from the current roster. None of Toronto’s Top 5 point-getters this year played on the 2013 team, and this year’s leading goal-scorer for the Leafs was the Captain of the New York Islanders at this time one year ago.

Looking at the odds, taking the Spread on either side isn’t a recommended wager (for either of these games). Taking the Maple Leafs at +1½ results in a -240 payout, while the Bruins at -1½ come in at +200. All three of Boston’s wins this series have covered a 1½-goal spread, but Game 7s can be very different animals. Meanwhile, the Money Line has Boston favored at -135, and Toronto the underdog at +122.

I felt that the Maple Leafs would beat out Boston before the Playoffs started, and I’m sticking with them for Game 7, taking the Money Line bet. It would be the Leafs’ first series win since 2004 if they can pull it off. Waiting for the winner of this series in Round 2 will be the Columbus Blue Jackets.

In Tuesday’s late game, the San Jose Sharks return home for Game 7 having won back-to-back games over the Vegas Golden Knights. Since taking a 3-1 lead in the series, Vegas has been outscored 7-3, which includes a 2-1 double overtime loss on Sunday night. That lack of scoring is despite out-shooting the Sharks a combined 91-58 over those two games.

The difference has come down to the play of San Jose goalie Martin Jones. Jones struggled mightily in Games 2-4 of the series, being pulled twice (and he gave up enough goals where he reasonably could have been pulled in the only game he was left in). Vegas outscored San Jose 16-6 over that stretch. Jones ended up on the hook for 11 of those goals, stopping just 79.6% of the shots he faced. Across Games 5 and 6, Jones’ save percentage rocketed to a staggering 96.7%, playing a key role in fending off an onslaught of 59 shots from the Golden Knights in Sunday’s 2-1 win.

In the short existence of the Vegas franchise, Martin Jones has faced the team 19 times between the Playoffs and the Regular Season. Jones has been pulled from six of those 19 games. Which Martin Jones shows up in net for the Sharks on Tuesday night could very well determine the outcome of the game.

Odds-wise, again, we can’t recommend betting on the Spread in this game. Sunday’s Game 6 was the first contest of the series to be decided by just a single goal, but this is Game 7, and it’s equally likely for this meeting to continue that trend as it is to revert back to the multi-goal differences of the first five contests. Vegas enters the game at +1½, -300, while San Jose is -1½, +250. If you go towards the Money Line, your odds are the same on both sides, with Vegas and San Jose each listed at -105. As I said before the Playoffs began, I consider this series to be a coin toss, and one to probably avoid for betting purposes. Oddsmakers appear to agree with me, giving each side the same exact Money Line.

With that out of the way, I think Vegas picks up a close win in this game. They were the betting favorites to win the Stanley Cup less than a week ago (despite having two teams, at the time, that had already advanced to Round 2), and I’ve got to think they’ll make it to a meeting with the Colorado Avalanche in Round 2.

Drew Goldfarb

Drew has been covering sports professionally since 2007, covering sports of all kinds in the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Conference USA. In addition to covering college sports, he also spent two seasons working with the NHL's Florida Panthers as part of their TV broadcast team, as well as reporting and anchoring for AT&T SportsNet and FOX Sports affiliates, CBS Sports Network and ESPNU. Drew has also been active in Fantasy Sports since 2002.

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