This article is part of our NHL Picks series.
Stanley Cup Bets for May 2: Expert NHL Picks and Props for Panthers vs. Maple Leafs
The Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs kick off their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinals series for Game 1 on Tuesday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
The Panthers were down 3-1 in their series against the Presidents' Trophy-winning Boston Bruins, and it looked like the series would be rather quick. The Panthers had other ideas, however, rattling off three straight wins, including a 4-3 overtime victory in Game 7 at TD Garden in Boston.
The Maple Leafs registered a series win in six games over the Tampa Bay Lightning, including three overtime road wins at Amalie Arena. Toronto picked up its first playoff series victory since 2004 against the Ottawa Senators.
Florida was led by LW Matthew Tkachuk and D Brandon Montour with five goals against the Bruins. Tkachuk added six assists to give him 11 points and a plus-5 rating with four power-play points in the series upset. Montour had two of the team's five power-play goals, too.
For Toronto, the big guns showed out after some disappearing acts in previous playoff years. Winger Mitchell Marner went for two goals and a team-best nine helpers and 11 points, including three assists on the man advantage. Center Auston Matthews led the way with five goals while adding four assists and his first-ever NHL fight, too. Defenseman Morgan Rielly was a beast, too, potting three goals with eight points and a plus-8 rating.
It wasn't just all about offense, though, as goalie Ilya Samsonov managed a 4-2-0 record, 3.14 GAA and .900 save percentage in six games against the Lightning. He was pulled after two periods in a dismal Game 1 showing, but he settled down as the series progressed. He stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced in the series-clinching Game 6 win in Tampa.
Panthers' backstop Alex Lyon helped the team go on a hot streak to close out the regular season, but he flamed out in the first three games of the Boston series. He was 1-2-0 with a 3.26 GAA and .902 save percentage, and head coach Paul Maurice elected to go back to veteran goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. While Bobrovsky was 3-1-0, he actually had a worse GAA (3.94) and save percentage (.891) in the final four starts of the series, so perhaps we'll see Lyon again sometime in this current series if Bob stumbles early.
The Maple Leafs won three of the four regular-season meetings but three of the games went to overtime. The Panthers are just 2-9 in the past 11 trips to Toronto, however, while the home team has won 15 of the past 20 in the series.
The Panthers are 7-1 in the past eight games on the road, but they're 0-4 in the previous four games in the Conference Semifinals round.
For the Leafs, they're 59-26 in the past 85 games at home, which is a .694 winning percentage. Toronto is 8-2 in the past 10 games dating back to the regular season, and it looks to keep up the momentum after finally getting the monkey off its back with the playoff series win against the Lightning.
Look for a high-scoring, but narrow, Game 1 win for the home side.
NHL Money Line Bets for Panthers vs. Maple Leafs
- Maple Leafs ML (-160 at BetMGM)
As far as the total is concerned, we should see plenty of fireworks in Game 1 in Toronto.
The Over cashed in the final four games of the Boston series for Florida, including 15 goals on offense in the final three games. The Panthers also allowed three or more goals in all seven games, an average of 3.9 goals per game in the series.
The Over cashed in the first four games for the Maple Leafs against the Lightning, although things tightened up significantly as the series went to Games 5 and 6, both Under results.
The Over is 5-1-1 in the past seven meetings between these teams in Toronto while cashing at a 10-4-1 clip in the previous 15 meetings overall.
NHL Totals Bets for Panthers vs. Maple Leafs
- Over 6.5 (-115 at Caesars)
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NHL Player Props for Panthers vs. Maple Leafs
Looking at the NHL player props for Game 1, we have a solid play for each side in this series opener.
Tkachuk was red-hot against the Bruins, and there is no reason to believe he'll slow down against the Maple Leafs, especially since Toronto and Samsonov were so giving in the first series. Tkachuk is still plus-money as an anytime goal scorer, and there is no reason to get away from him until he cools off substantially.
- Matthew Tkachuk Anytime Goal Scorer (+155 at BetMGM)
Maple Leafs' rearguard Morgan Rielly really stepped up his offensive game. After going scoreless in Game 1, Rielly posted four helpers in Game 2. He then had three straight games with a goal, before posting an apple in Game 6. He has a rather reasonable price to simply record just one point. Take advantage.
- Morgan Rielly Over 0.5 Points (-130 at BetMGM)