Don't count on Toronto's Stanley Cup drought ending in 2021
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in no danger of missing the 2021 NHL Playoffs. They currently lead the North Division standings with 61 points, after all. But lately there have been signs that the Stanley Cup will elude them once the postseason begins.
Most recently, the Leafs dropped two in a row on the road to the Vancouver Canucks, a team well beneath them in the standings, and coming off a lengthy absence due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
Here are three reasons why you should avoid betting on the Maple Leafs as the playoffs near:
NHL Championship 2020/2021
Tue, May 11 2021, 3:58 AM
Tampa Bay Lightning
Vegas Golden Knights
Toronto Maple Leafs
New York Islanders
1. Goaltending is a huge concern
The Maple Leafs have the talent to outscore their problems in net most nights during the regular season, but that invites greater risk in the playoffs when the opposition stiffens up their defense and focuses on limiting the best players.
Toronto has been without starting goalie Frederik Andersen for over a month now, as he works his way back from injury. In order to shore up their goaltending situation, the Leafs acquired David Rittich from Calgary at the trade deadline. They’ve had to rely on journeyman Jack Campbell and Rittich over this stretch, although neither has been particularly reliable over the last 10 days.
The latest mishap in goal came Tuesday against Vancouver.
After Toronto scored short-handed to take a third-period lead – against a team playing its second game back from a COVID-19 outbreak and still without some of its key players – Rittich gave up a trio of soft goals.
The Maple Leafs desperately need Andersen to come back for the playoffs, although, he wasn’t exactly having a stellar season before his injury, as evidenced by his .897 save percentage in 23 games.
Sublime goaltending can lift a lesser team above its opposition in the playoffs, and subpar goaltending can drag good teams out of the playoffs earlier than expected. The Maple Leafs seem in danger of falling on the latter side of that equation.
2. The Maple Leafs' odds aren't enticing
As of Thursday, the outright odds on the Maple Leafs to win the Stanley Cup were +800 at TwinSpires Sports. Only three teams stand ahead of them on the board, including the Colorado Avalanche, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Vegas Golden Knights.
The Maple Leafs still lead their division, despite their recent slide, but their odds aren't quite high enough to be enticing. Given their problems in goal, and the rise of the Avalanche, Golden Knights, and Lightning, the Maple Leafs would need to knock off some serious heavyweight contenders in the later rounds.
It’s a long road to win it all, and the Maple Leafs probably won’t inspire many bettors looking at the futures markets. There are other teams below Toronto on the board that may be of more interest to bettors looking at lower risk, potentially higher payout, such as the Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals, or Boston Bruins.
3. History isn’t on their side
In terms of championship droughts, the Maple Leafs don’t yet compare to the Boston Red Sox (1918 – 2004) and Chicago Cubs (1908 – 2016), but Toronto hasn’t witnessed a Stanley Cup championship since 1967. Despite immense talent over the years, the city has watched its hockey team exit the playoffs in the first round in each of the three seasons between 2017 – 2019, and the qualifying round last year in the bubble.
The Maple Leafs, who have made losing an art form for decades, haven’t made it out of the first round since 2004.