Fans will be in attendance at the Bell Centre on Saturday night for the first time in almost 15 months as the Montreal Canadiens take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series as +165 home underdogs on the NHL odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Facing elimination, Montreal responded with a 4-3 overtime win in Game 5, cutting Toronto's series lead to 3-2 going into Saturday night's matchup. But while the Canadiens avoided an early exit with Thursday's win, they still have a hill to climb in order to get back into this series.
Overall, Montreal has posted just two wins in its past 10 contests, and has failed to record consecutive victories while losing 10 of 15 overall meetings with Toronto this season. The Canadiens also ride a four-game home losing streak, and they scored just one total goal while losing two home dates so far in this series.
Those goal-scoring woes are nothing new. Montreal has averaged a meagre 1.90 goals per game over its past 10 contests, and posted just two wins in the past 15 playoff games in which it has scored two or fewer goals. However, the Canadiens have only needed modest offensive production to reverse that trend, winning 15 straight postseason contests when scoring at least three goals.
After squandering Thursday's comeback attempt, the Maple Leafs look to Saturday as -190 road favourites at sports betting sites. Toronto erased a 3-0 deficit in Game 5, but was denied its first playoff series win in 17 years by Nick Suzuki's overtime winner. With the loss, the Maple Leafs extended a lengthening track record of futility when poised to clinch a series win, going 0-5 during the NHL's salary cap era.
The presence of Montreal hockey fans in the seats adds to the challenge facing Toronto on Saturday. Up to 2500 fans are expected to be in attendance for Game 6, marking the first time that fans have been present for a major sporting event in Canada since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. That should provide a spark for the Canadiens, who have posted wins in 10 of the last 13 home meetings with fans present dating back to 2013.
Meanwhile, while Toronto and Montreal continue their North Division series on Saturday, second-round action begins in the East Division as the Boston Bruins host the New York Islanders as -190 home chalk in their Game 1 matchup. The Islanders sit as the +165 road underdogs. The Bruins also lead the way as -260 favourites on the NHL playoff series prices despite earning wins in just three of their eight meetings with New York this past season.