On the brink of elimination, the Toronto Maple Leafs must execute a historic comeback to keep their Stanley Cup dreams alive. After losing Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal in a heartbreaker in overtime, Toronto trails the Florida Panthers three games to zero.
Only four teams have ever won a series after being down 3-0 in NHL history. It is a feat that has not happened since 2014. It is improbable. However, it is not impossible.
Meanwhile, Ontario sportsbooks are shedding their hometown allegiance and are rooting for the Panthers. The Maple Leafs have been a big liability for sports wagering operators in Ontario all season long. Now, the Leafs are one loss away from letting the sportsbooks off the hook.
Maple Leafs are biggest liability for Ontario sportsbooks’
For folks betting on hockey in Ontario, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been the apple of everyone’s eye. According to theScore Bet, the Maple Leafs were the most bet on NHL team and the second most bet on team overall during the first full year of legal sports betting in Ontario. Of the most bet on NHL players, four of the top five play for Toronto.
Heading into the NHL Playoffs, the Maple Leafs were Ontario sports betting operators’ largest liability, which means that in Ontario, more money has been wagered on Toronto to win the Stanley Cup than any other team. That makes sense when you look at the support the team has from local fans.
According to theScore Bet, out of the teams remaining in the playoffs, 41.8% of Stanley Cup futures are on the Maple Leafs. The operator says that over the last 6 days, 30.7% of Stanley Cup futures placed have been on the Leafs. The next closest team, Seattle, has 16.7% of bets in that time.
However, the Leafs had lost in the opening round of the playoffs six years in a row. But once they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, folks started hopping on the bandwagon. And those numbers only increased after the first round of the NHL Playoffs wrapped up.
Toronto took Boston’s spot as Stanley Cup favourites heading into the second round
The Stanley Cup favourites at every sportsbook following their historic regular season, the Boston Bruins were the biggest worldwide liability at many entering the playoffs. That includes at BetMGM, where Boston had accounted for 28.1% of the Stanley Cup champion bets and a whopping 42.7% of the money wagered.
“Entering the playoffs, the Bruins were the betting favourites to win the Stanley Cup and a significant liability for the sportsbook,” said BetMGM sports trader Seamus Magee. “While heartbreaking to fans and those who closely followed their run, Boston losing in the first round was a good outcome for the sportsbook.”
Boston’s downfall coincided with the defending champion Colorado Avalanche being eliminated and the New Jersey Devils taking out the New York Rangers. That meant the top three liabilities at BetMGM entering the playoffs failed to make it out of the first round.
With the top three American teams eliminated, the new Stanley Cup futures list had an unmistakable Canadian flair. The new favourite entering the second round was Toronto, with the Maple Leafs offered at +350 at BetMGM and DraftKings. Next was the Edmonton Oilers, who were +375 and +425 at the two sportsbooks, respectively.
How the Leafs have fallen
After their Game 3 loss, out of the remaining teams, the Maple Leafs have the lowest odds to win the Stanley Cup at +2500 according to DraftKings Sportsbook. They are at +700 to comeback and win their series against Florida.
Surprisingly, the Leafs are the favourite to win Game 4 on Wednesday in Florida.
That could be the operators sensing pure desperation from Toronto. Not only do the Maple Leafs have to win four games in a row, they need to win the first one on the road.
Again, it is not an impossible task. However, Maple Leafs fans who have seen this story play out before are likely not overly optimistic. But all it takes is one.
“So you’re telling me there’s a chance?”
If the sportsbooks have it their way, Florida will end this series on Wednesday night.