Can Leafs start the season with a win? You bet

Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel sit on the bench during Leafs practice at the Mastercard...

Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel sit on the bench during Leafs practice at the Mastercard Centre October 5th, 2011. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:57 PM ET

Can the Leafs win Thursday night's opener and get the 2011-12 NHL season off to the strong start the team badly needs?

You bet they can.

According to bookmakers, the Leafs are modest favourites over their historic rival Montreal Canadiens for the curtain-raiser at the Air Canada Centre.

Despite a lineup that has been rattled by injury, including top off-season free-agent acquisition centre Tim Connolly, the Leafs get the slight edge.

According to online sports book bet365.com, the home team is the minus-125 choice.

At that price, you would have to wager $125 to make $100 profit. Montreal, meanwhile, is plus-105, meaning a $100 wager returns a profit of $105.

"The lines aren't a big favourite one way or the other, however in a big rivalry match, home ice is key in the price," said Aron Black, the lines manager for bet365.

"Montreal would be bigger faves than the Leafs if they were at home, but early season, lines are going to go with the home team."

Black said other factors in the price include the fact that the young Leafs will be keen to get off to a quick start and that the ACC should be electric on opening night.

"The Leafs crowd, as always, is very thirsty for pucks to start so it will be a raucous atmosphere," Black said.

For the Leafs to be competitive this season, the common sentiment is that they will need stellar goaltending from James Reimer, who begins his first season as an NHL starter. But the odds suggest there will be some goals tonight with the over-under set at 5-and-a-half.

Want to look beyond the opener? The Leafs are a 45-1 choice to win the Stanley Cup, not exactly an attractive price for a team that hasn't even made the playoffs in the last six seasons.

Bet365.com also has the Blue and White at 30-1 to win the Eastern Conference an 11-1 to claim the Northeast Division title.


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