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NHL Predictions: February 25th Early Games – Including Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

NHL Predictions

As the sun rises on post-trade deadline hockey, Last Word on Hockey’s NHL Predictions series has you covered for all of tonight’s games. Each of our articles breaks down every game, offering our score prediction and analysis for each. Tonight’s slate features a massive 13 games, and this early games article will cover the first seven. Our featured matchup tonight is a must-watch tilt between the Atlantic Division rival Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning – keep reading to see who we think will win.

NHL Predictions

Calgary Flames vs. Boston Bruins

Head-to-Head: Flames 0 – 1 Bruins

The Calgary Flames continue to embroil themselves in the Western Conference wild-card race, posting a 32-25-6 record for 70 points and fourth place in the Pacific Division. Their last victory was a smooth ride over the lowly Detroit Red Wings, 4-2. Calgary made moves at the deadline yesterday, acquiring defencemen Derek Forbort and Erik Gustafsson. Calgary is a rather average team in both zones of the ice, and don’t have any glaring strengths or weaknesses. That mediocrity has been reflected in their recent play, winning half of their last six games. Goalie David Rittich‘s play is going to be increasingly important down the stretch, considering he’s proven to be slightly more consistent than his counterpart, Cam Talbot.

The Boston Bruins‘ stellar 39-12-12 record, 90 points, and first-place standing in the Atlantic Division would make one think they’ve made easy work of the entire league this season. While mostly true, they laid an egg in their last outing, losing 9-3 in British Columbia to the Vancouver Canucks. Boston made only one trade yesterday, acquiring Nick Ritchie from the Anaheim Ducks. Boston is a good team offensively, and also make an argument for being the league’s best defensive squad. Aside from their drubbing at the hands of the Canucks, they had won their five previous games. They’ve been driven this season largely in part by the Midas touch of David Pastrnak, who’s now up to 45 goals on the season.

A complete Boston squad will shut the door tonight against a Flames squad that’s still got some holes.

Prediction: Bruins win 3-0.

Vancouver Canucks vs. Montreal Canadiens

Head-to-Head: Canucks 0 – 1 Canadiens

The Canucks have had a largely successful campaign, tallying a 33-22-6 record and 72 points, good enough for third place in the Pacific Division. Their 9-3 crushing of the Bruins has to have them all feeling confident as they move towards the playoffs. They shored up their goaltending position yesterday, acquiring Louis Domingue to serve as a third goalie. The Canucks excel offensively but aren’t too shabby at keeping the puck out of their net either. They hope for starting goalie Jacob Markstrom to get healthy soon, as his play in net has been crucial for Vancouver’s success.

The Montreal Canadiens‘ disappointing season continues, posting a 29-27-8 record and 66 points, only good enough for fifth place in the Atlantic Division. Their last game ended on a positive note, shutting out the Ottawa Senators the 3-0. Montreal parted ways yesterday with Nick Cousins and Nate Thompson in exchange for draft picks, cementing their status as sellers. Oddly enough, Montreal hasn’t been exceedingly bad either offensively or defensively but just haven’t been able to put it all together all year. They’ve lost five out of their last seven contests. Goalie Carey Price has been doing his best, starting 53 of Montreal’s 64 games.

Vancouver’s overconfidence after their trouncing of Boston, however, will cost them tonight in Eastern Canada, as Montreal gets a victory.

Prediction: Canadiens win 3-0.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Head-to-Head: Maple Leafs 0 – 1 Lightning

This is Last Word on Hockey’s NHL predictions featured early game for tonight.

The Maple Leafs have had an increasingly concerning season, only getting 72 points, a 32-23-8 record, and third place in the Atlantic Division. Their last loss needs no introduction, dropping a 6-3 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Maple Leafs, for the most part, stayed quiet at yesterday’s deadline but acquired an old friend in Calle Rosen. While their offensive dominance is well-documented, their defensive lapses are as embarrassing as ever. They’ve dropped three of their past four contests. With all their injury troubles, they need to hope that Auston Matthews stays healthy, as he’s cemented himself as the team’s most important player.

The Lightning, however, continues to be world-beaters, maintaining a 40-17-5 record, 85 points, and second place in the Atlantic. However, they also suffered an embarrassing loss in their last game, losing 7-3 to the Arizona Coyotes. Their main trade deadline acquisition came in the form of Barclay Goodrow, broken down here. Tampa is truly elite offensively and defensively, cementing their place as one of the best teams in the league. They’ve won a whopping 11 out of their past 13 contests. And while Nikita Kucherov won’t win the Art Ross this year, he’s still put up very good numbers and leads their offensive attack.

Tampa will capitalize on a sore and confused Leafs team tonight.

Prediction: Lightning win 3-1.

New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders

Head-to-Head: Rangers 2 – 1 Islanders

The New York Rangers are making a run of it, tallying a 33-24-4 record and 70 points for 7th place in the Metropolitan Division. Despite getting vastly outshot, they still won their last game 3-2 against the San Jose Sharks. The Rangers were active yesterday, re-signing one of their most beloved players in Chris Kreider. They’ve made solid strides this season both offensively and defensively, giving fans much hope for the future. They’ve only lost one of their past eight games. It’s mostly thanks to Artemi Panarin, who’s put the team on his back this season.

The New York Islanders have continued their unexpected success, maintaining a 35-20-6 record for 76 points and 4th place in the Metropolitan Division. The small difference in points makes this one of the more important New York matchups in recent NHL Predictions memory. They also beat the Sharks in their last game, 4-1. Their big move yesterday was acquiring centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau. However, they’ve dropped four of their last six games. Goalie Semyon Varlamov has had a great season, and is supporting the Islanders’ defence and helping them get towards the playoffs.

The Islanders are the more composed team here and should win a very tight matchup tonight.

Prediction: Islanders win 3-2 in a shootout.

San Jose Sharks vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Head-to-Head: Sharks 1 – 0 Flyers

The Sharks have had a disappointing season, to say the least, only posting a 26-32-4 record, 56 points, and a 6th place standing in the Pacific Division. They said goodbye to veteran Patrick Marleau again yesterday, trading him to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Sharks struggle in every area of the game, not really having any positives to boast about. They’ve lost four straight games, and have nowhere to go this season. The team looks unmotivated, lost, and confused.

However, the Philadelphia Flyers are right in the thick of things, getting up to a 35-20-7 record, 77 points, and third place in the Metropolitan Division. They’re coming off a strong 4-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets. The Flyers were busy on deadline day, most notably acquiring Derek Grant from the Ducks. Coach Alain Vigneault has the Flyers playing some great hockey right now, excelling on both sides of the puck. They’ve won four out of five, and are looking more and more like a true playoff contender. As centre Sean Couturier enters his prime, he’s helped the Flyers soar this season back to the playoffs.

There’s a severe mismatch in this game, and the score will reflect it.

Prediction: Flyers win 4-1.

Winnipeg Jets vs. Washington Capitals

Head-to-Head: Jets 0 – 0 Capitals

The Winnipeg Jets have made the best out of a tricky situation all year, working their way to a 32-27-5 record, 69 points, and fourth place in the Central Division. Their last outing, however, was a quite disappointing 2-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. The Jets were completely silent on Deadline Day. While they don’t do anything particularly well, they’ve been able to keep afloat in a poor Western Conference. Winnipeg’s won three out of their past five as they attempt to stay in the playoff picture. Goalie Connor Hellebuyck has been so incredibly important to this squad, and he’ll need to keep his play up.

The Washington Capitals are still one of the teams to beat this year, posting a 38-18-6 record, 82 points, and place first in the Metropolitan Division. Their last game was an incredibly important 5-3 win against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins. Yesterday, they were able to acquire Daniel Sprong from the Ducks. This team is strong offensively but has seen some question marks appear in goal this season. The team has only won two of their past six games, striking concern, but now appears to be on the upswing. Defenceman John Carlson‘s miracle season continues, posting 72 points in 62 games, incredible numbers for a defenceman.

Winnipeg’s average team won’t be able to capitalize on a strong Washington team tonight, as the Capitals look to solidify a division title.

Prediction: Capitals win 3-2.

Dallas Stars vs. Carolina Hurricanes

Head-to-Head: Stars 1 – 0 Hurricanes

The Dallas Stars have rolled their way to a 36-20-6 record, 78 points, and third place in the Central Division. Their last outing against the Chicago Blackhawks was quite successful, winning 2-1. Dallas stayed mostly quiet on deadline day, making a minor trade. Dallas struggles offensively, but have claimed the spot of best defensive squad in the league. They’ve won four of their past six contests.

As the Hurricanes celebrate Dave Ayres tonight, and rightfully so, they do so with the backing of a solid record and playoff positioning. Their 6-3 win over Toronto will be one for the memory books, but Carolina still has meaningful games to play, beginning tonight against Dallas. They come into tonight without both their normal roster goalies, so Anton Forsberg and Alex Nedeljkovic will man the net for the foreseeable future. However, that won’t seem to matter, considering Carolina’s elite defensive structure.

Don’t let Carolina’s goaltending situation fool you – their team play is enough to get them through Dallas tonight.

Prediction: Hurricanes win 4-2.

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