Welcome back to NHL Predictions, May 1st edition! Each day, the Last Word On Hockey team will break down every game and give our NHL predictions for each game. This is the first slate of NHL Predictions for May 1st, featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins vs Washington Capitals. Be sure to check out the other two slates of games today.
NHL Predictions: Pittsburgh Penguins vs Washington Capitals
Buffalo Sabres vs Boston Bruins
Head-to-Head: Sabres 1 – 6 Bruins
As the regular season draws to a close, the Boston Bruins have yet to clinch a playoff spot. Tonight, against the Buffalo Sabres, they will look to boost their chances with a win against the East Division’s weakest team.
Thursday’s meeting between these two teams went Boston’s way. While the Sabres were able to keep the game close through the first and second periods, the Bruins pulled away in the third with three unanswered goals. It was a particularly rough night for young Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who faced 39 shots and saved 35. On the other hand, the Bruins’ top six enjoyed a productive game, accounting for four of the team’s five goals. Especially given the lopsided head-to-head, expect Boston to take tonight’s contest.
Prediction: Bruins win, 4-1
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Detroit Red Wings
Head-to-Head: Lightning 4 – 2 Red Wings
In this game, the playoff-bound Tampa Bay Lightning take on the Detroit Red Wings, for whom a postseason bid is now a mathematical impossibility. For a team that’s barely holding onto seventh in the Central Division, the Red Wings have done surprisingly well against the Lightning, even stealing an upset win in their last meeting. However, Tampa Bay enters this game with a four-game win streak, while Detroit sports a three-game losing streak.
For the Red Wings, goaltender Thomas Greiss has been outstanding, with a .960 average save percentage in his five most recent games. But even with captain Steven Stamkos having been placed on long-term injured reserve, the Lightning’s offence has remained productive, with Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, and Alex Barre-Boulet combining for 14 points over their last five games. Tampa Bay should walk away with the win tonight.
Prediction: Lightning win, 3-2
New York Rangers vs New York Islanders
Head-to-Head: Rangers 5 – 2 Islanders
Currently, the New York Rangers sit in fifth in the East Division, six points behind the Boston Bruins. For them to have any hope of making the playoffs, they need a win tonight against the New York Islanders. But if recent games are any indication, the Islanders won’t make it easy – they’ve won three consecutive bouts with the Rangers.
With their victory over the Rangers on Thursday, the Islanders snapped a three-game losing streak. Semyon Varlamov shone in the 25-save shutout and the team scored four goals (one more than they’d recorded through the entire previous series against the Capitals). Tonight, the Rangers will struggle even more with Brett Howden done for the season and Chris Kreider and Ryan Lindgren out day-to-day. Those injuries, coupled with momentum from Thursday’s dominant performance, should ensure another Islanders’ victory.
Prediction: Islanders win, 2-0
New Jersey Devils vs Philadelphia Flyers
Head-to-Head: Devils 3 – 3 Flyers
Heading into the third game in a four-game series, the head-to-head between the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils is dead even. The Flyers took the first contest in a narrow shootout win, but the Devils have gained momentum from their two home victories.
In the most recent meeting between these teams, a slew of undisciplined penalties from Philadelphia put New Jersey ahead early with two goals on the man advantage, both from Yegor Sharangovich. But it was clear that goaltender Alex Lyon never really felt comfortable in net, as he let in four goals on 18 shots for a .778 save percentage on the night. Fortunately for the Flyers, Brian Elliott – who started in Philadelphia’s sole win in the past week – will be back again tonight. A rested and fresh Elliott may be what the Flyers need to rebound and take the last game of this series.
Prediction: Flyers win, 2-1
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Washington Capitals
Head-to-Head: Penguins 5 – 2 Capitals
At this point in the season, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals have both clinched playoff berths. They sit together at the top of the East Division, with 69 points each and 7-2-1 records in their last 10 games. While the points from this game won’t ultimately make a difference in the postseason picture, both will want to win to gear up for the competitive opponents they’ll be facing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
On Thursday, the Penguins prevailed in an extremely close contest, extending their overtime win streak against the Capitals to four. But while Pittsburgh squeaked out a marginal victory, the underlying numbers actually favoured Washington. The Capitals recorded six more high-danger chances than the Penguins and led in expected goals for nearly the entire game. Additionally, the last time Pittsburgh won in overtime in the first of a two-game series, Washington bounced back with a regulation win in the second.
Overall, the Penguins lead the Capitals decisively in the head-to-head. However, that fails to capture the close, competitive nature of these teams’ meetings. After such a narrow loss in Thursday’s game, it’s unlikely that the Capitals will let this one slip out of their grasp.
Prediction: Capitals win, 4-2