The 2021 NHL season is on the home stretch. The Last Word On Hockey team continues to break down each game and give predictions for each result. This is the second set of three games for May 3rd. Today’s featured is the Montreal Canadiens vs Toronto Maple Leafs. Be sure to check out the early and late set of predictions, as teams jockey for playoff position.
NHL Predictions Featuring Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal Canadiens
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Philadelphia Flyers
Head-to-Head: Penguins 3 – 3 Flyers
The Pittsburgh Penguins (34-15-3) have climbed to the top of the East Division standings and look to stay there. Just four games remain in their schedule and only five points separate fourth and first in the East. Winners of six of their last seven the Pens are as hot a team as there is in the NHL. The line of Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, and Bryan Rust has led the charge to the top. They are the only line in the NHL with each player having at least 20 goals. Perhaps more impressive has been Pittsburgh’s assent without Evgeni Malkin, who has not played since March 15th.
The Philadelphia Flyers (22-22-7) are well eliminated from post-season play. Nevertheless, they would like nothing more than to play spoiler to their cross-state rivals. They only won five of 16 games in April though, and are on a three-game losing streak coming into this one. Still, the Flyers are always up for a game against the Penguins so expect them to leave nothing on the ice. Carter Hart has been ruled out for the rest of the season, leaving Brian Elliott or Alex Lyon between the pipes.
Prediction: Pens will not allow a slip up here. 4-2 Penguins.
Chicago Blackhawks vs Carolina Hurricanes
Head-to-Head: Blackhawks 2 – 3 Hurricanes
A three-game mini-series starts tonight between these two teams. The Chicago Blackhawks (22-23-6) are all but eliminated from the playoffs, needing to win their last five games. They also need Nashville and Dallas to lose all of their remaining games. The effort has just not been there down the stretch. They have lost four games in a row allowing 19 goals in those contests. Patrick Kane will try and will this team to victory once again to close out their campaign.
The Carolina Hurricanes (34-10-7) need to capitalize on a fading, demoralized Blackhawks team. They are first in the Central Division with the Panthers (two points back) and Lightning (four points back). They cannot allow them to take advantage of a lapse in focus. The Hurricanes owe their success in large part to outstanding goaltending. Even with Petr Mrazek shelved again (lower body) they have an even better option in Alex Nedeljkovic. He is 14-4-3 in his 21 starts with s silly 1.89 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. And James Reimer hasn’t been too shabby himself. The Hurricanes are third in the NHL in both goals against per game (2.33) and save percentage (.918).
Prediction: Brind’Amour will keep this team focused. 4-1 Hurricanes
Nashville Predators vs Columbus Blue Jackets
Head-to-Head: Predators 5 – 1 Blue Jackets
The Nashville Predators (28-22-2) will welcome their division rival for the next two games with open arms. They have dominated Columbus this year winning five of six and outscoring them 17-10 in the process. The Preds sit just three points ahead of the Dallas Stars for the final playoff spot in the Central with just four games left on their plate. Dallas has five games remaining. They scored a massive 1-0 overtime win vs Dallas on Saturday, led by a 28 save performance by Juuse Saros. Saros is 19-10-3 on the year with a 2.28 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage.
The Columbus Blue Jackets (16-25-11) may be riding out the final days of coach John Tortorella’s contract. Dating back to March 22nd they have won just three of 20 games. They have been shut out twice and scored just a single goal nine times in that span. They are easily the worst team in the NHL over this time. Perhaps pride and a fight for jobs next year will inspire them late.
Predictions: Perfect matchup for Nashville in their positions. 3-1 Predators
Montreal Canadiens vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Head-to-Head: Maple Leafs 5 – 2 Canadiens
These two Original Six rivals will battle it out for three games starting today in series that should have a playoff feel. The Toronto Maple Leafs (33-13-5) have all but clinched first place in the North Division, nine points up on the second-place Edmonton Oilers. Right now they are on a collision course to face the Canadiens, who they have enjoyed success against this year winning five of seven. Auston Matthews will look to extend his Rocket Richard lead of 38 goals on the year. He has five goals and six assists in seven games against the Habs this season.
The Montreal Canadiens (23-18-9) have won just six of their last 15 games and are hoping to avoid a first-round matchup against the Leafs. The Winnipeg Jets are just two points ahead, but is a date with the Edmonton Oilers that much more enticing? We will know more after this three-game set, which should be must-see-TV. Montreal continues to play without goaltender Carey Price, who has been out since April 19th with a concussion. Price may return for this series but he’s been having one of the worst years of his career. A 10-10-4 record with a 2.58 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage is not what is expected.
Prediction: Leafs will clinch first place before letting the foot off the gas. 4-2 Maple Leafs.
Winnipeg Jets vs Ottawa Senators
Head-to-Head: Jets 6 – 2 Senators
The Winnipeg Jets (27-20-3) have picked the wrong time to go on their biggest slide of the season. Losers of the past six games, they now find themselves just two points ahead of Montreal for fourth in the North Division. During their losing streak, they have been outscored 26-9 with all losses coming to Division playoff teams. Three losses to the Oilers, two losses to the Leafs and one loss to the Canadiens. That is not good. Coach Paul Maurice needs to find a way to right the ship, or plane if you will, in the next 6 games. It will need to start in goal as the defending Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck has not been good lately. Perhaps a dose of the Senators, whom the Jets have beaten up on this year, is just what is needed.
The Ottawa Senators (19-27-5) are playing some of their best hockey of the NHL season. They have won five of their last six and are embracing the role of spoiler. They have outscored their opponents 21-10 including two shutout wins. Seems like two teams going in opposite directions in this matchup. Can the young gun-leading scorers Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson, and Joshua Norris keep things going? They certainly are putting the NHL on notice for next year and the years to come.
Prediction: Jets need this too much to let it slip. They will win ugly. 2-1 Jets
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