Welcome back to another day of NHL Predictions, Playoff Edition. Each day, we will take a look at the games that are happening and give our NHL predictions. There are four Stanley Cup Playoff matchups today. Today’s featured game is Game 1 of the series between the Montreal Canadiens vs Toronto Maple Leafs. Be sure to check back in every day for more predictions and game analysis.
NHL Playoff Predictions Featuring Montreal Canadiens vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Florida Panthers vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Series: Lighting lead 2-0
The battle of Florida rages on tonight with the Panthers and Lightning going at it for Game 3 in this best of seven affair. The Tampa Bay Lightning managed to win both games on the road and now move to the comfy confines of Amalie Arena. This series has been one of the more exciting in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Twelve goals and 60 minutes in penalties have been witnessed in just two games. There is no love lost between these two teams.
The Lightning welcomed back Steven Stamkos (who hadn’t played since April 8th) and Nikita Kucherov (first two games of 2021). They have made a huge impact collecting three goals and four assists in the first two contests. There has been little to separate these two teams in this series, but the experience of the defending Stanley Cup champs has been on full display.
The Panther’s top forwards Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Carter Verhaeghe have done their part. They have recorded three goals and five assists, but still find themselves down 2-0 and travelling to Tampa. Expect a titanic effort from Joel Quenneville‘s group in this pivotal Game 3 match.
Prediction: 4-3 Panthers
Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Islanders
Series: Tied 1-1
The Pittsburgh Penguins managed to bounce back from their opening game overtime loss besting the Islanders 2-1 on Tuesday. This has been a classic Barry Trotz type of defensive series that the Pens would like to break open. Star forward Evgeni Malkin has yet to make his 2021 playoff debut but the Pens, behind Sidney Crosby, have thrived. Malkin missed 23 regular-season games and the Pens still managed to win a very tough East Division.
In the New York Islanders, what you see is what you get. A tough, defensively responsible team that won’t win any excitement awards. The Islanders finished second in the NHL regular season allowing a measly 2.23 goals per game. They also finished 20th in goals scored per game (2.71). Trotz teams play close, tight hockey games and hope players like Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle, and Brock Nelson can do just enough to get the win. Expect another close one.
Prediction: 2-1 Penguins
Montreal Canadiens vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Two of the NHL’s most storied franchises will kick off their playoff series tonight when the Canadiens take on the Maple Leafs. Shockingly, this will be the first time these two teams have met in the playoffs in 42 years. Montreal swept that series four games to zero. Do not expect such a route this time around.
The Canadiens finished fourth in the all Canadian North Division meandering around the middle of the league’s goal stats. Just 17th in goals per game (2.82) and 18th in goals against (2.95). Off-season acquisitions Tyler Toffoli (28 goals) and Josh Anderson (17 goals) led the Habs in goal scoring. They will need to be at their best in this series to compete against a dynamic Leafs team. Still, their hopes truly lie in goal, and the bleu, blanc et rouge will go as far as Carey Price is able to take them. He faced a number of injuries during the season posting a 12-7-5 record with a 2.64 goals-against average and .901 save percentage. Clearly, that won’t cut it in this series and he will need to find his old MVP calibre form.
Maple Leafs High Octane Offence
The Toronto Maple Leafs finished the year as the NHL’s 6th highest-scoring team, notching 3.32 goals per game. Auston Matthews won the Rocket Richard Trophy with 41 goals and Mitch Marner led the team with 67 points in his 55 games. There is plenty more firepower upfront with John Tavares and William Nylander as well as defenceman Morgan Rielly. This version of the Leafs also rosters some grizzled veterans in Jason Spezza (37 years old) and Joe Thornton (41 years old). Both will be looking for their first Stanley Cup win after a combined 41 seasons.
In net, the Leafs will start Jack Campbell who was outstanding for them down the stretch. He posted a 17-3-2 record with a 2.15 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage. Frederik Andersen, who returned from injury just over a week ago, will be the backup. He was less than impressive this season losing six of his last seven starts, stumbling to a 2.96 goals-against average and .895 save percentage. Can Campbell keep the mojo going? Or will Price steal the show? Get your popcorn ready, this should be a great Canadian classic.
Prediction: 3-2 Maple Leafs
Vegas Golden Knights vs Minnesota Wild
This series heads to L’etoile du Nord after the Minnesota Wild got an all-important split of the two games in sin city. Goalie Cam Talbot stopped all 42 shots for the shutout in the 1-0 overtime opener. That might have seemed like an upset until you look and see that the Wild were 5-1-2 against the Golden Knights during the season. You can overlook the Wild at your own peril. A 35-16-5 record is no fluke. They are a well-rounded team led by probable Calder Trophy favourite Kirill Kaprizov. Still, it can’t be ignored that Minnesota has scored just two goals combined in the first two games of this series. They will need to find ways of scoring.
The Golden Knights were the best defensive team in the NHL over 56 regular-season games allowing just 2.18 goals per game. This was due in large part to Vezina trophy candidate Marc-Andre Fleury. He posted a stellar 26-10 record with a 1.98 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. He has also stopped 63 of the 65 shots he has faced in this series. If that is not enough, Vegas also finished third in goals scored (3.39 goals per game) led by Max Pacioretty (24 goals) and Mark Stone (61 points). Pacioretty has yet to feature this series and hasn’t played since May 1st. He has been listed as a game-time decision in the last two contests. They will very much need him in the lineup if they hope to best a surprising Wild team that has had their number all year long.
Prediction: 2-1 Wild