Welcome back to NHL Predictions, May 22nd 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 and only slate of NHL Predictions for May 22nd, featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Islanders.
NHL Predictions: Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Islanders
Florida Panthers vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Series: Panthers 1 – 2 Lightning
Thursday night’s contest was a high-scoring thriller. After trailing for most of the game, the Florida Panthers scored late in the third to tie it at five apiece and netted an overtime goal to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tonight, shoring up the defence will be key for Tampa Bay. The Lightning have not done a good job limiting shots on goal in this series. Thursday’s game was the worst yet in that regard, as they allowed 47 shots on goal. While Andrei Vasilevskiy certainly didn’t look sharp that night, it’s hard to blame him for struggling when faced with so many chances.
Interestingly enough, though the Panthers only won Thursday’s contest, the underlying numbers in both of the last two games favoured them. On Tuesday, the Panthers controlled possession and dominated in high-danger chances. They continued that trend through Thursday. If the Panthers continue to play the way they have in recent games, it’ll likely pay off again tonight.
Prediction: Panthers win, 4-3
Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Islanders
Series: Penguins 2 – 1 Islanders
After winning the first game of the series in overtime, the New York Islanders trail the Pittsburgh Penguins by a one-game margin. This fourth contest will be crucial for both teams, as the Penguins try to widen their lead and the Islanders struggle to turn the momentum around.
Keep an eye on Pittsburgh’s veteran forwards tonight. Jeff Carter logged three goals and an assist through the past three games. Evgeni Malkin contributed two assists in Thursday’s game, his first appearance of the 2020-21 playoffs. On the other hand, captain Sidney Crosby has been relatively quiet since netting a goal in the initial contest against the Islanders and will look to make a bigger impact this game.
Thursday’s contest was particularly ugly for the Islanders. Regular-season goals leader Brock Nelson was a non-factor. Star centre Mathew Barzal notched two assists but failed to score a goal. And most worrisome of all was the shakiness of Semyon Varlamov, who let in five goals on just 27 shots. After that performance, the Islanders will likely go with rookie goaltender Ilya Sorokin for tonight’s game. That might alleviate some of the issues in net. But the Islanders as a whole have not looked sharp as of late, whereas Penguins have been picking up steam. Expect another Pittsburgh win tonight.
Prediction: Penguins win, 4-1
Montreal Canadiens vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Series: Canadiens 1 – 0 Maple Leafs
On Thursday night, the Montreal Canadiens took the first game of their series in an upset win against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was depth scoring that shone in that contest, with Josh Anderson and Paul Byron netting the Canadiens’ two goals.
Another important development came in the form of John Tavares’ injury. The Maple Leafs captain was stretchered off the ice after an accidental hit to the head from Corey Perry. Thankfully, he seems to be in stable condition, but his recovery timeline is still uncertain. This would be a huge blow for Toronto, as they’d lose not only leadership but also a valuable player. (Tavares was third in points on the Maple Leafs during the regular season.) The absence of Tavares won’t necessarily dictate the outcome of tonight’s game, but in combination with Montreal’s momentum, it will make the Canadiens difficult to stop.
Prediction: Canadiens win, 2-1
Vegas Golden Knights vs Minnesota Wild
Series: Golden Knights 2 – 1 Wild
The last game of this series was painful for the Minnesota Wild. After the Wild scored twice in the first period, the Vegas Golden Knights proceeded to net five unanswered goals. With Vegas already up in the series, Minnesota cannot afford a repeat of Thursday.
In this game, the Wild need more from Kirill Kaprizov. Though he was the team’s regular-season points leader, he has just one assist in the playoffs. However, it isn’t just Kaprisov who’s had difficulty scoring. As a whole, the Wild haven’t been able to generate much offence, recording only four goals in three games.
On Vegas’s end, expect goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to bounce back after a rough game. On Thursday, he allowed two goals on 16 shots for a .875 save percentage. Of course, that wasn’t ultimately an issue, as the Golden Knights won anyway. Still, a better performance from Fleury would make it much easier for Vegas to get a win tonight.
Prediction: Golden Knights win, 3-2
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