Welcome back to another day of NHL Predictions. Each day, Last Word on Hockey takes a look at the games that are happening and gives our predictions for each one, breaking down head-to-head and other factors that may play in. We also have a featured game of the day, which is considered must-watch TV. Today’s featured game is the Buffalo Sabres vs Boston Bruins.
NHL Predictions with Buffalo Sabres vs Boston Bruins
Washington Capitals vs New York Islanders
Head-to-Head: Capitals 2-1 Islanders
This is one of the few games on tap tonight with legitimate standings implications. The Washington Capitals can leap ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins for third place in the Metropolitan Division with a win against the New York Islanders. The advantage to placing third, as opposed to the second Wild Card, is avoiding a first-round matchup with the Florida Panthers. Sure, a series against the New York Rangers isn’t ideal either, but it definitely beats having to forfeit home-ice advantage to a 57-win team that’s 34-7 at home this year.
The issue for the Capitals is that they’ll likely need to overcome the loss of Alex Ovechkin this evening, who suffered an upper-body injury the other night. The Capitals just played the Islanders on April 26th without Ovechkin in the lineup, and that lead to a 4-1 loss. Now they’ll have the disadvantage of trying to get that win back on the road.
There are more than a couple of cards stacked against the Capitals here, and that might be just enough for the Islanders to spring the upset.
Prediction: Islanders win 4-3 (OT)
Florida Panthers vs Ottawa Senators
Head-to-Head: Panthers 2-1 Senators
Oddly enough, the Florida Panthers enter this tilt on a two-game losing streak. Of course, this tiny skid was preceded by a remarkable 13-game winning streak, so a little bit of cooldown is expected. Thankfully, they’ll have a good opportunity to kick things immediately back into gear against a non-playoff Ottawa Senators team.
It’s only a good opportunity, and not great, due to the Senator’s snappy play as of late. They’re in the midst of a four-game winning streak, and although the opponents in that stretch have been weak, it’s an impressive task for a rebuilding squad nonetheless.
The other factor is how many, if any, players the Panthers will rest. In terms of standings, the only thing the Panthers are playing for at this point is the President’s Trophy. Some teams care about that kind of thing and will make a push for the title, while others tend to value the health and rest of their players a little bit more in the final days of the regular season.
Ultimately, even if the Panthers do rest a few key players, they’re still the much deeper team. They’ll be motivated to kick out of this late-season skid and end the regular season on a better note. The Senators will put up a fight, but the Panthers have established a pattern of punching back strong all year long.
Prediction: Panthers win 5-3
New Jersey Devils vs Carolina Hurricanes
Head-to-Head: Devils 1-2 Hurricanes
The theme of tonight’s slate really does boil down to playoff teams potentially resting their stars and how that’ll match up against a non-playoff opponent. In this case, the Carolina Hurricanes could likely rest half their team and still be the better bet. Why? Their momentum is currently on a polar opposite trajectory compared to the New Jersey Devils. Lead by a rejuvenated offence, the Hurricanes have rattled off five wins in a row while averaging more than four goals per game. On the flip side, the Devils have lost four in a row and have managed only two goals per game in the process.
The Devils are dead last in 5v5 team save percentage this year, and that’s a weakness that is ripe for exploitation by this talented Hurricanes team.
Prediction: Hurricanes win 5-2
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Columbus Blue Jackets
Head-to-Head: Lightning 2-0 Blue Jackets
For a second there, it looked like it might be appropriate to be a little worried about the Tampa Bay Lightning. They then proceeded to win seven of their last 10 games, including four straight walking into tonight. Safe to say, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the Lightning right now and they look like they’ll be an absolute handful for the Toronto Maple Leafs in round one.
In the meantime, they’ll have to deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets first. Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, these two just met on Tuesday night and the results weren’t pretty. The Lightning skated to an easy 4-1 victory, with two assists from Steven Stamkos to give him 100 points on the season. That win meant a 2-0 record against the Blue Jackets on the year, outscoring them 11-3 total. There’s almost no reason to expect any different result tonight.
Prediction: Lightning win 5-2
Buffalo Sabres vs Boston Bruins
Head-to-Head: Sabres 0-3 Bruins
This is a surprisingly fun matchup for a game that features almost no impact on the standings. That’s because, for the Buffalo Sabres, this could be quite the statement game for the young group. Since the Jack Eichel trade, the Sabres have played as if a weight’s been lifted off their shoulders. It’s led to a brand of fun hockey with surprisingly decent results. As of late, that’s especially been the case as they boast a tidy four-game winning streak. Add to that a win against a playoff-bound Bruins team and massive mental dividends could pay off for the young core in preparation for next season.
Additionally, there’s still some room for a personal accomplishment or two in these last couple of games. Tage Thompson has had a remarkable campaign and sits only three goals away from 40, Jeff Skinner could notch 35 goals, and anything Rasmus Dahlin gets at this point extends his career-high in both scoring metrics.
As for the Bruins, with little left to play for before the postseason, it’s realistic to expect they may tone things down a notch. This is a team led by veterans who will play things smart and not take unnecessary risks. With a half-step removed, that could be all it takes for a streaking, energetic Sabres to snatch a closely contested victory.
Prediction: Sabres win 3-2 (SO)
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