NHL Predictions: May 2nd with Tampa Bay Lightning vs Toronto Maple Leafs

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Toronto Maple Leafs
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Welcome back to the 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 Tampa Bay Lightning vs Toronto Maple Leafs.

NHL Predictions with Tampa Bay Lightning vs Toronto Maple Leafs

Boston Bruins vs Carolina Hurricanes

Series: Bruins 0-0 Hurricanes

Of all the eight series, this one might just lead the pack in the number of upset predictions. There’s ample reason to suggest that the Boston Bruins are capable of just that. To begin, the Bruins are led by three extremely talented forwards who all have plenty of postseason experience. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak represent one of the best forward trios in the league and will give the Carolina Hurricanes plenty of headache in this series. Bergeron and Marchand in particular are two of the best players any team could ask for in the playoffs, and will need very little time to work their way into the series.

Additionally, the Hurricanes will be without number one goaltender Frederik Andersen for game one. According to MoneyPuck, Andersen was third in the league this season in terms of goals saved above expected, at 27.8. That’s a loss that could start to sting as soon as tonight.

As a result, it’s easy to see a scenario where a playoff savvy Bruins team is able to take advantage. On the road, they might be able to settle in a bit sooner, take advantage of a downgrade in net, and surprise the Hurricanes in game one. They’ll just have to stay cool and not let the Hurricanes exploit a clear advantage in special teams.

Prediction: Bruins win 3-2

St. Louis Blues vs Minnesota Wild

Series: Blues 0-0 Wild

This series has the potential to live up to picture-perfect playoff hockey. It should be chalked full of offence, close-games, physicality, and is extremely difficult to predict.

On one hand, you have a Minnesota Wild team that has emerged from its roots of boring, trap-style play to a high-flying offence that scored at the fifth-best rate in the entire league this year. They’re lead by Kirill Kaprizov who busted the 100-point barrier in only his second season. He’s a remarkable talent and one who, on paper, could take over a series. He only managed three points in seven playoff games last season, but should be capable of more, now a year older.

On the other hand, the St. Louis Blues look as balanced and capable as any of the remaining 16 teams. Let’s remember, they are only three years removed from their Stanley Cup win. That team doesn’t look  a whole lot different than this one in terms of make-up. They have an excellent 1-9 lineup of forwards, better than average defence, and a goalie in Ville Husso who was top 10 in terms of save percentage this season.

Should regular season performances maintain, the Blues will also have a decisive advantage at special teams. The Wild’s penalty kill isn’t very good at all, whereas the Blues have a lethal power play. That’s something that could become more of a factor as the series goes on and a veteran Blues team starts to push the Wild’s buttons.

For now, the Wild should be able to stay composed in front of their thousand of hockey-crazed fans and let their dynamic offence make an eye-popping opening  statement.

Prediction: Wild win 4-1

Los Angeles Kings vs Edmonton Oilers

Series: Kings 0-0 Oilers

On Sunday, the entire city of Edmonton took a collective sigh of relief as defenceman Darnell Nurse took the ice for the Edmonton Oilers’ practice. He’d been out with an injury for more than a week and his status was very much in question. Following practice however, he looked very much good to go. That’ll give the Oilers their number one blue-liner back in the lineup, something that the Los Angeles Kings won’t be able to boast.

Kings’ defenceman Drew Doughty remains out for the season and although the Kings have learned to win without him down the stretch, there is no denying how much his presence will be missed. It’ll especially be challenging considering the Kings will be up against all of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Evander Kane. That’s as tough a slate as a team could ask for, in terms of top-end firepower.

In the Kings’ corner, they’ll have the advantage of sending two of the league’s better checkers in Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault over the boards. The issue is that this Oilers team is no longer just a two-man team, and that’ll make their jobs even more difficult.

It’s been over 1,800 days since the last Oilers’ playoff game in Edmonton with full fans in attendance. Down the stretch, as the playoff horizon took shape, the Oilers sprinted to a 14-1-1 record at home over their final 16 contests at Rogers Place. They have a ton of momentum right now and will be eager to quickly right the wrong of last year’s humiliating sweep.

Prediction: Oilers win 3-1

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Toronto Maple Leafs

Series: Lightning 0-0 Maple Leafs

By almost all regular season metrics, the Toronto Maple Leafs look like the better team. The issue, of course, is that this isn’t the regular season. In fact, the challenge posed in this series for the Leafs just might be the stiffest test of all in round one. The team not only has the pressure of not winning a series since 2004, but the pressure of losing five straight opening round series. This will be their sixth chance in six years. In a cruel twist, it’ll come against back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions the Tampa Bay Lightning.

An added wrinkle here is just how good the Lightning have been down the stretch. It’s funny, the Leafs actually had the better record in the final 10 games, but the Lightning took it to a different level. Captain Steven Stamkos had a ridiculous 16 points in his final five games, while Nikita Kucherov notched 10 assists and five goals in the same span. Kucherov more than ready to go after battling injuries for half the season. The Lightning also skated to a decisive 8-1 win over the Leafs in the second to last week of the season, in their most recent matchup.

The Leafs are capable of punching it out with the Lightning talent-wise, and even their defensive depth looks almost on par despite not having their own Victor Hedman. Unfortunately, they still have a distinct disadvantage in net and until they can prove otherwise, haven’t shown that they have the ability to play the type of heavy, playoff style hockey that Tampa has excelled at. The Leafs can win this series, but it won’t be easy and it starts with a tough lesson tonight.

Prediction: Lightning win 3-2 (OT)

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