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 Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Rangers.
NHL Predictions With Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Rangers
Washington Capitals vs Florida Panthers
Series: Panthers 3 – 2 Capitals
The Panthers had a massive last two wins in this series, and they did it in classic Florida Panthers style. That “style” set an NHL record for most comeback wins when trailing by three or more goals with five in the regular season. Hockey pundits spent all year saying “well, they better figure it out before the playoffs because that won’t work in the postseason”. And yet here we are.
Florida trailed late in the third period of game four, staring down a potential 3-1 series deficit. Then, with 2:04 remaining, Sam Reinhart scored to draw even. They topped the Capitals with another goal five minutes into overtime, setting the stage for a best-of-three finish to the series.
Not to be outdone, Florida did their thing and stormed back from a 3-0 deficit in game five. The final score ended with a 5-3 Cats victory, thanks largely to Carter Verhaeghe and his five-point performance. Verhaeghe already has ten points through five postseason games this year, while T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin sit tied for the Caps point lead with six apiece. Washington is on the ropes and needs to pull out a win on home ice to stay alive. Unfortunately for them, Florida resembles their regular-season form and seems to just be getting going.
Prediction: Panthers win 4-3 OT
Dallas Stars vs Calgary Flames
Series: Stars 2 – 3 Flames
In the lowest-scoring season by far, the Stars and Flames combined for less than four goals per game through five games thus far. It has been a war of attrition; both teams posted shutouts, and each game was truly decided by a single goal (if you factor out the empty netters). In fact, of the 18 total goals in this series, four came on empty nets. That means the goaltenders are only getting scored on less than three times per game, combined.
Jake Oettinger looks phenomenal, with a .956 save percentage and a 1.63 goals-against average. Jacob Markstrom looks every bit as good though, with a .952 save percentage and 1.21 goals-against average. Scoring just hasn’t been happening in this series, which upon first glance would seemingly favour Dallas. However, Calgary continues proving they’re more than just offence. Darryl Sutter deserves much of the credit for the team’s buy-in on defence, for sure.
Ultimately, Calgary entered this series as the favourites for a reason. They remain the higher seed, by a longshot, and could blow things wide open offensively at any moment. But even if they don’t score in bunches, they still edge out the Stars.
Prediction: Flames win 2-0
New York Rangers vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Series: Rangers 2 – 3 Penguins
The Penguins enter tonight as the only team able to close out the series tonight on home ice. That advantage goes a long way, especially after chasing the Rangers’ star netminder in games three and four. As Igor Shesterkin goes, so do the Rangers. Unfortunately for them, he’s gone to the bench thus far for every game played in Pittsburgh.
Now, that could change on a dime. After all, the Penguins continue playing third-string goalie Louis Domingue. Despite his winning record, he sports less than dazzling numbers: a .900 save percentage and 3.56 goals-against average certainly won’t win anyone a Stanley Cup in the modern era. And yeah, Shesterkin hasn’t been perfect. But let’s not forget this is the same goalie nominated for the Hart Trophy as the league MVP this season. He carried this Rangers club to the postseason with an unbelievable .935 save percentage and a 36-13-4 regular-season record. If anything, the games he got pulled were more a reflection of how abysmally bad the Rangers played in front of him than a reflection of how he played in net.
Now, all that aside, this Penguins team knows this territory well. Many of the players in this lineup won Stanley Cups as members of the franchise. A few of them own three rings with Pittsburgh (Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang). You can throw all the numbers you want to at this game and series. Sometimes, raw experience and mental toughness win out. Pittsburgh may be without Crosby after an upper-body injury in game five, but they proved this season that they’re more than capable with or without him. Certainly, though, they want him back and healthy. What better way to give him that opportunity than by booking their trip to round two?
Prediction: Penguins win 5-1
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