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. Keep checking our NHL predictions throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
New York Rangers vs New Jersey Devils
Series: Rangers 0-0 Devils
Our opening game of night two of playoff NHL predictions is a Metropolitan Division battle. The Rangers will go with Igor Shesterkin in net and he gives the Blueshirts a chance to steal any game. His numbers may be down from last year, but he can be tough to beat when he’s at his best. New York also has plenty of post-season experience with a squad that went to the Eastern Conference Final last season. Plus, the Rangers will have a healthy cheering section down in Newark.
The New Jersey Devils completed a 40-point turnaround from last season. New Jersey has plenty of talented young players like Jack Hughes and brother Luke Hughes has integrated into the lineup. Vitek Vanecek will likely get the call in net, but always check social media before setting your playoff pools lineups. This isn’t your father’s Devils team, as this group is young and exciting with plenty of scoring pop.
Opening games are always a tough call, but the Rangers’ experience and Shesterkin help them steal this one.
Prediction: Rangers win 3-2.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Series: Lightning 0-0 Maple Leafs
Out featured game of NHL predictions is a rematch from last year. The Lightning will start Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal and he gives the team a chance to win whenever he plays. Tampa has made three straight deep runs to the Stanley Cup Final and have loads of experience. This group knows how to win tough post-season games. Head coach Jon Cooper said the Leafs are improved, but he’s a great coach in his own right. Tampa may be weaker on paper, but don’t underestimate them.
Ilya Samsonov is the starter in between the pipes for Toronto, which feels all the pressure in the world. We all know the Leafs haven’t made it out of the first round since 2004. Toronto has a lot of offensive firepower in Auston Matthews and William Nylander. However, its defence has been fairly solid this season. The Leafs will need the blueliners to step up to take on the Lightning and their experienced playoff scorers. Toronto will also have to find a way to get pucks past Vasilevskiy.
Tampa Bay is playing with house money and it puts the pressure on Toronto.
Prediction: Lightning win 4-2.
Winnipeg Jets vs Vegas Golden Knights
Series: Jets 0-0 Golden Knights
The Winnipeg Jets and Vegas Golden Knights go at it in a rematch of the 2018 Western Conference Final. Connor Hellebuyck is the starter for the Jets and will have to play his A-game to give his team a chance. Winnipeg’s offence has been inconsistent at times in the second half and will need to step up. Head coach Rick Bowness has installed defensive structure, but can they get goals?
Laurent Brossoit will make his first playoff start for the Golden Knights. Vegas can score goals and they’ll get Mark Stone back from the long-term injured list. The Knights do have Jonathan Quick in reserve in case Brossoit does struggle. If goaltending does step up, this could mean tough sledding for the Jets.
Stone’s return will give Vegas a lift and the series-opening win.
Prediction: Golden Knights win 3-1.
Seattle Kraken vs Colorado Avalanche
Series: Kraken 0-0 Avalanche
Our last game of NHL predictions has the Seattle Kraken playing in its inaugural Stanley Cup Playoff game. However, they face a tall order against the defending champion Colorado Avalanche. Goaltending has been an issue, but Philipp Grubauer may face his old club. The Kraken can score goals, so that can help. Jared McCann scored 41 in the regular season for Seattle.
The Avalanche will likely go with Alexandar Georgiev in goal. Colorado will also be getting Cale Makar back into the lineup. The Avs won the Central Division title despite numerous injuries. However, captain Gabriel Landeskog will be out for the duration of the playoffs. Mikko Rantanen led the team in goals with 55.
Colorado’s experience edge should carry it to the Game 1 win.
Prediction: Avalanche win 5-3.
Main photo by: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports