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.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Series: Lightning 1-3 Maple Leafs
Our first and featured game could prolong the anxiety of a fan base or be a great release of joy. However, Tampa has been tough to eliminate over the past three years. Andrei Vasilevskiy has been off this post-season, but can turn it on in any game. Nikita Kucherov has been one of the bright spots for the Lightning in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Injuries may be going through the Tampa lineup, but players like Victor Hedman still turn in plenty of minutes. The Lightning might lose the series, but they won’t go down without a fight.
Do the Maple Leafs dream the impossible dream a la the Man of La Mancha? Toronto has been in position to clinch a series during the drought. However, its blown 3-1 leads in the past and any adversity will cause a lot of nervous energy in the building. A good start is important to the team help relieve some of that pressure. Ilya Samsonov has looked much better after his terrible Game 1. Morgan Rielly has broken through in recent games to be a solid defender.
The temptation is there to pick the Leafs to finally get the monkey off their back. However, we won’t believe it until we see it.
Prediction: Lightning win 4-3.
New York Rangers vs New Jersey Devils
Series: Rangers 2-2 Devils
It’s a pivotal Game 5 between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils. The road team has won all four games and it’s basically a best-of-three. New York’s power play has dried up after rolling up goals in the opening two games. Igor Shesterkin has been good, but Devils starter Akira Schmid has been better since the third game. The Rangers will have to find ways to get their offence going and Gerard Gallant roasted his team’s effort in Game 4. New York has usually responded when Gallant has challenged his team this season.
Schmid and Jack Hughes have helped the Devils get their way back to a tie series. New Jersey has tightened up on the back end and gotten timely goals. These Devils are not your father’s Devils that would trap you to death. This New Jersey squad is full of young and talented scorers that can break open a game. However, this can also play defence.
It’s odd to pick against a home team playing well, but the Rangers have a lot to prove.
Prediction: Rangers win 3-1.
Winnipeg Jets vs Vegas Golden Knights
Series: Jets 1-3 Golden Knights
Our final game of NHL predictions has the Winnipeg Jets trying to alive against the Vegas Golden Knights. Connor Hellebuyck will try to weave his magic and keep the Jets alive. Winnipeg was already feeling the sting of not having Josh Morrissey. However, it will also be without Mark Scheifele for Game 5 due to an injury. The good news is that Nikolaj Ehlers may be back in the lineup, but he’s a game-time decision.
Laurent Brossoit will be the starter once again for the Golden Knights, who have scored four or more goals the last three games. William Karlsson has three goals for Vegas, which is finding more space without Morrissey on the ice. The Golden Knights have a great chance to end the series against an undermanned Jets squad.
Hellebuyck has the potential to steal a game like he did in the series-opener. However, the injuries have caught up with the Jets.
Prediction: Golden Knights win 4-2.
Main photo by: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports