Today’s NHL Predictions features a cross-conference matchup. The Tampa Bay Lightning (7-6-1) snapped their losing streak with a 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. The Lightning defence held the Chicago offence to just 15 shots the entire game.
On the other side of this matchup, the Edmonton Oilers (5-9-1) are off to an unanticipated start. Last week, the Oilers fired Head Coach Jay Woodcroft. Edmonton replaced Woodcroft with Kris Knoblauch, the previous bench boss of the Hartford Wolfpack in the AHL. On the bright side, Connor McDavid has returned from injury, and the team is on a two-game win streak. The Oilers will look to carry the same intensity into Amalie Arena on Saturday.
On a good note, Andrei Vasilevskiy practiced with the team in Chicago this week. Furthermore, Erik Cernak returned to the lineup on Thursday night to provide much-needed defensive help. Those are two positive signs to get Tampa Bay back on track. The Lightning must find ways to maintain consistency through the long season if they expect to clinch a playoff berth. Here are the keys to victory for the Lightning in this matchup.
NHL Predictions: Tampa Bay vs Edmonton
Three Keys to Victory for Tampa Bay
Test Edmonton’s Goaltending
Goaltending has been the kryptonite of the Oilers so far this season. The team has a combined save percentage of 87.56%, which ranks 30th in the league. Furthermore, starter Stuart Skinner ranks seventh-last in goals saved above expected (-4.9 GSAx) this season. The other piece of the tandem is $5 million netminder Jack Campbell, who is in the AHL. Campbell ranked tied for tenth worst in goals saved above expected (-3.8 GSAx) before being sent to the minors. Tampa Bay needs to test Skinner from all angles of the ice and shoot the puck frequently.
Tipped shots will be vital for the Lightning offence. The offensive system of the Bolts places two players in front of the net for deflections. Skinner has allowed seven goals on 4.8 expected on tipped shots and deflections. Tampa Bay must take away the eyes of Skinner and change the direction of their shots from the point.
Do Not Forget About 97
While he is not tearing apart the league like in previous years, McDavid remains a threat every time he laces up the skates. Despite his primary assists per game seeing a drop-off, McDavid is doing all the right things and is an elite passer. As of four days ago, he ranked first in primary shot assists per game (7.83), primary scoring chance assists per game (2.67), and passes to the inner slot (1.00) per game (all data presented via Stathletes).
Connor McDavid updated after the W.
Getting passes to scoring chances (over 5% xG). pic.twitter.com/y7fEqXrot6
— Meghan Chayka (@MeghanChayka) November 14, 2023
It will only be a matter of time before McDavid returns to peak form. With Anthony Cirelli injured during the previous game, the Lightning are now without their shutdown centre. Steven Stamkos and Nick Paul will likely match up against McDavid throughout the game on Saturday.
Limit Passes and Take More Shots on the Power Play
The Lightning rank high in power play shooting percentage every season because they always look for the perfect scoring opportunity. Tampa Bay is finally not hesitant to shoot the puck on the power play. The Lightning rank eighth in shots per hour on the power play (61.74) in 2023-24. With the awful goaltending performance of the Oilers, Tampa Bay must throw quick shots on the net and limit the stickhandling. Believe it or not, a quick shot that is not as high quality sometimes has a better chance of sneaking past a goaltender.
This cross-conference matchup features two rejuvenated teams, the Lightning and the Oilers. The Oilers are on a winning streak with a new head coach, trying to revive their season. Tampa Bay must build on their solid effort Thursday night and find that consistency we mention weekly. Once the Lightning find their groove and get their goaltender back, expect them to make some noise. Despite the excellent effort Thursday night, we anticipate the Oilers to take the two points.
Prediction: Edmonton wins 4-3
Tipped Shots and Deflections via HockeyViz
Power Play Shot Rates via NaturalStatTrick
Goals Saved Above Expected via Money Puck
Passing Analytics via Stathletes
Main Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports