Welcome back to another edition of NHL Predictions with the Last Word on Hockey team. Each day, our writers publish an article or two that breaks down every game on the night’s schedule, offering our score predictions and game analysis. We also feature a specific matchup that should be must-watch hockey. Tonight, it’s a powerhouse tilt between the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning. Make sure to check out our other predictions article for tonight, detailing the later games.
Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Islanders
Head-to-Head: Canadiens 1 – 0 Islanders
The Montreal Canadiens continue with a largely disappointing campaign, barely staying afloat with a 30-28-9 record, 69 points, and fifth place in the Atlantic Division. They were able to pull out a victory in their last game, however, a slight 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Montreal’s offensive production is adequate, however, their defensive system has struggled this season and they continue to have many lapses. Montreal went 7-6-2 in February, representative of their average season. Their best player continues to be legendary netminder Carey Price, who’s worked his way up to a 26-23-6 record in 55 starts, along with a respectable .910 save percentage and 2.76 goals-against average.
The New York Islanders are a team on a playoff trajectory, sitting with 78 points and a 35-21-8 record, good enough for fourth place in the Metropolitan Division. They were thrashed 4-0 at the hands of the Bruins in their last outing, though. The Islanders move forward past the Trade Deadline after not being able to acquire veteran centre Mikko Koivu, who they were interested in adding to their roster. While the Islanders’ offensive attack leaves something to be desired, they’re one of the league’s best teams at limiting chances against. They’re on quite the slide right now, only winning two out of their past nine games. They continue to be boosted by Semyon Varlamov‘s good season in net, as in 37 starts, he’s compiled a 19-13-5 record, .917 save percentage, 2.55 goals-against average, and two shutouts.
While the Islanders look like a solid bet for one of the wild card spots in the Eastern Conference, their slump will continue tonight as Montreal steals two points.
Prediction: Canadiens win 3-2 in overtime.
St. Louis Blues vs. New York Rangers
Head-to-Head: Blues 1 – 0 Rangers
Someone failed to tell the St. Louis Blues about the ‘Stanley Cup hangover,’ as they’ve rolled right along to a 39-17-10 record, 88 points, and first place in the Central Division. Their last game was an important 4-3 win over the division rival Dallas Stars, who are still a threat to their playoff position. While defenceman Colton Parayko is battling an illness, he should be ready to go for tonight’s game. St. Louis is a solid offensive and defensive squad but isn’t necessarily elite in terms of either category. They’re on a tear right now, winners of seven straight. Another solid season from captain Alex Pietrangelo has him leading the team with 206 shots and all skaters with 24:08 average time on ice.
The New York Rangers find themselves in a tight Eastern Conference playoff battle with a 35-26-4 record and 74 points but sit all the way down in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division. Their last loss was a crushing blow, as they dropped a 5-3 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers have blossomed into a good offensive team, but are slightly more pedestrian in their end of things. They’ve been on a good run lately, winning five of their past seven. Their most important player this season has undoubtedly been free-agent signing Artemi Panarin, who leads the team with 32 goals (tied with Mika Zibanejad), 58 assists, 90 points, a +34 rating, and 196 shots.
While the Rangers will get an important point tonight at home, the red-hot Blues will squeak out with the victory.
Prediction: Blues win 4-3 in overtime.
Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Head-to-Head: Senators 0 – 1 Penguins
The Ottawa Senators‘ season has been in line with expectations, posting a 23-31-12 record, 58 points, and seventh place in the Atlantic Division. Their last game was yet another edition of the ‘Tank Bowl,’ winning 4-3 over the Detroit Red Wings. The Senators have made it public that they’re interested in retaining the services of the beloved Mark Borowiecki for a very long time, and those negotiations will continue to unravel throughout the rest of the season. Ottawa struggles to score goals, but they struggle even more to keep the puck out of their net. They’ve rebounded nicely from a recent four-game losing streak, winning two straight. With the departure of Jean-Gabriel Pageau, defenceman Thomas Chabot becomes the most important player on the ice, as he now leads the squad with 30 assists, 11 power-play assists, and 26:03 average time on ice.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have survived an injury-plagued season to emerge as a real playoff contender, compiling a 37-21-6 record, 80 points, and third place in the Metropolitan Division. However, their last game was an embarrassing 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the lowly San Jose Sharks. Pittsburgh’s offensive touch has dropped off from recent years, something that can be attributed to injuries, but still, remain one of the league’s best defensive squads. However, they’re on a big slide, losing six straight contests. Another stellar campaign from the 33-year-old Evgeni Malkin has been a huge factor in the Penguins’ success – in only 50 games, he leads the team with 42 assists, 63 points, and 52 penalty minutes.
The Penguins will be able to turn it around at home tonight against a rebuilding Senators squad.
Prediction: Penguins win 2-0.
Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Head-to-Head: Bruins 0 – 2 Lightning
The Bruins, similarly to the Blues, have shown no signs of slowing down after last year’s Stanley Cup Final, posting a 41-13-12 record, 94 points, and place first in the Atlantic Division. Their last game, a 4-0 beatdown of the Islanders, proved their place at the top. It appears as though forward Chris Wagner will return tonight after missing Boston’s last game with an upper-body ailment. Boston is a very good offensive team but is an absolute defensive juggernaut. They’ve won two straight games after two embarrassing Western Canadian losses. Young winger David Pastrnak continues his dominance, leading Boston with 47 goals, 91 points, and 257 shots.
The Lightning has also continued their world-beating ways of last season, compiling a 41-19-5 record, 87 points, and sit in second place in the Atlantic Division. They won their last game 4-3 against the Calgary Flames, gathering another two points. The Lightning is an elite offensive squad but is less elite defensively. However, they’ve lost four out of their last five games, a concerning slide this close to the playoffs. Nikita Kucherov continues his dominance, leading Tampa with 31 goals, 49 assists, 80 points, and 191 shots.
However, Boston faces a tough matchup on the road and will drop two points to rival Tampa tonight.
Prediction: Lightning win 3-1.
Nashville Predators vs. Minnesota Wild
Head-to-Head: Predators 2 – 0 Wild
The Nashville Predators are in a tricky situation, garnering a 32-25-8 record for 72 points and fourth place in the Central Division. They were embarrassed at home last night by the Edmonton Oilers and have to be exhausted. Nashville can’t seem to excel in any area of play this season, and it’s shown in their record. They’ve now gone .500 over their past six contests, and the playoffs are looking more and more uncertain every day. Captain Roman Josi has been their bright spot on the blue line, leading Smashville with 45 assists, 60 points, a +21 rating, 25:50 average time on ice, 102 blocks and 237 shots.
The Minnesota Wild are doing everything they can to stay in the race, posting a 32-26-7 record and 71 points, placing sixth in the Central Division. Their last game was a tough-to-swallow 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals. Minnesota has been a rather average team this year, really limited by poor goaltending. This Wild team is making a run for it, having won three out of their past four. They’re led by defenceman Ryan Suter, who leads the team with 37 assists and 24:34 average time on ice.
Minnesota will take advantage of a tired Nashville team tonight and take a crucial two points from a division rival.
Prediction: Wild win 5-3.
Embed from Getty Images