Only a handful of games remain for all 31 teams, with most of them fighting for a trip to the playoffs. Of course there are some standout matchups this week, which we’ll preview now, along with a few predictions.
*all stats as of Monday, March 11th
Lightning at Maple Leafs
The weeks starts off with two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, as the Lightning (52-13-4, 1st Atlantic) travel to Toronto to face off against the Maple Leafs (42-21-5, 3rd Atlantic). Currently, the Leafs are favorites at home, being listed at -115.
Tampa Bay has been the best team in hockey all season long, with not only the most points, but first-place ranks in goals, shooting percentage, power play percentage, and penalty kill. The Maple Leafs are also near the top statistically, ranking third in goals and shooting percentage and seventh in power play percentage. Penalty kill percentage is the biggest difference between these clubs, where Toronto is just 17th.
The Maple Leafs escaped with a 4-2 victory back in Tampa on January 17th. But this time around, the Lightning, already with a playoff berth clinched, will win their 53rd game of the season on the road.
Capitals at Penguins
It’s always a treat when these two teams play one another. Tuesday night, the defending champion Washington Capitals (41-21-7, 1st Metropolitan) visit the Pittsburgh Penguins (37-23-9, 3rd Metropolitan).
The Capitals come into this game red-hot, riding a seven-game winning streak and nine wins in their last 10 games. They are currently seventh in goals and second in shooting percentage, but only 19th in goals allowed and 21st in penalty kill. The Penguins, who are 6-2-2 over their last 10, are top-10 in goals, shots, shooting, and power play, and find themselves a little ahead of Washington defensively (16th in goals allowed, 15th in penalty kill).
Despite momentum favoring the Capitals, the Penguins are trying to fend off teams beneath them to stay ahead of the Wild Card. They will come in motivated, and ultimately it will result in a win for the Penguins.
Bruins at Jets
Two Stanley Cup contenders face off on Thursday in an inter-conference showdown, as the Boston Bruins (42-18-9, 2nd Atlantic) are at the Winnipeg Jets (40-24-4, 1st Central).
Boston’s 19-game point streak came to an end on Sunday with a 4-2 loss to the Penguins. The Bruins have still won eight of their last 10, and are one of the top teams in the league defensively, ranking second in goals allowed. Winnipeg is a strong offensive team that can challenge Boston, ranking sixth in goals and shooting percentage.
The biggest difference may be in net, with Tuukka Rask (24-8-5) having a great year. I will pick the Bruins to win in an upset on the road.
The great matchups don’t stop there. The Blue Jackets are at the Islanders on Monday, the Sharks are at the Jets on Tuesday, the Hurricanes are at the Blue Jackets on Friday, and the Predators are at the Sharks on Saturday.