Toronto Maple Leafs to beat Montreal Canadiens

After getting their feet back under them in Game 2, the Maple Leafs look stable and their depth has shone brightly. Montreal struggled with penalty trouble in that second game, but have struggled even more to generate good chances. It’s not a recipe for success as the Habs head back to home ice.

In Game 2, high-danger scoring chances were 7-2 in favor of the Maple Leafs. If that trend continues, it’s going to be a long night for Carey Price and Montreal will be chasing the game.

The fact of the matter is, Toronto has more weapons, even without the services of captain John Tavares. Auston Matthews got himself on the board, William Nylander has three points in the series so far, while Morgan Rielly and Mitchell Marner have two assists each.

Meanwhile, Jack Campbell – in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs action – has been excellent in net for Toronto, stopping 50 of 53 shots over the two games and doing his part to give Toronto a chance. Montreal has to find a way to put more pressure on him.

It is unclear if the Habs will turn to top prospect Cole Caufield to help juice up the offense a bit. They put in Jesperi Kotkaniemi in Game 2 after sitting him out in the opener, and he scored the team’s only goal. You don’t want to hang your hat on youth in the playoffs, but when you need offense, you can’t afford not to ice your best lineup. It’s hard to view a Montreal roster iced without a goal-scoring phenom like Caufield as being its best.

Toronto wrestled back control of the series with that Game 2 win and should keep it going in Game 3.

Winnipeg Jets to beat Edmonton Oilers

Who honestly thought we’d be talking about an Oilers outster this early in the postseason? Even though they’re the Oilers and can’t seem to have nice things even when they have such phenomenal talents as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Jets were not looking too good coming into the postseason.

Now, after losing a dramatic overtime in Game 3, Edmonton is looking like it could be bounced in four straight games. It’s been a stunning turn of events, but the Jets have really played well. They’ve held Connor McDavid without a goal after he had more than 20 points against the Jets this regular season. Leon Draisaitl had two goals in Game 3 and it still didn’t matter.

What makes this game interesting is that it’s a back-to-back. It can level the playing field some as teams deal with some weariness. Edmonton went 7-3-0 in the second game of back-to-backs this season, while Winnipeg went 5-3-0 in similar contests. The difference probably comes with goaltending, though, and Winnipeg seems to have a decisive advantage there.

Connor Hellebuyck has won all three of his starts and has allowed just five goals over those games, with a .958 save percentage. Meanwhile, Nikolaj Ehlers is healthy and making an immediate impact, having scored twice in Game 3 including the overtime game winner.

A 3-0 series deficit is near impossible to come back from. Unless McDavid and Draisaitl find a way to cut through the strong defending of Winnipeg and break through Hellebuyck, it’s hard to see this team climbing out of the hole. If Winnipeg gets up early, it could be a tough night for the Oilers.

Tampa Bay Lightning to beat Florida Panthers

As I’m writing this, the Panthers have not announced who will start Game 5. There is a good chance that rookie Spencer Knight gets the nod, with neither Sergei Bobrovsky nor Chris Dreidger getting the job done. Knight has only appeared in four NHL games, but he won all of them.

The biggest benefit to adding Knight might be the way it forces the guys to play in front of him. The Panthers need to be better defensively and perhaps the mentality of wanting to protect a rookie goalie against a high-end offense can help them tighten things up.

The thing is, whether it’s Knight, Bobrovsky or Driedger, it might not matter. Tampa has scored five or more goals in three of the four games. They are an offensive juggernaut. That’s with or without Nikita Kucherov, who was injured late in Game 4, but may be ready to go for Game 5. With the chance to knock-off their in-state rivals, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t in there.

Meanwhile, the bad blood in this series has been palpable. These two teams don’t like each other one bit and it showed with the aggressive play in Game 4. Even in a chippy game, the Lightning showed a lot of poise, which probably comes with a Stanley Cup title. They’d probably love nothing more than stepping on the throat of their opponent and finishing the job. The Panthers are a very good team, but the Lightning are better.

Vegas Golden Knights to beat Minnesota Wild

Winners of three straight in this series, the Golden Knights have a chance to send the Wild packing. It seems like Vegas has broken the spirit of the Wild over the last two games, dominating in road wins.

The biggest reason the Wild look cooked at this point is that Marc-Andre Fleury is completely locked in. He’s allowed no more than two goals in any game this series and has allowed one or fewer in three of the four. It’s been a remarkable run by the wily veteran. He has remarkable numbers through four games including a .966 save percentage and 0.99 goals-against average. When a goalie is this dialed in, good luck finding a way through.

The Wild just aren’t getting enough from anyone really. They have four goals the whole series. Rookie sensation Kirill Kaprizov has been a non-factor. Kevin Fiala has no points and is a minus-6 in the series. Zach Parise, the franchise’s star for so many years, was a healthy scratch in Games 1 and 2. Old reliable Ryan Suter is a minus-3 and has no points. There just hasn’t been an answer and it’s hard to see this team having enough in the tank to get this series back to Minnesota.