Thursday’s NHL slate of games is a bit lighter than we’ve seen so far. One game has already been removed from the calendar. The Carolina Hurricanes had positive COVID-19 test results, so their tilt against the Florida Panthers has been moved.
The Lightning and Blue Jackets have met each of the past two seasons in the playoffs. In 2019, Columbus swept the President’s Trophy-winning Lightning in the first round. Tampa Bay got its revenge last year with a 4-1 series win.
The Lightning are the most dominant offensive team in the NHL, leading the league in goals in each of the past three seasons. Columbus’ defensive style slowed Tampa Bay a bit during the playoffs, but the Blue Jackets have still dropped five of their past six games against the Lightning.
Andrei Vasilevskiy and Elvis Merzlikins are the projected starters in net. Vasileskiy has a career 6-2 record with a 1.74 GAA and a .948 save percentage in the regular season against Columbus.
Trust the defending champions to walk away with a win Thursday night.
Colorado shook off an opening-night clunker against the St. Louis Blues with an 8-0 display of dominance two days later. Now 2-1-0, the Avalanche look for a third straight win and a second consecutive victory over the Kings.
The Avalanche let off the gas in the third period on Tuesday but still managed a 3-2 win. For a young team with Stanley Cup aspirations, learning how to close out games is part of the growing pains.
I fully expect the Avalanche to put up another big win like we saw in their second game against the Blues.
Nathan MacKinnon is off to a strong start, with a goal and four assists to his credit so far. He ranks second on the team behind Mikko Rantanen in shots, and if he continues to pepper the net, more goals are going to come.
The Kings (0-1-2) haven’t seen much success to start the year. They had a multi-goal third-period lead twice against the Minnesota Wild but choked both games away before losing in overtime. In the second game, Matt Dumba scored with two seconds left to force overtime.
Los Angeles will have to keep looking for that elusive first win.
Montreal (2-0-1) got off to a hot start this season with an overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, followed by back-to-back wins over the Edmonton Oilers. The Canadiens allowed one goal in each game against Edmonton.
Perhaps most impressive, the Oilers had the league’s best power play (29.5%) last season. But on Monday night, the Canadiens held Edmonton to 0-for-7 on the power play and scored a shorthanded goal.
The Canucks (1-3-0) also have a win over Edmonton, coming in the season opener, but have dropped three straight since then, getting outscored 13-4 in that stretch. Brock Boeser is the only player with multiple goals (two).
Forwards Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller have combined for two assists. The Canucks are one of six teams without a power-play goal.
Carey Price (1-0-1, 2.92 GAA, .913 save percentage) figures to get the start in net once more. On the other side, Braden Holtby (1-1-0, 3.01 GAA, .909 save percentage) is the expected starter for Vancouver.
Vancouver hasn’t shown enough offense to overcome Montreal’s stifling defense this season. Take the Canadiens to win Thursday.
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