Home teams look for revenge on Thursday Night in the NHL

Steve Russell/Toronto Star

The NHL playoff slate brings a thrilling quartet of game twos with so much on the line for the home teams, Thursday. Every road team succeeded in these respective series, Tuesday, so there’s immense pressure on the home teams to win to even the series before hitting the road.

Tampa Bay Lightning @ Toronto Maple Leafs – 7:00 PM EST

The first game on the Thursday NHL slate is arguably the most appealing. Tampa Bay had a brutal ending to the season, but they seemed to turn that around in game one as they throttled the Maple Leafs 7-3. The Lightning finished an abysmal 4-8-0 in their final 12 regular season games. They looked like they were in peak form to start the series.

Toronto, on the other hand, came into the playoffs with optimism and high expectations. They finished the regular season 50-21-11, good for second in the Atlantic. They added key pieces like Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari to their already talented lineup.

It will come down to special teams for the Maple Leafs. Tampa scored FOUR power play goals Tuesday, which is a recipe for disaster. They need to win the special teams battle and hope that Ilya Samsonov can recover from his ugly performance to keep his team in the game. They’ve been good at home all year, so expect the Maple Leafs to have a strong chance in this game.

New York Rangers @ New Jersey Devils – 7:30 PM EST

This metropolitan battle has restored an exciting rivalry. Game two projects to be another close game, as the Devils are only slight favorites. The biggest advantage that the Rangers have is with their goaltender. Igor Shesterkin is poised to build another strong playoff campaign, as he only allowed one goal which was a penalty shot by superstar Jack Hughes.

It was too little to late, though, as the Rangers were dominant all game. Ranger’s forward Chris Kreider was brilliant as he buried two in the game. If the Rangers continue to score at a high rate, and Shesterkin is able to turn in strong performances, the Devils might be in big trouble. Game two is pivotal for New Jersey to give themselves a fighter’s chance in the series.

They’ll need to produce more shots on goal, as Shesterkin only made 27 saves. Despite that, they were able to generate more high-danger chances than the Rangers in game one. If they can showcase their speed and skill in an all-important game two, the Devils might just pull this one off.

Seattle Kraken @ Colorado Avalanche – 9:30 PM EST

Colorado comes into game two as a big favorite. Many hockey fans overlooked this series, as the defending champions looked poised for another deep playoff run. Seattle came into game one with other ideas. Former Avalanche netminder Philipp Grubauer was stellar for the Kraken, saving 34 shots, and only allowing one goal in game one.

The Avalanche never looked comfortable. They fell down a goal in the first period, and never gained much momentum. Colorado needs to get their power play going with the top-end talent they possess to kickstart a run in this series. Expect them to come out and hot, trying to get the first goal early in game two.

Seattle hasn’t proven much, but if Grubauer can remain lights out, they might be able to take a 2-0 home. This is a must-win game for the Avalanche, or the defending champs could be hitting the links soon.

Winnipeg Jets @ Vegas Golden Knights – 10:00 PM EST

The final game of the night features a dark horse team in the Winnipeg Jets who shocked many in the first game against Vegas. The Golden Knights had the best record in the west in head coach Bruce Cassidy‘s first season with the team. The Jets flat-out dominated game one, winning 5-1. The Golden Knights were failing to generate any quality scoring chances when 5v5. Especially in the third period, Winnipeg played strong defensively, holding Vegas to just 10 shots in the final period.

The Jets dominated from start to finish in game one, so there’s no reason to believe that can’t happen again. With Connor Hellebuyck in net, they shouldn’t have any issues even if they do fall apart defensively. The Winnipeg Jets looked great Tuesday night, so expect them to prove once again why they are a sleeper team in the NHL, Thursday.

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