Can Buffalo snap their 15 losing streak? Will the Hurricanes even the ledger against the Blue Jackets? All will be revealed tonight, in an action pack Thursday night in the National Hockey League!
Find all of our free NHL picks for the 11 scheduled games below!
New York Islanders @ Boston Bruins – 7.00 PM EDT
A battle between the No. 4 and the No. 1 ranked teams in the East Division will kick off an action packed Thursday night in the NHL, when the Boston Bruins host the New York Islanders.
Having won eight of their past 10 games, only two teams in the entire NHL have more wins than the 21-8-4 Islanders this season.
In their most recent game, New York wrapped up a three game mini-series against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Islanders lost the first game 3-4, won the second game 6-1 and finally won the third and most recent game 2-1.
As for the Bruins, they are currently seeded fourth in their division, two points ahead of the fifth placed Flyers and four points behind the third placed Penguins, with a 16-8-4 record.
Boston will enter Thursday’s encounter on a two game winning streak, having recently defeated the Penguins 2-1 and the Sabres 4-1.
Boston 🔜 pic.twitter.com/t8VbQZy6RP
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) March 24, 2021
Both New York (1st) and Boston (5th) are top 10 ranked defenses, as the Islanders are allowing just 2.18 goals per game (the fewest in the NHL), while Boston are allowing just 2.29 goals per game (the fifth fewest in the NHL).
However, New York are also littered with offensive weapons on the ice. With 12 Islanders already on 10+ point seasons, four of which are 20+, New York are scoring 2.91 goals per game, the 16th most in the league. Unlike some of the other one star / one dimensional offenses in the NHL, New York have many different avenues to the back of the net.
With both sides possessing stalwart defenses, we can’t go past the Islanders to win this one, as New York has a stronger offensive unit, who has given them a division leading record so far this season.
New York Rangers @ Philadelphia Flyers – 7.00 PM EDT
The sixth seeded New York Rangers are headed to Philadelphia to take on the fifth seeded Flyers, with both sides looking for a win to stay amongst the playoff race in the East Division.
Only two points separates the two teams, as Philadelphia will enter Thursday’s clash with a 15-12-4 record, while New York are hot on their tail with a 14-13-4 record.
The Flyers have dropped their past three games, losing against the division leading Islanders and going down 3-4 against the Devils on their home ice.
Contrastingly, the Rangers have won their past two games, defeating the Capitals 3-1 in Washington and the Sabres 5-3 in New York.
Both sides have proven that they can find the back of the net this season, as Philadelphia are currently the 10th ranked scoring offense in the league, with 3.10 goals per game. While New York are also a high scoring team, coming in at 13th with 3.0 goals per game.
Given that both sides have the ability to score, defense is where this game will be one and lost. As good as their offense is, the Flyers still have a negative average goal differential (-0.42), allowing opponents to score the second most goals per game in the league.
Contrastingly, with a +0.39 average goal differential, New York are the eighth best defense in the NHL, allowing just 2.61 opposition goals per game.
The Rangers form entering this game combined their superior defense, should see them record an important win on the road against a susceptible Flyers defensive unit.
New Jersey Devils @ Washington Capitals – 7.00 PM EDT
The Washington Capitals will be looking to keep the pressure on the Islanders for the No. 1 seed in the East Division, when they take on the seventh placed New Jersey Devils in Washington on Thursday.
Having scored the most goals in their division, the 20-7-4 Washington Capitals are just one victory / two points behind the division leading New York Islanders.
Ever wonder what @TJOshie77 is saying during warmies?
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 24, 2021
Like the Islanders, Washington have won eight of their 10 most recent games, however they will enter Thursday’s match against New Jersey, having lost their most recent match against the Rangers, going down 1-3.
However the 12-4-4 Devils are on a two game win streak, having recently defeated both the Penguins and Flyer away from home.
Washington’s 106 goals this season, are the most of any team in the East Division and 31 more than New Jersey’s 75.
Given that the Devils are allowing 3.0 goals per game on defense, they will undoubtedly struggle when coming up against the No. 3 ranked scoring offense in the league.
Washington should have no issues defeating New Jersey in their first game of back to back games against the Devils in Washington.
Carolina Hurricanes @ Columbus Blue Jackets – 7.00 PM EDT
As the reigning Stanley Cup champion, Tampa Bay Lightning, are continuing to stretch their lead at the top of the Central Division, the No. 2 seeded Carolina Hurricanes will be looking to bank a big win on the road against the No. 5 seeded Columbus Blue Jackets.
With a 21-7-3 record, Carolina are currently five points behind the division leading Lightning. Whereas the 13-13-7 Blue Jackets are just two points behind the fourth seeded Blackhawks, who are currently occupying the final playoff spot in the division.
Which means both sides have lots to play for in this matchup!
Thursday’s encounter will be the fourth consecutive match between these two teams, with Columbus currently leading the mini-series 2-1.
The Blue Jackets won the opening two games 3-2, 3-2 in Carolina, before the Hurricanes returned the favor on Monday night, winning 3-0 in Columbus.
Columbus will host the fourth and final game, looking to pick up an important victory at home.
Although the Blue Jackets have won two of their three recent games against the Hurricanes, Carolina holding Columbus to zero goals on Monday night would suggest that they have worked out the Blue Jackets game plan after three consecutive matches.
Carolina are statistically the vastly superior team, allowing less goals defensively and scoring more regularly on offense. We like the Hurricanes to win this one away from home and tie up this mini-series at 2-2.
Toronto Maple Leafs @ Ottawa Senators – 7.00 PM EDT
In what has the potential to be the most one sided encounters on Thursday’s schedule, the North Division leading Toronto Maple Leafs will travel to Ottawa to face the bottom of the division Senators.
With a 20-10-2 record, Toronto will be looking at the match against Ottawa as a chance to establish a lead in the North Division standings over the Oilers, who they are currently tied with on 42 points.
A game against a weaker opponent is exactly what the Leafs need, having only won four of their past 10 matches, most recently defeating the Flames 2-0 in Toronto.
The 11-20-3 Senators will also enter this match with a one game winning streak behind them, having also recently defeated the Flames, 3-1 on Wednesday. Unsurprisingly, Ottawa have also been in poor form lately, winning just three of their past 10 games.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) March 23, 2021
As it stands, Ottawa are allowing their opponents to score the most goals per game in the NHL, 3.74. The Senators are also only netting 2.57 goals themselves, the eighth fewest in the league.
Toronto however are a top 10 team in both offense (fourth in the league) and defense (ninth in the league), giving them a +0.78 average goal differential, compared to Ottawa’s which is -1.09.
Although neither side has been in dominant form lately, we like Toronto to navigate themselves to a victory against the Senators in Ottawa.
Buffalo Sabres @ Pittsburgh Penguins – 7.00 PM EDT
Well if the Leafs vs Senators game isn’t THE most lopsided match on Thursday night, the Sabres vs Penguins in Pittsburgh will be.
With a league low 6-21-4 record, the Buffalo Sabres are sitting on just 16 points in the 2021 season, 12 points behind the seventh placed Devils and 30 points behind the division leading Islanders.
Buffalo’s 5-2 loss in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night was their 15th consecutive defeat, and the Sabres gave no reason to suggest that they are going to snap their losing streak on the second night of their back to back against the Penguins.
As for Pittsburgh, they now have a 20-11-2 record thanks to their most recent win over Buffalo, leaving them two points behind the No. 2 ranked Capitals and four points behind the No. 1 ranked Islanders.
Averaging just 2.07 goals per game, the Sabres offense is undeniably the worst in the league. Buffalo are also allowing their opponents to score an average of 3.52 goals per game, giving them the second worst defense in the league and the worst average goal differential in the NHL, -1.16 goals per game.
Admittedly, Buffalo are competing in a strong division and their losing streak does have to end eventually. However, it will not end against the Penguins on Thursday night, as Pittsburgh are a team looking to stay amongst the top of the East Division and should have no trouble putting a two score margin past the league’s second worst defense at home.
St Louis Blues @ Minnesota Wild – 8.00 PM EDT
Two West Division teams with playoff aspirations will take the ice in Minnesota on Thursday when the Wild hosts the St Louis Blues.
Currently separated by just four points, the 20-10-1 Minnesota Wild are currently the third seed in their division, leading the 16-11-5 Blues, who are in fourth.
However, as St Louis have a four point lead over the fifth seeded Coyotes, the Blues are as close to the third seed as they are to being out of the playoff picture, making each game more important than the last.
With seven wins in their past 10 games, the Wild will enter Thursday’s match on a two game winning streak, having defeated the Anaheim Ducks in consecutive games in Minnesota.
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) March 25, 2021
With both teams averaging 2.97 goals per game on offense, the side with the stronger defense will be seriously advantaged in this matchup. Which is undoubtedly Minnesota.
The Wild’s 2.53 opposition goals allowed per game is the eighth fewest in the league, while the Blues conceding an average of 3.19 goals per game makes them the 22nd ranked defense in the NHL.
As their offenses have shown this season that they are essentially equal, the Wild’s significantly better defense is the reason that they are going to win this game, combined with the fact the game is in Minnesota , where the Wild have a 10-0 record in their last 10 home matches.
Florida Panthers @ Chicago Blackhawks – 8.00 PM EDT
The Florida Panthers will be looking to stay amongst the top three teams in the Central Division when they venture to Chicago to face the Blackhawks, who in their own right will be looking to lessen the gap between themselves and Florida.
The 20-8-4 Panthers are currently the No. 3 seed in their division, just six points behind the division leading Lightning and one point behind the second seeded Hurricanes.
Although the 15-13-5 Blackhawks are currently sitting in fourth, nine points currently separates themselves from Florida, and just two points separates them from the fifth seeded Blue Jackets.
Florida will enter Thursday’s matchup having dropped their past two games against the Lightning, and most recently their first game of a two game mini-series against the Blackhawks in Chicago.
Subsequently, the Blackhawks were obviously victorious in their most recent encounter, defeating the Panthers 3-2 thanks to goals from Kubalik, Soderberg and Suter, as well as a pair of assists from Patrick Kane.
Kane is currently on 44 points this season, which is the third most in the NHL.
The Panthers however did win the two previous encounters against the Blackhawks earlier this month with an aggregate 10-5 scoreline.
Although the game is in Chicago and the Blackhawks won Tuesday night’s matchup, we can’t go past the Panthers to make amends in this game, validating their nine point lead in the Central Division and leaving Chicago on Wednesday with a 1-1 record.
Detroit Red Wings @ Nashville Predators – 8.00 PM EDT
Two teams that are outside the playoff picture in the Central Division will face off when the Nashville Predators host the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.
The sixth seeded Predators currently have a record of 15-17-1, leaving them four points behind the Blackhawks for the fourth and final playoff spot in the division.
Nashville will enter the game having won their past two matches, having defeated the Stars on Sunday and most recently securing a victory in the first of their two games against Detroit at home.
The 10-19-4 Red Wings will enter Thursday’s match with a two game losing streak under their belt as a result of their 2-0 loss to Nashville on Tuesday.
We’ve missed you, Smashville💛 pic.twitter.com/t6gHTd3CgD
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) March 24, 2021
Although seven points separates the two teams in the standings, statistically there is not a great deal of disparity between the Red Wings and Predators.
Nashville are currently the 28th scoring offense in the league with just 2.24 goals per game, while Detroit are the equal 29th with just 2.15 goals per game.
On defense, the Predators are coneding the 11th most opposition goals per game this season, with 3.03, while the Red Wings are allowing the equal sixth most with 3.21.
Neither side looks like they are capable of making the playoffs this season, let alone competing against a playoff caliber opposition, which makes their head to head matchup an interesting encounter.
However, with the offensive and defensive evidence this season both favoring the Predators and the game being played in Nashville, we can’t see Detroit causing an upset in this one. Predators to win.
Tampa Bay Lightning @ Dallas Stars – 8.30 PM EDT
The reigning Stanley Cup champion, Tampa Bay Lightning, will be looking to build on their league leading record, when coming up against the Stars in Dallas on Thursday night.
In what is a rematch of last year’s Stanley Cup Finals, the Lightning have put together a strong title defense so far this season, with a league leading 24-6-2 record, giving them 50 points after 32 games.
As you’d expect, Tampa Bay also have the longest active winning streak in the NHL, having won their past five matches against the Blackhawks (twice), Panthers and Stars (twice).
Thursday will be the second consecutive game between these two teams in Dallas, with the Lightning having won the first encounter on Tuesday, 2-1 .
As a result, the 10-11-8 Stars obviously lost their most recent game, going down to the Lightning at home. Dallas also dropped their most recent game prior to Tuesday, as they lost to the Predatorsn3-4, once again in Dallas.
Tampa Bay’s 3.63 goals per game make them the most prolific scoring offense in the NHL, while their defense, that only allows 2.28 opposition goals per game, is the fourth strongest in the league. Leaving the lightning with a league high goal differential of +1.50
Seeing as the Stars have dropped each of their past four games in Dallas (two of which were against the Lightning), their home ice advantage is essentially negated. Especially when coming up against the best team in the NHL, Tampa to win this one.
Vegas Golden Knights @ Colorado Avalanche – 9.00 PM EDT
A top of the table clash will close out Thursday night’s NHL action as the No. 2 seeded Colorado Avalanche will host the No. 1 seeded Vegas Golden Knights, with top spot in the West Division on the line.
With a 22-7-1 record, currently on 45 points, Vegas are two points clear of Colorado as they head into Avalanche territory on Thursday night.
The Golden Knights were victorious in their most recent outing, defeating the Blues 5-1 in Vegas.
As for the 20-8-3 Avalanche, they will enter Thursday’s match against Vegas having lost their most recent game to the Coyotes, 5-4.
The previous record for straight periods with a goal was 17.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) March 24, 2021
Other than the two points in the standings, not much separates these two teams. Vegas are the No. 2 ranked defense in the league, allowing just 2.20 goals per game, and Colorado are right behind them, allowing just 2.26, making them the No. 3 ranked defense in the league.
Similarly, their offenses are both amongst the best in the league, with Colorado’s 3.42 goals per game the second most in the NHL, and Vegas’ 3.33 goals per game making them the fifth most productive offense in the league.
With two sides that are so evenly matched going head to head, the team playing at home usually has the advantage. Given that the Avalanche have also shown this season they put a high price on wins in Colorado, we like them to win at home against Vegas, extending their winning streak at home to seven games.
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*Odds and spreads correct at time of publication, courtesy of Bet365.