Today’s NHL Predictions features a cross-conference from early in the season. On Saturday, the Tampa Bay Lightning (13-11-5) beat the Seattle Kraken by a score of 4-3 in overtime. Nikita Kucherov scored twice and added an assist, while Anthony Cirelli extended his point-scoring streak to four games. Nick Paul finally broke out of his scoring slump when he tied the game late in the third period.

On the other side of this matchup, the Vancouver Canucks (18-9-1) have had a complete team resurgence. Head Coach Rick Tocchet has transformed the Canucks into a powerhouse. Their new captain, Quinn Hughes, leads the charge with 36 points in 27 contests this season. Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller run the offensive zone and pair with Hughes for a lethal power play unit. Furthermore, Brock Boeser ranks second in goals with 18 on the year.

The Lightning continues their West Coast road trip at Rogers Arena to face an offence of weapons. The Bolts will turn to Andrei Vasilevskiy to keep them in this one. After a few rough games, Vasilevskiy found his game last week. Here are the keys to victory for the Lightning in this matchup.

NHL Predictions: Tampa Bay vs Vancouver

Three Keys to Victory for Tampa Bay

Stop the Lethal Power Play of Vancouver

The strength of this Canucks team is their first power play unit. The Canucks power play ranks 5th in the league with a 26.8% success rate. There are all sorts of different weapons this power play unit has to offer. At the top, Hughes runs the show with his smooth skating ability and exceptional vision. On the right side, Pettersson offers a cannon of a one-timer and can dish the puck to his teammates. Miller is on his forehand on the left flank, so he does not take one-timers. He still has a lethal catch and release that can beat any goaltender.

The Lightning have a relatively strong penalty kill to match the Canucks power play. The Tampa Bay penalty kill ranks 11th in the NHL at an 81.9% success rate. Contributors to the penalty kill on forward this season include Luke Glendening and Cirelli. The vital penalty killer for the Lightning is Erik Cernak. When he misses time, Tampa Bay looks noticeably worse defensively. The Lightning must lean on their penalty kill to keep Vancouver off the board.

Find High-Danger Looks

The Canucks do not defend high-danger chances very well. Vancouver surrenders the 14th most high-danger shot attempts per hour (11.63 HDCA/60) at 5v5. On the other hand, the Lightning rank 12th in high-danger shot attempts per hour (11.87 HDCF/60) at 5v5. When the Lightning generates shots between the dots, they win games. However, Tampa Bay struggles to finish their scoring chances from the perimeter.

While quantity looks better on the scoresheet, fewer shots are more. The Lightning must take more risks with their offensive zone passing to find quality scoring chances. Thatcher Demko has been excellent in the net for Vancouver this season, and low-percentage shots from the perimeter will only boost his confidence. The Bolts can rely on Kucherov and Brayden Point to find high-percentage plays to win this game.

Capitalize on the Power Play

Another weakness of the Canucks is their penalty kill, which ranks 27th in the league at a 74.7% success rate. The Tampa Bay power play ranks second in the NHL this season. Kucherov operates the power play from the right flank as the league-leading scorer. The Canucks allow an excess of shots from down low. The Lightning will turn to the struggling Paul, who plays that position on the top unit. This game presents Paul with an opportunity to break out of his slump. Furthermore, the Lightning frequently passed the puck down low against Seattle on the power play.

Another area where the Canucks allow scoring chances is at the right dot, where Steven Stamkos plays. If the Lightning can find seam passes for a Stamkos one-timer, they will find the back on the net on the man advantage.

Prediction Time

This cross-conference rematch presents Tampa Bay with another opportunity to sustain consistent play for consecutive games. The Canucks have made leaps and bounds in the standings this year with elevated play from their superstars and stellar goaltending. The Canucks have outpaced their expected goals by a wide margin, which may indicate they have had some shooting luck early on. However, Tocchet has been an excellent leader for a group that lacked direction before the puck drop this season. With that, we have Vancouver defeating Tampa Bay.

Prediction: Vancouver wins 5-3

On-Ice Statistics via NaturalStatTrick

Main Photo: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

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