Welcome back to NHL Predictions! Each day, the Last Word on Hockey team will break down every game and give our NHL predictions for each game. This is the early game slate of NHL Predictions. Be sure and check out the late games of NHL Predictions too.
Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres
Head-to-Head: Capitals 0 – 0 Sabres
In this strange new world we live in, the Buffalo Sabres and Washington Capitals are now in the same division. Normally, the Capitals are in the Metropolitan, while the Sabres are in the Atlantic. However, now these teams will face off against each other eight times. And both teams made changes in the offseason. Some good. Some bad. But both are hoping to make the playoffs.
For Washington, they are looking to get one more chance at glory. Players like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are getting up there in age. Not to mention adding a guy like Zdeno Chara makes the roster a little (or more) older. But the talent is still there for Washington. The system may look a little different too under each Peter Laviolette. But having more structure will not help guys like Ovechkin, but open up space for Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, and others to put points on the board. There were no real changes on defence, but the real question for Washington is can Ilya Samsonov be the guy between the pipes now that Braden Holtby has moved on?
For Buffalo, they are looking for a return to glory. And by glory, that means returning to the playoffs. However, even with the addition of Taylor Hall in a tough division like the East, it will be hard to do. Hall signed there because he sees potential especially with Jack Eichel, who has the chance to be a Hart Trophy winner in the coming years. However, there are so many question marks for Buffalo especially in between the pipes. Plus Buffalo is paying Jeff Skinner a lot of money to be a bottom-six player on their team. They will need more out of him for sure. While having Dylan Cozens on the team will help them, he is a rookie and he is playing against men. Can’t expect too much. While Buffalo will be able to score goals, can they defend is another story in itself?
Prediction: Washington wins 4-2
Boston Bruins vs. New Jersey Devils
Head-to-Head: Bruins 0 – 0 Devils
Since the Boston Bruins have become a dominant team in the NHL, they have owned the New Jersey Devils in the regular season. And many people expect that trend to continue into this season. Because on paper, the Bruins have the better team. With names like David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask, and the list goes on. However, there have been a lot of changes on the Bruins’ roster this off-season. The two that stand out are on defence. Both on the left side, with Torey Krug and Chara leaving Boston via free agency. Pastrnak will be starting the season on IR and there’s lots of question marks on defence. This game could be a lot closer than people think. But the Bruins are still the Bruins and they have Rask in the net.
The Devils on the other hand, are looking to start the season off on the right foot. The first game of the season can set the tone for the rest of the season. That happened for the Devils last year. But like the Bruins, the Devils had some changes in the off-season. They brought in Ryan Murray and Dmitry Kulikov to help on defence. In addition, they brought back a familiar face in Sami Vatanen. Upfront the addition of Andreas Johnsson should help bolster their offence.
Unfortunately for New Jersey, they will be without Nico Hischier (injury), Jesper Bratt (visa issues), and Vatanen (visa issues) to start the season. And they just lost Corey Crawford to retirement. Not the best start, but the Devils are hoping that Jack Hughes is ready for the next step in his development. Plus it’s a new year with a new coaching staff and that is sometimes all you need to change the culture. The Devils hope those on the roster are ready for the bright lights of the NHL.
Prediction: Bruins win 3-2
New York Islanders vs. New York Rangers
Head-to-Head: Islanders 0 – 0 Rangers
When the New York Islanders and New York Rangers get together there are always fireworks. These rivals go back a long way from the Patrick Division to the Metropolitan Division and things in between. The Islanders are coming off a successful season where they went all the way to the Eastern Conference Final. And the Islanders are a team many have picked to come out of the tough East Division to make the playoffs again. Of course, they will have to go through their rivals to do so. The Islanders have pretty much the same team coming back except for the addition of Ilya Sorokin in goal. But with Barry Trotz behind the bench, and the Islanders playing a certain way, this will help them in a shortened season.
On the side of the coin, the Rangers also have expectations this season. They got into the 24-team return to play playoffs in the summer. They had a decent outing. However, like the Islanders, they have brought the same team back. Obviously, there are a couple of changes. Mainly having Alexis Lafreniere in the lineup. It is unclear whether or not Mika Zibanejad will be ready for opening night, but regardless if he isn’t the Rangers still have the offence to match the Islanders. Plus Igor Shesterkin is ready to take the next step for the Rangers as he has been named the number one goalie. This will be a hard physical affair as the Rangers try to attack with speed. The Islanders will try to slow the game down and take advantage of opportunities.
Prediction: Islanders Win 4-3
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Detroit Red Wings
Head-to-Head: Hurricanes 0 – 0 Red Wings
This game is not one of the more intriguing games on the schedule. This feels like the Carolina Hurricanes will come out and win over the Detroit Red Wings. However, we saw last year Detroit give a certain team fits. The Hurricanes should not underestimate the Red Wings. But the Hurricanes are the better team. The Hurricanes made some nice additions this year especially Jesper Fast who will bring depth to this lineup. It’s something the Hurricanes need as the season goes on. Sebastian Aho, Vincent Trocheck, Andrei Svechnikov, and Teuvo Teravainen will be relied on heavily to provide offence. The key will be for the Hurricanes at the goaltender position. Can Petr Mrazek and James Reimer stay healthy? Carolina does not want to rely on an emergency backup goalie to win more than one game.
On the Detroit side of things, this is another season where expectations are not that high. Nor should they be. The Red Wings will be near the bottom of the division and league. And hopefully, they will be picking near the top of the draft this season. But they still have some nice pieces playing this year. One being Dylan Larkin, who was named captain. Despite the Red Wings being horrendous recently, Larkin has put up good numbers. They will need him to do that again. Unfortunately, it will be a long season for the Detroit faithful. And game one is just the beginning.
Prediction: Hurricanes win 5-2
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Nashville Predators
Head-to-Head: Blue Jackets 0 – 0 Predators
In a clash of similar styles, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators meet up for the first time as new divisional opponents. We all know the issues Pierre-Luc Dubois is having with the team, especially the head coach. However, the Blue Jackets continue to play hard-nosed hockey and get it done when it matters. They may not be the most talented team on paper, but the players have bought into the system. It would be nice if they had a little more scoring. But they are hoping Max Domi can find that spark this season. Columbus hopes Cam Atkinson has a bounce-back season as well. And their defence is one of the best with Zach Werenski and Seth Jones anchoring the blue line. There were question marks about the goaltenders, but those have been answered. Look for Columbus to keep this low scoring.
Like the Blue Jackets, the Predators will look to keep this game low scoring even though they have the firepower to make this a high scoring game. Nashville will need a big season from Matt Duchene. They know what Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson can do, but they need more depth scoring. They brought back Mikael Granlund on a cheaper deal. Plus the addition of Erik Haula should help fill that void. But Nashville can’t continue to get most of its offence from the back end. Not to mention Pekka Rinne is getting older and Juuse Saros didn’t exactly light the world on fire in the return to play in the summer. The Predators are in the weakest division this season and getting some quality wins will go along way to making the playoffs.
Prediction: Blue Jackets win 3-1
That does it for NHL Predictions for the early games for January 13th