Welcome back to Last Word on Hockey’s NHL Predictions! Each day we break down every game and give our predictions for each of them. Today is January 17. There are two games on the slate for today, one in the afternoon and one in the early evening. Be sure to check out our NHL predictions for tomorrow’s slate!
Early Game: Washington Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Head to Head: Capitals 0 – 0 Penguins
This game couldn’t be any more lopsided. The Pittsburgh Penguins are coming’s off of a two-loss mini series to the Philadelphia Flyers. They have been outscored 11-5 and have been struggling to find their identity. On the other hand, the Washington Capitals are heading into this matchup picking up two wins against the Buffalo Sabres.
For the Penguins, their big stars have been quietly playing to their strengths, being lead in goals and points by newcomer Brandon Tanev. On the opposite side, Washington is lead in points by T.J. Oshie. Both players have racked three points in these past two games. For the Capitals their goaltending tandem, even with a four goal game for Ilya Samsonov, have out preformed Penguins net minder Tristan Jarry.
This will be an uphill battle for the Penguins right from the opening draw. If they want any shot at winning this game, their top line will need to preform 10 times better than they did against the Flyers. On top of that, the defensive and goalie play from the team has to be much sharper.
With the Capitals having offensive threats in most areas of the lineup, they will likely be on the board often. Even with the potential for Casey DeSmith to make his season debut, the Penguins will have their work cut out for them.
Prediction: Washington 5, Pittsburgh 2
Late Game: Chicago Blackhawks vs Florida Panthers
Head-to-Head: Blackhawks 0 – 0 Panthers
The Chicago Blackhawks are continuing their opening trip to Florida with their first series of games against the Florida Panthers. The Blackhawks are coming off of two tough losses against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
They struggled to create any meaningful offence against the top team in the league, and had an even tougher time keeping pucks out from the back of their net. Both goaltenders, Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia, saw starts in their two game stints and will need to bounce back if they want to make a statement against the Panthers.
For the Panthers this will be their season opener. Unlike any training camp scrimmages they may have done to prepare, their team will be facing an actual opponent for the first time since their stay in the COVID bubble in Toronto this past summer.
Chicago already has their legs under them from playing the Lightning two times in three days. Although they might be the weaker team, this gives them a huge advantage.The Panthers are starting late due to COVID protocols they had to go through this past week.
Chris Driedger will be debuting in net for the team on opening night. Also making his team debut will be free agent pick up Anthony Duclair. For the Blackhawks a key to success will be shutting down the Panthers deep offence early, and using those stops to transitioning smoothly into the offensive end.
Assuming the Panthers forwards, lead by Aleksander Barkov, don’t light up one of Subban or Delia before the Blackhawks get a chance to score. It might be a better game for Chicago, but not better enough to end up on top after 60 minutes.
Prediction: Florida wins 4-1