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.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins
Head-to-Head: Flyers 0 – 0 Bruins
Two of the teams vying for the top spot in a very top East Division will square off on Thursday as the Philadelphia Flyers take on the Boston Bruins. The Flyers are considered to be the favourite to win the division. After a sloppy loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night, the Flyers bounced back with a nice win. You could say the Flyers are the deepest team in the division. However, they have a lot of expectations on their shoulders, especially Carter Hart, who considered a favourite for the Vezina Trophy. And when Hart needs a night off, Brian Elliott has proven himself up to the task to get the Flyers a win. The Flyers will be without Sean Couturier for a couple weeks with a rib injury, but having Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick back in the lineup has helped the Flyers offensively.
On the other side, the Bruins are off to a slow start. Clearly, they miss players like Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug on the back end. But offensively, this team is different without David Pastrnak in the lineup. Their top line of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand is just not the same. Even though Pastrnak was back at action he was in a non contact jersey. The Bruins have yet to score a goal at even strength. We have seen in the past that the Bruins struggle when their top line doesn’t score, the team struggles to find offence. Even with Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak between the pipes, the Bruins will need to find offence against a very talented team. Maybe they can find something knowing they are back on home ice.
Prediction: Flyers 3-1
New Jersey Devils vs. New York Islanders
Head-to-Head: Devils 0 – 0 Islanders
The New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders meet for the first of eight meetings this season. While both teams are different, they are the same in many ways. However, one team in the Devils do not have many expectations on themselves this season. The Islanders have expectations of making the playoffs and winning the Stanley Cup. It will be a good game between two teams that play similar styles.
The Devils have points in three straight games to begin the season. With no Nico Hischier or Jesper Bratt to begin the year, the Devils have been relying on Jack Hughes, Kyle Palmieri, and Yegor Sharangovich to provide the offence. And Hughes is showing he was the number one pick in 2019, it is the play of Miles Wood that has stood out. He has goals in three straight games. His line with Jesper Boqvist and Travis Zajac has been solid.
Under head coach Lindy Ruff the Devils have been able to roll four lines. Defensively the Devils are much better. And of course, a big reason for the team’s early success has been the play of Mackenzie Blackwood. He gives the Devils a chance to win each night. However, it will not be easy against the Islanders.
The Islanders are a very disciplined team under head coach Barry Trotz. They play within a system and take advantage of the opportunities given to them. While they may not have the superstars, the Islanders can hurt a team offensively. Goals will be at a premium with Blackwood and Semyon Varlamov in the net. Varlamov has back-to-back shutouts to begin the season. Varlamov does not give up many second chance opportunities, so the Devils will have to take advantage of them when they are there. This game could very well come down to special teams. So staying out of the box would be ideal. With both teams focusing on defence, do not be surprised if this is a low scoring affair.
Prediction: Devils Win 2-1
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Head-to-Head: Lightning 0 – 0 Blue Jackets
This is a rematch of the last two first-round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets square off. Everyone knows the history between these two teams. The Lightning learned lessons from the Blue Jackets in 2019 in order to win the Stanley Cup in 2020. The Lightning are favoured to win the division even without Nikita Kucherov in the lineup. They still have Brayden Point, Anthony Cirelli, and a rejuvenated Steven Stamkos. Don’t forget about Victor Hedman and Mikhail Sergachev on the backend. The Lightning are only one of three teams that are still undefeated. And that should not change after this game.
The Blue Jackets are struggling out of the gate. One win in four games. Not the ideal start for a team that has playoff aspirations. But there is a big distraction hanging over the team and his name is Pierre-Luc Dubois. It feels similar to what happened with Matt Duchene and the Colorado Avalanche. The team will take its time, but by then it could be too late. Dubois has not produced that much, but neither has the team to start the year. The goaltending has not been great either. Many thought the Blue Jackets would find their game against the Detroit Red Wings but that didn’t happen. It will be tough against a strong Lightning team.
Prediction: Lightning win 4-2
The series between the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers has been postponed because of COVID-19.
That does it for NHL Predictions for the early games for January 21st
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