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.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Boston Bruins
Head-to-Head: Penguins 0 – 0 Bruins
A matchup forced together by the realigning of divisions, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins have dominated the league these last couple of years. With four Stanley Cups between them and even more Stanley Cup Final appearances, this game should be interesting. The Penguins currently sit at second in the East Division with a record of 4-2-0. The Bruins sit at fifth with 3-1-1. Both teams are on mini win-streaks, the Penguins with four and the Bruins with two. This game will decide whose streak breaks.
Despite spending most of this season trailing on the scoreboard, the Penguins have managed to eke out eight points. They sit just one point behind the leaders of the East Division, the Washington Capitals. Their many comebacks show they have the will and talent, but the team just isn’t all their yet. As for the Bruins, they just beat the Flyers 6-1. The Bruins are looking to climb the rankings and defeating the second-place team is the way to do it.
Prediction: Bruins win 5-4.
New York Rangers vs. Buffalo Sabres
Head-to-Head: Rangers 0 – 0 Sabres
In another East Division battle, the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers are holding steady as the bottom two teams in the rankings. With 5 and 3 points, respectively, these clubs aren’t going to be fighting for a top spot anytime soon. That doesn’t mean this particular battle for New York isn’t going to entertaining.
The Rangers have pure talent. Elite players like Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, and Adam Fox are backed up by young offensive phenoms like Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko. So, why aren’t they winning? It’s because of their weak links. Jack Johnson and Tony DeAngelo do literally nothing to hold down the Rangers back end. Their defence is one of the worst in the league and it doesn’t look to be getting any better. Their only as good as their weakest link, and the Rangers weakest link is awful.
The Sabres don’t present themselves as a team with elite-level talent. But, they put in the work. In their last two games against the Capitals, they took the division leaders to a shootout twice. Winning one and losing one, Buffalo was able to pick up three points against the fourth-ranked team in the league. The Sabres matched them goal for goal and defended their blueline adequately. Although, it is worth it to mention that top scorers Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, along with defenceman Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Ilya Samsonov were absent from the Capital’s roster due to Covid protocol. The Sabres will still outperform the Rangers tonight.
Prediction: Sabres win 3-1.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. New Jersey Devils
Head-to-Head: Flyers 0 – 0 Devils
The third-ranked Philadelphia Flyers and the fourth-ranked New Jersey Devils face off tonight in another East Division matchup. Tied at seven points apiece, there is potential for the East Division rankings to change dramatically tonight. The Flyers started the season off strong, defeating Sidney Crosby and the Penguins twice. Falling to the Bruins both times in their most recent mini-series, the Flyers dropped in the rankings. As for the Devils, they just faced off against the Islanders. Collecting two points, they’ve moved up.
Philadelphia has lost the rhythm it began this season with. The team’s forward depth has been more or less absent, their defence isn’t gelling, and their franchise goalie has gotten off to a rough start. Not to mention the injuries to Morgan Frost, Sean Couturier, and Philippe Myers. The Devils, on the other hand, have had contributions from all over the roster. Huge goals from Nikita Gusev and Jack Hughes have been important, but what’s really gotten New Jersey in the middle of the pack is their fourth line. Creating momentum, getting the puck out of their zone, and generating pressure, linemates Andreas Johnsson, Michael McLeod, and Nathan Bastian have been doing their jobs well. This will culminate in a huge win over the Flyers.
Prediction: Devils win 3-1.
New York Islanders vs. Washington Capitals
Head-to-Head: Islanders 0 – 0 Capitals
The fourth East Division matchup of the night has the Washington Capitals facing off against the New York Islanders. As mentioned above, Washington is without Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Orlov, and Samsonov for at least their next two bouts. The Capitals lost two of their top scorers, top-pair defencemen, and their starting goaltender due to their violating Covid protocol. As for the Islanders, they’re at full strength ready to take on a long-time rival.
While Washington leads the division, there is no guarantee they can hold on to that position. The Penguins are edging in and the Islanders would love to knock them off their pedestal. Islanders head coach Barry Trotz knows how the Capitals play. After leading Washington to their one and only Stanley Cup in 2018, Trotz moved on to New York. Despite currently being sixth in the division, the Islanders are a well put together team. They’re hungry to move up and knocking the Capitals down is the way to do it. Without their star players, the Capitals will fall to the Islanders.
Prediction: Islanders win 5-2.
Florida Panthers vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Head-to-Head: Panthers 0 – 0 Blue Jackets
The Florida Panthers have played a total of two games. Playing fewer games than any other team in the division, except for the Dallas Stars, they most recently faced off against the Chicago Blackhawks. Winning both games, the Panthers are steadily moving up the rankings of a Covid-ravaged division.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are in the midst of seeing what impact trading star forward Pierre-Luc Dubois means for the club. After putting in a trade request, Dubois was sent to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic. We will see how Laine and Columbus’ head coach John Tortorella get along. Despite this blockbuster trade, the Blue Jackets aren’t prepared for the practised Panthers. As Laine will most likely not be playing tonight, they’ve lost a lot of offensive power with no Dubois. Their defence is solid, but not enough to stop Florida.
Prediction: Panthers win 4-2.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators
Head-to-Head: Blackhawks 0 – 0 Predators
Another Central Division matchup, the Chicago Blackhawks take on the Nashville Predators tonight. The Blackhawks sit at third in the division with a record of 3-2-1. The Predators are in sixth with a record of 2-3-0. The Predators on a three-game losing streak and don’t look to be improving. A mediocre team, they’ll have to fight if they want a playoff spot at the end of this 56-game season. They might be able to gain two points tonight in their face-off against the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks struggled to start the season. While gaining four points in their most recent mini-series against the Detroit Red Wings was good, it wasn’t anything unexpected. Chicago doesn’t have the offensive of defensive strength to take out the Predators tonight.
Prediction: Predators win 3-0.
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