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: Bruins 1 – 0 Penguins
In a battle of two teams that are considered favourites to make the playoffs in the East Division, it was the Boston Bruins who came out on top Tuesday night with a 3-2 victory in overtime over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Both teams are facing some adversity heading into Thursday night’s game. On the Penguins side of things, Jim Rutherford announced that he was resigning as general manager. Meanwhile, the Bruins are heading into the game without two big players in Tuukka Rask and Jake DeBrusk. Not to mention they are already missing Matt Grzelcyk on defence. Both the Penguins and Bruins got off to slow starts but they have turned it around with both teams occupying a spot in the top four.
The biggest question mark will be can the Penguins outscore their defensive woes. Even though are better as of late, that defence is still a little shaky in front of Tristan Jarry. For the Bruins, can they overcome all these injuries they are dealing with? Their third line is producing for them, which is a good thing. However with DeBrusk out of the lineup what does it mean for the top line. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand can only do so much. And it appears David Pastrnak is only days away now. With Jaroslav Halak getting the start, the Penguins will look to stop the train that is the Bruins.
Prediction: Bruins win 4-3
New York Rangers vs. Buffalo Sabres
Head-to-Head: Sabres 1 – 0 Rangers
In another East Division battle, the New York Rangers are out for revenge against the Buffalo Sabres. The Rangers held a 2-1 lead heading into the second before everything came up on the short end of the stick. Jack Eichel was able to get on the scoreboard with his first goal of the season to propel Buffalo to victory. There are a lot of expectations on the Rangers this season as many see them as a playoff team. They are off to a slow start, but their goaltending is starting to come around after a shaky start. Igor Shesterkin will get the start on Thursday against Buffalo. David Quinn’s Rangers have to start finding their game soon or else it might be too late in a tough division.
For the Sabres, they picked up a huge victory on Tuesday night. However, they still have question marks in between the pipes as well. They are really gonna trust Linus Ullmark to get them to the playoffs. Yes, they have Eichel, Taylor Hall, Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, and Dylan Cozens. But they still have to prevent goals from going into their net. It is a tough ask to do over 56 games. However, they are going to be a pesky out for a lot of teams. However, if this team has aspirations of the playoffs taking two games against a team like the Rangers will go a long way to accomplishing that goal.
Prediction: Rangers win 3-2
Philadelphia Flyers vs. New Jersey Devils
Head-to-Head: Flyers 1 – 0 Devils
The Philadelphia Flyers and the New Jersey Devils had a back and forth game on Tuesday night with the Flyers coming out on top by a score of 5-3. It was a tail of three periods. The Flyers dominated the first and most of the second before the Devils took over. But then the Flyers regained control of the game midway through the third period. However, the Devils undoing was their special teams again giving up a couple of power-play goals. They will need to fix that area of their game if they want to have continued success this season. The Devils are playing well even without Mackenzie Blackwood and Nico Hischier in the lineup. They will get Jesper Bratt back hopefully against the Flyers. New Jersey is adjusting to Lindy Ruff‘s system, but they have to figure out special teams because they can score goals.
On the Flyers end of things, they have a lot of expectations on them. They are a favourite to win the East Division. And early on in the year, they were showing why everyone picked them to win. However, they ran into the Bruins and were put back into their place. With Brian Elliott in net, the Flyers were able to write the ship. Again the big question mark around Carter Hart was could he get the job done on the road. So far he has not. The Flyers lineup is deep and their defence is so active. The Devils will have to be careful of that if they want to rebound with a victory. It will be tough especially with no Blackwood.
Prediction: Flyers win 4-2
New York Islanders vs. Washington Capitals
Head-to-Head: Capitals 1 – 0 Islanders
You got to hand it to the Washington Capitals and their ability to win games and pick up points without five of their best players in the lineup. They were able to squeak out a late period regulation victory over the New York Islanders thanks to a goal from Justin Schultz. But just like the Islanders, the Capitals are having to work hard for their goals considering the talent that is out of the lineup. Tomorrow will be the last game the Capitals will be without the four players on the COVID list. With both teams playing a similar style, it will come down to who will make the least mistakes.
The Islanders made the last mistake on Tuesday night. Barry Trotz is hoping his team can rebound from a tough start. The good thing for the Islanders is they do not give up a lot. The bad news for the Islanders is they do not score a lot. That is a tough dilemma to be in all season. This will be the main reason why the Islanders either make or miss the playoffs. They cannot just rely on good goaltending and defence to win games. You got to score goals. But it is still early and things can change. For Barry Trotz, he hopes that changes Thursday night.
Prediction: Capitals win 2-1
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Head-to-Head: Lightning 0 – 0 Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes are back after having the schedule reworked because members of the organization tested positive for COVID. When we last saw the Hurricanes they had defeated the Nashville Predators by a score of 4-2. They are near the bottom of the Central Division, but that is because they haven’t played in over a week. Their reward? They get to face the defending Stanley Cup Champions the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning are coming off a tough road trip through Columbus and will face a similar team in Carolina. Not to mention it is Carolina’s first game in over a week and it is at home. Can’t underestimate how important that is for the Hurricanes. However, the Lightning have the skill and the will to match the Hurricanes. But will it be enough to overcome a team that is itching to play? Just look at what Dallas did to Nashville over the weekend.
When teams are itching to go it usually ends badly for the team coming into their arena. However, this is not just any team. It is the Lightning after all. Tampa Bay sits in fourth place right now in the division. So a win will get them back to the top of the division. But with the talent of Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho, this will not be an easy game for the Lightning. In fact, this game will be closer than people think. And don’t be surprised to see an upset in this one. However, just like the Hurricanes, the Lightning have had some time off and they are looking to get back at it.
Prediction: Lightning win 4-3 overtime
Florida Panthers vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Head-to-Head: Panthers 1 – 0 Blue Jackets
The Florida Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets will do battle once again on Thursday night. And as Blue Jackets coach said on Tuesday after the game “Take the Point and Run.” The Blue Jackets had no business being in that game let alone getting a point. They are playing a lot better even after trading Pierre-Luc Dubois to Winnipeg. They are playing more like a team. And that is their identity. However, just like the Islanders, the Blue Jackets have a problem scoring goals. Hopefully, that will change once Patrik Laine enters the lineup. Not to say there isn’t talent on the roster to score. There is. However, playing a certain system and style goals are at a premium. That is why they will rely on the goaltending of Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins to carry them.
The Panthers have only played three games because of all teams getting COVID and games being rescheduled. They have looked good in their three games. However, one player that needs to start playing better is Sergei Bobrovsky. The 10-million dollar man has not been the same player ever since signing that deal with Florida. He will need to turn it around if Florida wants any chance of making the playoffs. The Panthers have talent with the likes of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aaron Ekblad. Not to mention, Patric Hornqvist has fit into the lineup nicely. This will be another close game.
Prediction: Panthers Win 4-3
Montreal Canadiens vs. Calgary Flames
Head-to-Head: Canadiens 0 – 0 Flames
In one of the games of the night, the Montreal Canadiens will finally play their first game at the Bell Centre, hosting the Calgary Flames. The Canadiens are sitting near the top of the North Division. Montreal is firing on all cylinders after taking five of six points against the Vancouver Canucks. They are fast and very talented. General manager Marc Bergevin‘s moves have paid off. He has filled needs and they are getting production up and down the lineup. Jonathan Drouin seems more relaxed with the arrival of Josh Anderson. Not to mention the young kids like Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi are playing well for Montreal. The one-two punch of Carey Price and Jake Allen are proving too much for teams. The only thing that can stop Montreal is Montreal itself. They got to stop taking penalties.
And if they continue that trend a team like the Flames will burn them, no pun intended. With players like Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan, and Johnny Gaudreau, the Flames have the offence to match Montreal’s. Plus they have an x-factor in between the pipes, Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom can go toe-to-toe with Price. And that is what it is going to come down to. Which goalie can stop the puck? And who’s special teams can score or defend the most. Calgary is a sleeper team in the West, but do they have the defence to match the Montreal offence?
Prediction: Canadiens wins 3-1
That does it for NHL Predictions for the early games for January 28th. Stay tuned for another edition of NHL Predictions on Friday.
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