Welcome back to NHL Predictions, February 2nd edition! Each day, the Last Word on Hockey team will break down every game and give our NHL predictions for each game. Make sure to check back later for our late game predictions.
Tonight’s games between the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders as well as the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils have been postponed due to the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
Dallas Stars vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Head-to-Head: Stars 0 – 0 Blue Jackets
The Dallas Stars finally look human. After a four-game winning streak (in convincing fashion) to start the season, they’ve dropped to a 4-1-1 record after back-to-back losses against the Carolina Hurricanes. Joe Pavelski is doing all he can for the Stars with Tyler Seguin out of the lineup, leading the squad with 10 points in just six games. He’s easily been their best player. But Dallas is starting to have issues controlling play with only a 46.6 Corsi for percentage this year. They’ve continued to receive steady goaltending from both Anton Khudobin (.922 save percentage) and rookie Jake Oettinger (.909 save percentage), but could continue to exhibit regression tonight against Columbus.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have had an up-and-down season while they await the addition of Patrik Laine into their lineup. They’ve looked good at times, most notably in a 5-2 win over the defending Stanley Cup Champions just after trading away Pierre-Luc Dubois. They continue to benefit from a balanced attack, but goaltending has been the name of their game this year as well. Joonas Korpisalo has continued last season’s play with a .936 save percentage, helping Columbus earn points in all but one of his five starts so far this year. They’ll look for more offensive production out of newcomer Max Domi (three points in 10 games) and stalwart defenceman Seth Jones (one assist in 10 games) tonight, but a balanced attack up front could wear down a Dallas team with mediocre underlying numbers.
Prediction: Blue Jackets win 5-2.
Vancouver Canucks vs. Montreal Canadiens
Head-to-Head: Canucks 1 – 3 Canadiens
The Vancouver Canucks have really struggled to defend against this Montreal team, allowing at least five goals in all of their games against them this year. Their .500 record (6-6-0) is largely due in part to some easy victories against the Ottawa Senators and a subpar Corsi for of 46.9 percent helps exhibit that. Thatcher Demko has improved in goal after a rough start. Their stars like Elias Pettersson are starting to improve again offensively. But the defensive issues displayed by stars like Quinn Hughes are real, and they’re costing the club some crucial points against a formidable rival in Montreal. They’re in their heads now, and it will be another tough night for Vancouver.
On the other hand, the Montreal Canadiens have had a better start to the season than anyone could’ve hoped for. A 6-1-2 record has them sitting pretty close to the top of the league. They rebounded nicely last night after a 2-0 shutout loss against Calgary. The underlying numbers are strong with a 53.3 percent Corsi for and 50.98 expected goals for percentage. Tyler Toffoli continues to light things up against his former team with nine points in eight games this year. Carey Price has been extremely suspect in goal. But their acquisition of Jake Allen in the backup role (.933 save percentage) is proving fruitful. Look for them to extend their winning habits tonight.
Prediction: Canadiens win 3-1.
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Head-to-Head: Hurricanes 0 – 0 Blackhawks
The Hurricanes are another team on a hot start with a 5-1-0 record. They haven’t missed a beat despite a lengthy pause in activities due to a COVID outbreak. But one of their best players so far has been goalie Petr Mrazek with a .955 save percentage, and he’s now out long-term (potentially). It’s James Reimer‘s crease for the near future, and he’s been good too with a .918 save percentage. Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov continue to shine with six points in six games, while newcomer Vincent Trocheck has hit that mark too. Carolina’s stars are performing and they’re getting good goaltending. It’ll be hard to stop them again tonight.
The Chicago Blackhawks have also found some goaltending. Projected taxi squad goalie Kevin Lankinen appears to have stolen the starting job with a .937 save percentage in six starts. Despite a depleted team due to COVID issues and injury, Patrick Kane is still doing his best with 10 points in 10 games. But Chicago’s inactive list is almost 10 players long. Names like Alex DeBrincat and Adam Boqvist are now unavailable due to COVID protocols. They’ll have quite the tough time against a streaking Carolina team. Not even Lankinen will be enough to stop them.
Prediction: Hurricanes win 5-1.
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