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.
Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers
Head-to-Head: Capitals 0 – 0 Rangers
It is the first matchup of the year between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers. These two rivals go all the way back to the Patrick Division. Entering the season, the Capitals were one of the favourites to make the playoffs. While the Rangers were everyone’s pick to make the playoffs after what they did in the bubble. Washington is getting healthier as Alex Ovechkin returned to the lineup. They still do not have Ilya Samsonov back between the pipes, but that hasn’t matter as Vitek Vanecek has looked good filling in for him. In addition to Ovechkin being back, the Capitals got good news as Tom Wilson also returned to the lineup. The Capitals are hoping Evgeny Kuznetsov and Samsonov return shortly. Scoring isn’t the Capitals’ problem. Defensively they are giving up to many leads. And against the Rangers, that is something you can’t do.
For the Rangers, you can clearly see the distraction of Tony DeAngelo and having expectations were weighing on them. With DeAngelo out of the picture, the Rangers were able to focus on the ice. And it showed in their last game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. While Artemi Panarin continues to do his thing, many people are wondering what is wrong with Mika Zibanejad? He only has two points through nine games. Those two drove the offence last season. The Rangers need him to start turning things around like they need Igor Shesterkin to start playing like his old self again. That is a tall order against a very good Capitals team.
Prediction: Capitals Win 4-2
Nashville Predators vs. Florida Panthers
Head-to-Head: Predators 0 – 0 Panthers
It is the first of two back-to-back games between the Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers. Both teams will be battling each other for the final playoff spot in the Central Division. Two very similar teams that have talent on the roster, but do not have enough to get them over the finish line. The Predators have issues down the middle. Especially with that Matt Duchene contract. He is just the same player he once was and is vital to the Predators’ offence. However, John Hynes is a more defensive coach and the top players are seeing the numbers they normally are used to. The big key for the Predators will the goaltending of Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros hold up in such a short season. The Predators getting production from the usual suspects, but they have always been a team that had to work to score goals.
The Panthers are similar to the Predators in the fact they struggle sometimes to generate offence despite having Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Anthony Duclair, and others. However, it has been the ageless wonder Patric Hornqvist leading the scoring. And defensively the Panthers have been rock solid. Especially with Keith Yandle back there. Even though it was tough the Panthers were delayed because of COVID around the league, it gave them more practice time. Which has been an advantage to them. This will be a close game. Though Sergei Bobrovsky is playing better for the Panthers. It will come down to who makes the few mistakes. And the team from Florida is got the hot hand right now.
Prediction: Panthers win 3-1
Dallas Stars vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Head-to-Head: Stars 1 – 0 Blue Jackets
In another Central Division battle, the Dallas Stars will once again take on the Columbus Blue Jackets. In their first meeting, the Stars cruised past the Blue Jackets by a score of 6-3. The Stars are continuing to get production from Joe Pavelski. He leads the team with 14 points (seven goals and seven assists). Right behind him is John Klingberg the defenceman. Not to mention how offensively productive the Stars have been dating back to the playoff bubble. Last season they were grinding out games, this season they are putting up six goals a night it seems. They are doing this without Tyler Seguin in the lineup not to mention their starting goalie Ben Bishop has been sidelined. Anton Khudobin continues to prove his worth to the Stars.
On the flip side of things for the Blue Jackets, while they are playing better, they are not playing up to their potential. There is definitely more room for them to be better. Having Patrik Laine in the lineup will make them better, but after being off for a couple of weeks because of an injury, it showed. Eventually, the Blue Jackets will need to score goals. They can just rely on good defence in an offensive driven league. It doesn’t make any sense. Once Laine gets his legs under him things will change, but not against the Stars.
Prediction: Stars win 5-2
Ottawa Senators vs. Montreal Canadiens
Head-to-Head: Canadiens 0 – 0 Senators
The Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens meet for the first time on Thursday night. On paper, this looks to be a lopsided affair considering the Senators have lost their past nine games. You knew the Senators would be in rough shape heading into this season and they were playing up their opponents as such a young team. But it has been far worse than what many had expected. Even without Thomas Chabot in the lineup, you would think they would be competitive especially with Matt Murray between the pipes. But he might have lost his confidence and the team in front of him. That does not help either party. However, the Senators are playing against a rival and will be up for the task and are angry. If the Canadiens underestimate their opponent, they could be looking at a loss.
Montreal is rolling with only one regulation loss this season. Tyler Toffoli has been a major acquisition in addition to Josh Anderson. The Canadiens are the best team in the North Division. General manager Marc Bergevin addressed all their needs and having two goalies like Jake Allen and Carey Price only makes them better. The team is clicking on all cylinders right now. They are on a mission to win. The only thing that can stop the Canadiens is the Canadiens themselves. They still take too many penalties and against a good team that will cost them. However, against the Senators, they should have no problem.
Prediction: Canadiens win 5-1
That does it for NHL Predictions for the early games for February 4th. Stay tuned for another edition of NHL Predictions on Friday.
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