Welcome back to NHL Predictions, February 7th edition! Each day, the Last Word on Hockey team will break down every game and give our NHL predictions for each game. This is the late game slate of NHL Predictions for February 7th. Be sure and check out the early games of NHL Predictions too.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Dallas Stars
Head-to-Head: Blackhawks 0-0 Stars
The Chicago Blackhawks recently improved to 4-4-4 thanks to a three-game point streak against Columbus and Carolina this week. Today they become the first Central division team to have faced all of its regular-season opponents at least once. And so far, it hasn’t been the complete tire fire that many expected; the Blackhawks have lost only one game in regulation in their last nine games.
What has kept this team ticking is the stellar play they’ve been getting between the pipes. This is hard to believe given how the season started with Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban. But Chicago quickly pulled the trigger on a call-up for rookie goaltender Kevin Lankinen and hasn’t looked back since. Lankinen has played in eight games so far and excelled. He is currently in the top 10 in the league for overall save percentage (.936) and save percentage on high danger chances (.881).*
Another positive for Chicago has been the powerplay. The Hawks have scored on the man advantage in ten of its twelve games and are third in the league in success rate. Sophomore winger Dominik Kubalik has grabbed all three of his goals this season on the powerplay.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars return home for a double-header against the Blackhawks after a tough 1-3-0 road trip. Dallas conceded four or more goals in every game since leaving American Airlines Center. What won’t help these defensive concerns is the fact that goaltender Anton Khudobin will not be playing this afternoon.
Dallas announced yesterday that they intend to scratch their starting goaltender against Chicago for disciplinary reasons. Khudobin missed practice on Saturday and Stars’ Head Coach Rick Bowness clarified the goaltending situation for today’s game during media availability. Both Jake Oettinger and Landon Bow will dress with Oettinger getting the start. These two goaltenders were last year’s Texas Rangers’ tandem, the Stars’ AHL affiliate. Although, Oettinger has already won two NHL games this season despite posting a sub .900 save percentage.
In terms of positives for the Stars, Joe Pavelski continues to drink from the fountain of youth; he leads the team in goals, assists and points. Pavelski also has at least one point in seven of Dallas’ eight games so far.
Prediction: Blackhawks win 5-4
*This stat is based on goalies who have been in net for at least 100 minutes so far this season.
Detroit Red Wings vs. Florida Panthers
Head-to-Head: Red Wings 0-2 Panthers
Unfortunately for the Detroit Red Wings, this season has been a pretty grim viewing. The team’s main issue (from a list of many) is scoring; they have failed to score more than two goals on nine occasions already this year. And the underlying analytics back this up as well: the Red Wings are dead last in expected goals per 60 (1.68) and in the bottom five in the league for Corsi percentage and shot share percentage. What’s more, based on this season’s cumulative goal differential, the Red Wings are unsurprisingly on a similar trajectory to that of their 2019-20 campaign.
Contributing to their severe struggle is a lack of confidence in net. Detroit is 0-29-4 since the last time a goaltender not named Jonathan Bernier won a game for the Red Wings. Former New York Islander, Thomas Greiss hasn’t had a wonderful time since his move to Michigan but he probably doesn’t deserve a nine-game winless streak on his resume. The hope for Wings fans is that surely the luck aspect of goaltending is bound to pay out sooner rather than later to end this remarkable slump.
Conversely, the Florida Panthers still haven’t lost a game in regulation. They recently split their home series with the Nashville Predators, losing in overtime in game one before rallying to a 2-1 regulation win in game two. Despite coughing up a two-goal lead during Thursday night’s loss, the Panthers continue to surprise this season. In particular, the dominance of their first line is what is making them difficult to play against. Aleksander Barkov, Carter Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair are currently boasting a 64.2% expected goal-share. The speed of Duclair is complementing the scoring threat of Barkov and former Tampa Bay Lightning winger, Verhaeghe is linking up with both well with fantastic vision and passing. Additionally, Jonathan Huberdeau is currently flying under the radar as the top points scorer (12) on this team. Since the 2018-19 season, Huberdeau ranks ninth across the entire league in points (182).
Between the pipes, however, the Panthers have a difficult call to make. Despite the fact they are paying starting goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, a whopping $10 million, he is currently being comfortably outplayed by his $850,000 backup, Chris Driedger. This season, Bobrovsky’s save percentage above expected is sitting at minus 2.229 percent; he joins Matt Murray (-2.089) and Jonathan Quick (-2.46) near the foot of the table. Meanwhile, Driedger (10th) is sandwiched between Philipp Grubauer and Antti Raanta at the other end of the scale with 0.794 percent saves above expected.
Prediction: Panthers win 3-1
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Head-to-Head: Blue Jackets 0-0 Hurricanes
The Columbus Blue Jackets will be coming into this one buzzing after celebrating a few player landmarks in their last game. Cam Atkinson scored his 200th NHL goal and both Blue Jackets’ newcomers scored their first goals for the team on Thursday night against the Stars. Jack Roslovic skated through the slot unmarked after picking up a nifty drop pass to fire it over Khudobin’s glove hand for his first. Later, Patrik Laine forced his way through a sea of Stars skaters to steal a bobbling puck and he swiped it through the five-hole to help restore Columbus’ two-goal lead in the second. The Jackets won the game 4-3 in regulation.
However, the win came at a cost. The Blue Jackets will now be without top-pair defenseman Zach Werenski, who limped off the ice in the third period. Werenski has been placed on IR and is expected to miss one to two weeks. Columbus has therefore had to adjust its defensive pairings for today’s game; Dean Kukan will join Seth Jones on the first pair and Scott Harrington comes into a bottom pair role with Michael Del Zotto. This will be Harrington’s 2020-21 season debut.
On the other hand, the Carolina Hurricanes are coming off a 6-4 defeat to the Chicago Blackhawks, which snapped their five-game winning streak. The Canes conceded three powerplay goals in the loss, doubling their seasons’ total goals allowed on the penalty kill.
Carolina also suffered a casualty on Thursday in the form of centreman Martin Necas. He was hit into the boards by Calvin de Haan and is going to miss time with an upper-body injury. Necas had been promoted to the second line for this season and was repaying the faith, playing effectively with Nino Niederreiter and Vincent Trocheck. He has a goal and six points on the season.
In terms of production, the usual suspects are providing the goods for the Hurricanes. Andrei Svechnikov is scoring goals and leads the team with six and Sebastien Aho is creating plenty of chances. He has six assists in eight games.
Prediction: Hurricanes win 4-2
That does it for February 7th’s Late Games set of NHL Predictions! Make sure to tune in tomorrow for a new set of NHL Predictions!