NHL Predictions for February 16th – Early Games

NHL Predictions

Welcome back to NHL Predictions, February 16th edition! Each day, the Last Word on Hockey team will break down every game and give our NHL predictions for each game. There are three games on the NHL slate for Tuesday, February 16th. Make sure to check out today’s late game predictions as well.

NHL Predictions

Buffalo Sabres vs. New York Islanders

Head-to-Head: Islanders 1-0 Sabres

This is the second of back-to-back games between the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders. At the time of writing, it is unknown what the outcome of yesterday’s game was. Regardless of the outcome, this is going to be another game for the Sabres to get back into game shape. Yesterday was the first time they played since Jan. 30th because of a Covid outbreak. Therefore, it is difficult to predict how well the Sabres will do when they haven’t played in two weeks. The Carolina Hurricanes, Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche were sidelined for a week because of Covid and came back strong. Maybe Buffalo can do the same but they’ve been off for an extra week. The safe assumption is Buffalo will need to work through the rust during these games against the Islanders.

The Islanders are 3-1-1 in their last five games and sit third in their division based on winning percentage. They are playing as advertised. Their 20th in the league in Corsi percentage but are third-best in high danger chances for percentage. Meaning they allow teams to get non-dangerous attempts but good luck trying to get a quality scoring chance on them. Their defensive style will make it difficult for a rusty Sabres team to score. Their star players are also hot right now. Mathew Barzal has three goals and six points in his last five games while Ryan Pulock has four assists and has led the team in average ice time with 22:48.

Prediction: 3-1 Islanders

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

Head-to-Head: Pittsburgh 3-0 Washington

This is the fourth meeting of the season between these two teams, and so far Pittsburgh has won all three games. However, it is unfair to say they’ve dominated. Pittsburgh won the first two games in the shootout and overtime, and two days ago they beat Washington 6-3 but their last two goals were in an empty net. In the season-series, Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel have six points, Bryan Rust has five, and Kris Letang had four assists. Pittsburgh has outshot Washington in all of their meetings and just as they have to the rest of their division. The Penguins are fifth in the league in Corsi for and shots for percentage. Their two areas of concern are special teams and goaltending. The Penguins have the league’s 23rd ranked power play and 28th ranked penalty kill. And neither Tristan Jarry nor Casey DeSmith have a save percentage over .900.

The Washington Capitals are an exciting team to watch they have scored the third-most goals and allowed the second-most goals per games played. Vitek Vanecek has the best save percentage on the team at .901, which is bad. Washington and Pittsburgh’s bad goaltending should lead to another highly offensive game. Even though Washington has lost three games to Pittsburgh, they are tied with them with a .577 winning percentage. Their offence is keeping them afloat.  They have the league’s best power play and their big boys are heating up. Alex Ovechkin has four goals and eight points in his last five games while Niklas Backstrom had five assists.

The poor goaltending from both sides should mean this is another high scoring affair. I don’t see Pittsburgh being able to beat Washington four times in a row, I think the Capitals offence propels them to a win.

Prediction: 5-4 Capitals

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New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils 

Head-to-Head: New Jersey 1-0 New York

It’s the second game of the battle of the Hudson this season. The Rangers fell to the Devils 4-3 in their first meeting of the season but not for a lack of effort. They fired 50 shots and New Jersey’s goalie Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 47 of them. The Rangers will be motivated to defeat the Devils. But scoring has not come easy to them this season. They have the league’s second-worst shooting percentage and are fifth-worst in goals for. Luckily for them, they’ve been good defensively. They have allowed the ninth fewest goals and are the 12th best team at preventing shot attempts. It is a complete turnaround from the high scoring and terrible defensive team they were last year. Artemi Panarin has 15 points this season but his status for the game is still unknown at the time. He will need some help. Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome and Chris Kreider combined have fewer points than Panarin. New York is coming into this game on a three-game losing streak.

New Jersey are in the same situation as Buffalo. They haven’t played since they played the Sabres on Jan. 30th, their series knocked both teams out with Covid issues for two weeks. Chances are they will be rusty. As of yesterday, Nico Hischier, Nikita Gusev and Travis Zajac were still on the Covid list, meaning they could be without some important players. New Jersey is a strange team. They haven’t been good in some areas and not in others. They have the third-worst winning percentage in the division, the league’s worst penalty kill, the seventh-worst power play and allowed the seventh-most shots against per game. However, they have allowed the eighth fewest goals and have the league’s eighth-best Corsi for percentage.

For the NHL predictions, I think New York takes advantage of a rusty team and plays much better than New Jersey. The Rangers need to get their offence going and this is the perfect opportunity for them to do that. They’ve also had a lot of chances the only time they met.

Prediction: 3-1 New York.

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