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. There are four games on the early NHL slate for Monday, February 22nd. Be sure to look for our late NHL predictions for today.
Dallas Stars vs. Florida Panthers
Head-to-Head: Stars 0 – 0 Panthers
The Florida Panthers are one of the NHL’s surprises this season, with an 11-3-2 mark that puts them near the top of the league. Their goalie situation, while still controversial, has momentarily been resolved with Chris Driedger‘s play (6-1-1, .926 save percentage). Jonathan Huberdeau is continuing his momentum from last season, leading the team with 22 points in 16 games and seven points in his last five outings. They’re playing a Dallas Stars team that’s sliding fast after a hot start, dropping five straight contests. Despite being tenth in the league in goals for per game and ninth in goals against, they’ve gotten suspect goaltending this season in an unexpected weakness from Anton Khudobin (3-3-1, .902 save percentage). While it’ll be a close contest tonight, the Panthers are just the hotter team right now.
Prediction: Panthers win 3-2.
Buffalo Sabres vs. New York Islanders
Head-to-Head: Sabres 0 – 2 Islanders
The Buffalo Sabres are continuing to cement their status as one of the more dysfunctional franchises in the league. With Jeff Skinner making $9 million per season with only one point on the year, he’s expected to be a healthy scratch tonight. Decent possessional play has yet to manifest in actual goals, however, as the team (with Taylor Hall, Victor Olofsson, Jack Eichel, and Sam Reinhart) sits 27th in the league in goals for per game. With the New York Islanders maintaining their status as one of the best defensive squads in hockey, Buffalo will be in tough to get bunches of goals tonight. It’ll be especially challenging considering the great play of Semyon Varlamov this season in goal (7-4-2, .925 save percentages, 3 shutouts). The Islanders should continue to stifle this team as they have all season.
Prediction: Islanders win 3-1.
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Head-to-Head: Hurricanes 2 – 0 Lightning
Through two games this year, the Carolina Hurricanes have yet to concede a goal to the defending Stanley Cup Champions. While that’s a testament to how good this team has been, it’s also suggestive of a low-event affair again tonight. The Hurricanes have powered through a Petr Mrazek injury in net, and despite James Reimer‘s poor .896 save percentage, they’re 8-1-0 with him in net this year. The Tampa Bay Lightning have yet to kick it into full gear offensively, but they’ll certainly have a better idea of what they need to do to win tonight after two tough games. This game will be a must-watch if you like defence, but other than that, expect the Lightning to act on a little bit of vengeance tonight.
Prediction: Lightning win 1-0.
Calgary Flames vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Head-to-Head: Flames 0 – 2 Maple Leafs
The Calgary Flames have really cooled off. They’ve lost three straight contests, including a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night. Starting netminder Jacob Markstrom has also seen a turn for the worse in his play, as his save percentage sits at just .909 now after a sensational start to the season. A team that’s struggling for offence and one of the best two-way teams in the league this year likely won’t end well. The Toronto Maple Leafs sit top ten in both goals for and goals against per game. This is largely due to the play of Auston Matthews, who’s currently on pace for 55 goals in this 56-game season. Calgary just doesn’t have the motivation required to stop such a hot team at the moment, and they’ll likely drop another one tonight.
Prediction: Maple Leafs win 4-1.
Embed from Getty Images