Welcome back to NHL Predictions, March 4th edition! Each day, the Last Word On Hockey team will break down every game and give our NHL predictions for each. This is the second set of NHL Predictions for March 4th featuring the Winnipeg Jets vs Montreal Canadiens. Be sure and check out the first and third set of NHL Predictions, too.
NHL Predictions Including Winnipeg Jets vs Montreal Canadiens
Winnipeg Jets vs Montreal Canadiens
Head-to-Head: Jets 2-0 Canadiens
The Winnipeg Jets head east for the second time this season. They are 5-1-0 in their last six games and are boasting four of the top 20 scorers in the league. Included in that list is Blake Wheeler, who has seen an uptick in performance with nine points during the team’s recent hot streak. Elsewhere, Pierre-Luc Dubois has scored five points in his first seven games following Winnipeg’s blockbuster trade with Columbus.
On the downside, the Jets are 30th in expected goal-share at even strength which exposes their defensive frailties. In theory, this should play right into the Montreal Canadiens’ hands.
Domination at five on five is the Habs’ modus operandi. They tend to control the flow of play in a game. And how the Jets cope with that will dictate the outcome of the second series between these franchises. During their last meeting on Saturday, the Canadiens heavily outshot and out-chanced Winnipeg only to be beaten by a hallmark Connor Hellebuyck performance. That won’t happen every time though.
Prediction: Montreal rights the injustice of Saturday, win 4-3
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Chicago Blackhawks
Head-to-Head: Lightning 2-0 Blackhawks
An unstoppable force meets an immovable object as the league’s most prolific powerplay (Blackhawks) meets the stingiest penalty kill (Lightning).
While the billing may flatter Chicago a little bit, the Blackhawks are exceeding expectations after suffering two humiliating losses to start the season against the same opponents. Going into the year, Chicago was seen as a team on the cusp of tanking; two of their centres were out with season-ending injuries and their goaltending tandem looked like a disaster waiting to happen. But seven weeks on and the Blackhawks are fourth in the division and rolling with a 12-7-4 record.
However, looking under the hood, it is clear to see that rookie goaltender Kevin Lankinen (.924 in 15 games) is what’s keeping this team afloat. His stellar play continues to defy Chicago’s worrying five-on-five metrics. For example, the Blackhawks rank among the bottom 10 in the league in expected goals against and high danger chances conceded. That is not a recipe for sustainable success.
Conversely, the Tampa Bay Lightning continues to dominate its opponents and has won a league-leading five on the bounce. Although, like Chicago, the Bolts’ greatest asset is in the goaltending department. On Tuesday night, Andrei Vasilevskiy recorded his third consecutive shutout in the Lightning’s 2-0 win over Dallas. He has now gone 200:26 without conceding a goal. According to NHL Records, if Vasilevskiy were to produce another shutout, he would rank eighth on the all-time list for longest shutout sequences in a single NHL season. His current minutes-streak ranks 69th all-time.
Prediction: Hard to bet against Tampa Bay, Lightning wins 5-3
Florida Panthers vs Nashville Predators
Head-to-Head: Panthers 1-1 Predators
Despite losing four of their last six games, the Florida Panthers (13-4-4) are still shaping up as a playoff calibre team. Unlike the Panthers of old, this season’s incarnation has the second-best expected goals against rate in the league.
The depth scoring is also contributing to the team’s success: six Florida forwards have scored at least five goals including newcomers Carter Verhaeghe, Alexander Wennberg, and Patric Hornqvist. The former Penguins’ winger, Hornqvist, has five goals on the powerplay and is on pace to have his best scoring season since 2017-18.
Meanwhile, after a slew of player injuries, the writing is on the wall in Nashville. The Predators are currently 30th in both goals for per 60 and high danger goal share at five on five. A lot of their offensive woes centre around Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene, They have two goals between them at even strength this season. Needless to say, their combined $16 million cap-hit is looking pretty ugly right now.
Unsurprisingly, trade rumours continue to surround this team. Forwards Mikael Granlund, Filip Forsberg, and defenceman Mattias Ekholm are all on the block according to recent trade-baiting news. If the results continue to go south, it’ll only be a matter of time before the team begins to gut its corps.
Prediction: Panthers beat an understrength Predators, 4-2