Welcome back to NHL Predictions, March 24th edition! Each day, the Last Word On Hockey team will break down every game and give our NHL predictions for each. This is the late slate of NHL Predictions for March 24th, so be sure to check out the early game predictions as well.
NHL Predictions: Winnipeg Jets vs Vancouver Canucks
Buffalo Sabres vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Head-to-Head: Sabres 0 – 2 Penguins
The Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins are playing their first game of a back-to-back series. The Sabres are a wreck in every way. They recently fired head coach Ralph Krueger to help slow the bleeding, but the wound is still large. Jack Eichel is out for an extended period along with every goaltender the Sabres have on their roster outside Jonas Johansson, who was traded to the Colorado Avalanche. Jeff Skinner is still underperforming, Rasmus Dahlin is still of concern, and the team as a whole is rocking with a 14-game losing streak. Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson have been some lone bright spots on the Sabres, even though their production hasn’t been anything to rave about either.
The Penguins, on the other hand, are playing very well. Despite an overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils on Sunday, they’re 7-2-1 in their last ten games, with Sidney Crosby leading the way per usual. The Penguins captain has had a fantastic year, which is a real treat for hockey fans of all respects. Crosby and his partner in crime, Jake Guentzel, both have totalled 30 or more points, the only two on the roster to reach that plateau thus far. Tristan Jarry has had a resurgence despite a languid start and has been an enormous help in the strong record recently.
Prediction: Penguins win 5-2
Winnipeg Jets vs Vancouver Canucks
Head-to-Head: Jets 4 – 2 Canucks
Our featured matchup of the night, the Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks have met a fair amount of times this season. Connor Hellebuyck has been his usual self, despite not being exactly the level he was at last season. He is currently 14th in the league in goals saved above expected (GSAx) per Evolving-Hockey. Meanwhile, Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, and Blake Wheeler have been continuously producing upfront for this Jets team, which has propelled them to third in the North Division, down two points with two games in hand second-place team, the Edmonton Oilers. The Jets are a team to watch moving forward.
As for the Canucks, Elias Pettersson is still out. However, with JT Miller back and Thatcher Demko putting up a Vezina trophy level campaign over a short span, the Canucks are within playoff reach. They’re two points out of a spot in the North Division. However, the next place team, the Montreal Canadiens, has five games in hand on the young team. Rookie Nils Hoglander is putting up a good rookie year. He is considered by most to be a top-five candidate for the Calder trophy. Look for this match to be a battle of goaltenders with very little defence.
Prediction: Canucks win 5-4
Los Angeles Kings vs San Jose Sharks
Head-to-Head: Kings 1 – 2 Sharks
The Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks have been in an exciting feud as of their last match. Depth forward and noted agitator Kurtis Gabriel got into a bit of an altercation with Kurtis MacDermid. MacDermid went over the center ice line, and Gabriel cross-checked him in the back. This led to a fight between two later in the game, and they did not disappoint throwing haymakers left and right. The above-average goaltending from Calvin Petersen has helped the Kings out. They’re also getting contributions from Anze Kopitar, their consistent and robust two-way center. Dustin Brown has also chipped in with 14 goals, with the next closest being Adrian Kempe at 11. They’re currently sixth in the West standings, despite being in a playoff spot only a couple of weeks ago.
The Sharks were never close to a playoff spot. They’ve been a reasonably consistent team on the losing end of the spectrum. Captain Logan Couture has been producing despite the lacklustre performance from a lot of his teammates. He has 14 goals, which leads the entire Sharks team. Evander Kane has also been a top contributor, leading the Sharks in assists and points. The tandem of Martin Jones and Devan Dubnyk has not lived up to the expectations of Sharks management, posting .897 and .899 save percentages, respectively. A team with not-so-good production on the front end, underwhelming production on the backend, and poor results in goal is doomed from the start.
Prediction: Kings win 3-1
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