Welcome back to NHL Predictions, April 30th edition! Each day, the Last Word On Hockey team will break down every game and give our NHL predictions for each. This is the first set of games featuring the Winnipeg Jets vs Montreal Canadiens. Be sure and check out the second set of NHL Predictions, too.
NHL Predictions Feat Winnipeg Jets vs Montreal Canadiens
Winnipeg Jets vs Montreal Canadiens
Head-to-Head: Jets 6 – 2 Canadiens
Montreal is currently treading water and beckoning the Calgary Flames to make the North Division stretch run a little intriguing. The Canadiens have gone 6-10-0 and scored only 33 goals (29th in GF/60) in the regular season’s penultimate month.
To make matters worse, they are losing bodies rapidly to injury; in Wednesday’s loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Habs were without Carey Price, Brendan Gallagher, Jonathan Drouin, Tomas Tatar and Paul Byron. Both Gallagher and Drouin won’t be returning for the regular season and it is unclear when Carey Price will be ready to play following his concussion. Luckily Jake Allen has filled in as the first-choice netminder admirably, going with a .911 save percentage in his last 12 games.
Similarly, the Jets are limping their way towards a postseason berth which, unlike the Canadiens, is practically a foregone conclusion. They will need to shirk their current funk if they are to enter the playoffs with any kind of confidence.
Winnipeg has lost five on the bounce and worse still has dropped six in a row to their likeliest playoff opponent, the Edmonton Oilers. Needless to say, a positive result is desperately needed in order to boost the group’s morale.
Among the biggest issues plaguing them of late is goal-scoring. Paul Maurice’s team has managed only six goals in its last five games. Of course, Nikolaj Ehlers‘ recent injury, which has sidelined him for the remainder of the regular season, has complicated matters. But there should be enough ability on the roster to make up for that loss.
On the bright side, Winnipeg has begun to improve (ever-so-slightly) at limiting shot volume. Their five-on-five unblocked shots against rate in their most recent loss to the Oilers (33.8 per 60) was among their top 10 performances in that particular metric in 2020-21.
Prediction: Jets win 4-3
San Jose Sharks vs Colorado Avalanche
Head-to-Head: Sharks 1 – 3 Avalanche
This week, the Sharks got to play spoiler to the Arizona Coyotes‘ postseason aspirations by sweeping them in a two-game home series after their own playoff hopes were dashed by an eight-game losing streak.
Consequently, with merely dead rubber games to go, head coach Bob Boughner is formulating long-term plans on how this roster is going to look, particularly moving into the 2021-22 season.
As a result, San Jose has started goaltending prospect Josef Korenar in back-to-back games where he posted his first plus .900 starter’s performance at the fourth attempt. It is believed that the Sharks are also planning on starting their other goaltending prospect, Alexei Melnichuk in at least one of their remaining games.
Offensively, new recruit Alexander Barabanov has registered points in his first two games in teal. He scored a goal and an assist in the Coyotes series, playing on the first line. The Sharks acquired Barabanov at the trade deadline in a forward swap with the Leafs.
Meanwhile, the Avalanche are in the midst of their longest slump of this season. Their current three-game losing streak has seen them slip six points back of the first placed Vegas Golden Knights in the West.
Injuries are what’s ailing them, after Mikko Rantanen and Brandon Saad went down in consecutive days and Philipp Grubauer was put on the COVID protocol in mid-April. His absence, in particular, has been sorely felt. During Colorado’s losing streak, goaltending has been sub .870 save percentage for all three games, which is abysmal. Jared Bednar is hopeful of getting Grubauer and Rantanen back for Friday’s game. That tilts the ice firmly in the Avalanche’s favour for a bounceback.*
Prediction: Avalanche rebound from the slump and win 4-2
*Avalanche injury update is courtesy of Peter Baugh of The Athletic.