Welcome back to another day of NHL Predictions. Each day, Last Word on Hockey takes a look at the games that are happening and gives our predictions for each one. Breaking down head-to-head and other factors that may play in. We also have a featured game of the day, which is considered must-watch TV. Today’s featured game is the Calgary Flames vs Toronto Maple Leafs.
NHL Predictions with Calgary Flames vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Edmonton Oilers vs Buffalo Sabres
Head-to-Head: Oilers 0 – 0 Sabres
This game will mark the second match of a five-game road trip for the Edmonton Oilers. It is the second of a back-to-back, with the Oilers having played in Boston last night. They’ll match up against a Buffalo Sabres team that started surprisingly good, but who have fallen back to earth a bit recently. The Sabres, however, have been very good at home so far this season. They have a 4-1-1 home record, compared to a ghastly 1-4-1 on the road. Matchups matter when it comes to the Sabres.
They’ll have their work cut out for them against the league’s best offence. As of November 11th, the Oilers are rocking a Goals For an average of 4.18, good for first in the league. Both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl continue to hum along at a terrifying pace and their efforts on the power play have the unit operating close to 50%. To counter, the Sabres will continue to lean on Rasmus Asplund, who has been their offensive leader. He has 10 points in 12 games, with possession metrics north of 50%, which are relatively excellent compared to his teammates.
The Sabres may have the goaltending advantage, as the Oilers will likely start Stuart Skinner on the back-to-back, but they just won’t have the firepower to pull even. This one should be high-scoring with an Oilers win at the end of it.
Prediction: Oilers win 6-4
Philadelphia Flyers vs Carolina Hurricanes
Head-to-Head: Flyers 0 – 0 Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday, to the Florida Panthers. They immediately responded with a tightly-contested 2-1 OT win over the defending Stanley Cup Champions on Tuesday. In that game, the Hurricanes outshot the Lightning 31-18, with Andrei Vasilevskiy being the key reason why the game even made it to overtime. The Hurricanes are clearly no worse for wear after their season’s first hiccup.
Tonight, they’ll face-off against the 6-3-2 Philadelphia Flyers. Admittedly, the Flyers are a tricky team to figure out this year. They have a record that’s above .500, a +4 goal differential, their goaltending has been great, and they’ve shown an ability to win at home and on the road. Yet, when you look at the advanced numbers, the Flyers are pretty much in the basement. This is especially true for expected goals at even strength, as they have a mark of 43.8%. That’s fourth-worst in the league, according to Money Puck.
So far, it looks like the Flyers might have a record that’s better than their team, thanks in large part to strong goaltending. Unfortunately for them, that probably won’t be enough against the Hurricanes. The ‘Canes have the edge in special teams, goal-scoring, defending, and even Frederik Andersen has been all-world. This game has Hurricanes victory written all over it.
Prediction: Hurricanes win 4-1
Washington Capitals vs Columbus Blue Jackets
Head-to-Head: Capitals 0 – 0 Blue Jackets
Why is it that the Columbus Blue Jackets so often find a way to perform above expectations? Heading into this season, most people had the team pegged closer to the bottom of the standings. That could certainly still be the case, but 10 games in and the Jackets are sitting at a respectable 7-3. That’s good enough for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. They also have a +4 goal differential and a wicked 5-1 record at home. They are getting balanced scoring right now, with three players at or better than a point per game pace. In net, Elvis Merzlikins has been sensational with a 5-1 record, a 1.98 goals-against average, and a save percentage of .940. Oh yeah, and they just beat the Colorado Avalanche two games in a row, extending their winning streak to three.
The Capitals, on the other hand, are a team that most people expected to be good. And they have been, for the most part. Their record of 6-2-4 isn’t anything to write home about, but that is probably more of a reflection of poor luck than anything. The Capitals have a +10 goal differential and are fourth in the league in terms of expected even-strength goals percentage at 55.89%. Alex Ovechkin continues to age like he has exclusive access to the fountain of youth, and rookie Connor McMichael is starting to find his stride with three points in his last three games.
The smart money is on the Capitals here, but the Blue Jackets have looked impressive as of late. Pair that with the fact that they will be well-rested not having played since Saturday, whereas the Capitals are on the second half of a back-to-back, and we might just have the recipe for an upset here.
Prediction: Blue Jackets win 3-2
Arizona Coyotes vs Chicago Blackhawks
Head-to-Head: Coyotes 0 – 0 Blackhawks
The battle for the basement of the Central Division kicks off tonight with a game between its two worst teams. Recently, the Blackhawks have at least tried to put together something resembling progress. They enter the game on a two-game winning streak, having beaten the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators earlier this week. Neither of those teams is what we would call excellent, but wins are wins, and it is at least a modicum of momentum for the team to latch onto.
The Coyotes, however, are about as close to a flat-line as you can get. Their 1-11-1 record is the worst in the league with a bullet, and their -33 goal differential is 13 worst than the next team. This, of course, is by the design of Coyotes management. The end goal of prospects, picks, and future success may one day be worth it, but right now all it means is plenty of painful hockey for Arizona.
This game will be one only a mother can love, and luckily for the Blackhawks, it’s against one of the very few teams that have been worse than them this year. They should be able to keep their momentum going with another win at home. Maybe shield your eyes during the highlights of this one on Sportscentre.
Prediction: Blackhawks win 3-0
Calgary Flames vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Tonight’s featured game is an all-Canadian matchup, featuring a surprisingly good Calgary Flames team versus a red-hot Toronto Maple Leaf’s squad.
When the season started, no one was really sure what the Darryl Sutter reunion would look like in Calgary. So far, it’s looking pretty darn good. The Flames are playing traditional Sutter-hockey, which is to say they are defensively excellent. They are second best in the league in terms of goals against, and even their offence has been top ten, scoring 3.42 goals per game. This combination has Calgary well north of 50& in terms of scoring chances, high danger chances, and possession. They are also being lead by one of the best lines in hockey. The trio of Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk, and Johnny Gaudreau have exploded off the gates, and combined for 39 points in 12 games.
Although the Flames will serve up a tough challenge, the Leafs are no slouches either. After a rocky start to the season, the ship has corrected and Toronto has now won six of their last seven. Their offence is still prone to the occasional quiet night and that is a concern against a defensive stalwart, especially if John Tavares sits out the game with an injury. Tavares is tied for the team lead in goals with seven. If he doesn’t dress, the goal-scoring pressure will shift heavily to Auston Matthews and William Nylander, who both have scored four goals in their last five games. They’ll need to find a way to get Calgary out of rhythm and take advantage of a goaltending mismatch.
This game is a pretty close one to call. Tavares sitting out would normally give an edge to Calgary, but there are two important factors to consider. One is that the Flames are playing on a back-to-back, which doesn’t help them. The other is that because of the back-to-back, Calgary will likely dress Dan Vladar in goal – or they will attempt to double-start Jacob Markstrom. In either scenario, Toronto has the advantage with the excellent Jack Campbell between the pipes.
Prediction: Maple Leafs win 3-2 in OT