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 New York Islanders vs Florida Panthers.
NHL Predictions with New York Islanders vs Florida Panthers
Calgary Flames vs Philadelphia Flyers
Head-to-Head: Flames 1 – 0 Flyers
The Flyers and Flames wrap up their season series tonight in Philadelphia. The Flames shut them out 4-0 earlier this season at home. Jacob Markstrom posted his second of four early season shutouts that night, in what is shaping up to be a career-best year for the goaltender. Johnny Gaudreau currently has a point-per-game through 15 games, yet Elias Lindholm leads the team with 16 points (eight goals, eight assists).
At the other end, Carter Hart looks significantly better than he did in his sophomore campaign a year ago. Cam Atkinson leads the forwards with six goals, while Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier both racked up 12 points in just 13 games. These two squads are playing really good hockey right now, so this could be quite an explosive affair. Look for the Flyers to get even from their previous loss.
Buffalo Sabres vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Head-to-Head: Sabres 0 – 0 Penguins
Buffalo continues turning heads this year, surprising many with how competitive their roster turned out. They did suffer through a 0-4-1 stretch recently, but maintain a respectable record overall. For a team projected to finish at or near the bottom of the league, their performance ranks far better than expected. Plus, Craig Anderson carrying a .921 save percentage with a 4-2-0 record has to be one of the top feel-good stories of the season so far.
That being said, the NHL season is not a short one. The Penguins look good as well, especially without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Former-Sabre Evan Rodrigues paces the team with six goals thus far, interestingly enough. They have the edge in depth, talent, leadership, playoff experience…most categories. Even though they’re playing well, Buffalo still really isn’t a team to put your money on.
Prediction: Penguins win 3-2 OT
Nashville Predators vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Head-to-Head: Predators 0 – 0 Maple Leafs
These teams won’t see one another again until near the very end of the 2021-22 season. The Predators, without a doubt, came out of the gates far hotter than anyone anticipated. Many wrote them off in a strong Central Division, but with a winning record thus far, they’re not following those predictions. A lot of that stems from Juuse Saros, thriving in his first season as their bonafide starting goaltender. He carries a .927 save percentage and 2.17 GAA to date.
The most heavily scrutinized franchise in the NHL, Toronto started poorly but looks great as of late. They rattled off five consecutive wins to offset an early 2-4-1 start, and sit just two points back of the Panthers now. They’re the home squad tonight, and should have the edge over the Preds. Though none of their stars have run away in the scoring race, Mitch Marner has six points in his last five games. The group as a whole finds ways to win games more often than not. Both teams come in on a three-game winning streak, but Toronto likely leaves with a fourth victory.
Prediction: Leafs win 5-3
New York Islanders vs Florida Panthers
Head-to-Head: Islanders 0 – 1 Panthers
Prior to tonight’s game, both the Islanders and Panthers squared off with the Tampa Bay Lightning most recently. The Isles played Tampa just last night, while Florida did so three days ago. Obviously the Panthers should have the advantage in terms of rested bodies. Plus, Florida took the first matchup of the year against the Islanders by a score of 5-1.
Florida started 10-0-1, a franchise-best season opening stretch. The Islanders expect to be a playoff team, but haven’t yet had the expected results. Both squads have a few losses in their last handful of games. So, both want to get back in the win column. Even in their losses, Florida really looks like one of the best teams in the entire league this year.
The one thing working in New York’s favour: the Panthers current skid. They’ve dropped four straight, though the last two came in overtime. Even then, though, the team looks solid. With Sergei Bobrovsky playing like his old, Vezina-winning self, there just aren’t any weaknesses on this roster. Aleksander Barkov remains one of the best players in the world, Anthony Duclair looks determined to make this the best statistical year of his career, and Aaron Ekblad hasn’t missed a beat since breaking his leg last season. They’re deadly on both sides of the puck, while New York depends on their system play. Florida should be able to break through that (again), and then some.
Prediction: Panthers win 3-0