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 Philadelphia Flyers vs Florida Panthers.
NHL Predictions with Philadelphia Flyers vs Florida Panthers
Winnipeg Jets vs Columbus Blue Jackets
Head-to-Head: Jets 0 – 0 Blue Jackets
The Winnipeg Jets enter tonight’s game in a bit of a dip. They’ve lost three in a row, scoring only four goals combined in those games. They now have to hit the road and face a Columbus Blue Jackets team that has been surprisingly good at home. The Blue Jackets have a 6-3 record at Nationwide Arena and are 3-1 in their last four overall. They are fresh off the heels of a 7-4 drubbing of the Buffalo Sabres and have scored 18 goals in those four games. In terms of recent performances, these two squads are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
On paper, it’d be easy to pick the Jets to win. They have the higher power offence, their defence is quite good at suppressing scoring chances, and they have one of the best goaltenders in the world in Connor Hellebuyck. Looking at the standings though, these teams have similar goal differentials, and the Blue Jackets actually have the edge in terms of win and points percentage. Not only that, but the Jets haven’t been very good on the road with a weak 2-3-3 record.
The Blue Jackets are likely the underdog, but they should have enough to get the win.
Prediction: Blue Jackets win 4-3 (OT)
Montreal Canadiens vs Washington Capitals
Head-to-Head: Canadiens 0 – 0 Capitals
If you’re not watching the schedule to try and spotlight great matchups for Alex Ovechkin, you’re missing out. Tonight, thankfully, is one of those nights. The very good Washington Capitals face the very bad Montreal Canadiens and this game screams opportunity for Ovechkin to add to his historic goal total. Yeah, yeah, yeah, points, wins, playoff positioning, etc. That’s all fine and dandy, but let’s be real. The Capitals are easily making the playoffs and the Canadiens are not. Forgive those of us who then turn our attention to one of the best storylines in the NHL instead. Ovechkin’s quest for goal-scoring supremacy is great and this is a game where he should be able to make some hay. Look for him to score a hat trick tonight.
Here are some numbers. The Canadiens are 29th in league standings with a 5-13-2 record. Their goal differential is a staggering -26. They sit 29th in the league in terms of goals against, averaging 3.5 per game. Their offence can’t keep up, also sitting 29th with only 2.2 goals per game. The Capitals, however, score 3.37 goals per game while only allowing 2.32. That’s good for the sixth and fourth-best totals in the league respectively.
Historically, Ovechkin has also scored 33 goals in 50 games against the Canadiens. That’s one of his best goals per game rates against any opponent.
This one has mismatch written all over it but is worth a watch to see what the Great 8 can do.
Prediction: Capitals win 6-2
Vancouver Canucks vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Head-to-Head: Canucks 0 – 0 Penguins
What is going on in Vancouver? Jim Benning’s offseason moves weren’t universally loved by any means, but they did add some legitimate NHLers to a team that needed them. They should be better than they were last year when they actually finished behind the rebuilding Ottawa Senators. Yet, this season, they are actually a tad behind that miserable pace. They are in the lower third of the league (and in some cases right at the bottom) in all of the following: expected goals percentage, powerplay, penalty kill, goals for per game, and goals against per game. Those stats have earned them a 3-6-1 record in their last 10. Jim Benning was right when he called this squad a “fragile team”.
If the Canucks are fragile, the Pittsburgh Penguins are incredibly resilient. Despite injuries and covid issues to some of their best players, the Penguins remain in a wild card spot. Their 8-6-4 record isn’t excellent, but they are on a three-game winning streak. They are league average in a lot of metrics, but they’ll take it when all of Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, and Evgeni Malkin have all missed as much time as they have. In their absence, Jake Guentzel has been excellent. He has 15 points in 17 games, including six in his last five.
There’s no reason to suspect that the Canucks can turn it around on the road in Pittsburgh. If they suffer an ugly loss, will big changes finally arrive in Vancouver?
Prediction: Penguins win 3-1
Minnesota Wild vs New Jersey Devils
Head-to-Head: Wild 0 – 0 Devils
Darn, what a shame. Despite the New Jersey Devils revealing their new alternate jerseys on Tuesday, they won’t be worn this evening. That debut won’t happen until December 8th, but this is still an intriguing game nonetheless. The New Jersey Devils, still on the rise in their goal of becoming a contender, are in the midst of a slugfest for wild card positioning in the East. Out in the West, the Minnesota Wild are grasping to first place in the Central, with the Jets, St. Louis Blues, and Colorado Avalanche hot on their heels.
Each team has something to play for. That makes this late November game between two squads in separate conferences a bit more meaningful. Plus, it’s not like this is a game between the early 2000s version of either franchise. There is actually some high-flying talent involved on both ends. Kirill Kaprizov is sitting at a point per game with 18 in 18 and will look to keep that pace up for the Wild. The Devils will counter with superstar defenceman Dougie Hamilton, who has three goals in his last five games.
It should be a close, exciting game, but the Wild have the better record, special teams, and overall game.
Prediction: Wild win 4-2
Philadelphia Flyers vs Florida Panthers
Head-to-Head: Flyers 0 – 1 Panthers
The last time these teams met up, about a month ago, the undefeated Panthers beat a curious Flyers team to open the season at 5-0.
Fast forward to today and both teams find themselves in similar situations. The Panthers are still the top team in the Atlantic with a record of 13-2-3, three wins in a row, and a whopping goal differential of +24. The Flyers, however, are sort of middling about, still trying to figure out exactly who they are. As of the afternoon of November 23, they have a record of 8-5-3 and sit just outside a wild card spot.
For the Flyers, their goaltending continues to be a major success story. Carter Hart has been brilliant with a sparkling .932 save percentage and 2.25 goals-against average. According to Money Puck, he is the fourth-best in the league in terms of goals saved above expected. He is the biggest reason why the Flyers have the record that they do. Philadelphia’s offence has struggled to score, while the team as a whole is south of 50% in most possession metrics.
The Panthers, on the other hand, are tanks. They have a top-five offence and defence while being led by Aaron Ekblad who is having a Norris-calibre season. Ekblad’s play can’t be understated. He is having the best season of his career so far, averaging over 25 minutes of ice-time a night, and rocking an on-ice goal differential of 34-17 (all strengths). Simply outstanding.
The Panthers are just too good right now to go against. Plus, the Flyers are on the second half of a back-to-back, and Florida’s goaltending is as good, if not better than the Flyers.
Prediction: Panthers win 3-0
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