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 Carolina Hurricanes vs Dallas Stars.
NHL Predictions With Carolina Hurricanes vs Dallas Stars
Columbus Blue Jackets vs Nashville Predators
Head-to-Head: Blue Jackets 0 – 0 Predators
These two teams are a rather surprisingly interesting matchup. Although both of them find themselves in the thick of their respective wild card races, their record and underlying numbers have different stories to tell.
On paper, the Blue Jackets are the superior team with a respectable 12-7 record and a +8 goal differential to back it up. The Predators, however, have a less impressive 11-9-1 record with an underwhelming -5 goal differential. The strange part is that in terms of underlying numbers, such as expected goals, the Predators are actually performing a tiny bit better than Blue Jackets, with a 48.8% total, compared to the Jacket’s 48.15%.
So, what’s the difference? In this case, it looks like goaltending is what’s separating the two. Elvis Merzlikins has been excellent for the Blue Jackets with a .929 save percentage. According to Money Puck, he has been a top 10 goalie in the league in terms of goals saved above expected. Those strong numbers have earned his team nine wins in 12 games. In Nashville, Jusse Saros hasn’t been quite as consistent.
The goaltending edge could be the difference in this game, but Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene have both been great as of late. Johansen has eight points in his last five games, while Duchene has four goals in his last five. That’s going to match up while against the Blue Jackets, who give up the third most shots against per game in the league.
Prediction: Predators win 2-1
Tampa Bay Lightning vs St. Louis Blues
Head-to-Head: Lightning 0 – 0 Blues
Here we have another interconference matchup. Both of these teams are a bit better than the last two, though. The Tampa Bay Lightning have been rolling as of late, with a 7-2-1 record in their last 10. After an inconsistent start to the season, Tampa Bay has woken up and now looks like the defending Stanley Cup Champions that they should be. With their game now found, they’ll have their sights set on jumping that gap and earning home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
The St. Louis Blues have had an opposite start to the season. After starting strongly, things haven’t been quite as good of late. They are only 3-5-2 in their last 10, which has lowered their overall record to 11-7-3. This is more than likely just a slump that the team will overcome, and the tide may have already started to turn on Saturday when the Blues beat the Blue Jackets 6-3.
This should be a close contest. The Blues are at home, where they have been very good, but the Lightning are 5-2-1 on the road. Their special team’s matchup well. Even their offensive and defensive output, in terms of per-game rates, are virtually identical. In this case, we go with the team that has been better of late and who will sport an advantage in net with Andrei Vasilevsky. He has two shutouts in his last three games.
Prediction: Lighting win 4-3 in OT
Arizona Coyotes vs Minnesota Wild
Head-to-Head: Coyotes 0 – 1 Wild
The Minnesota Wild hit this game as the -370 favourites, according to Vegas. That is… uh… a bit of a mismatch. The struggling Arizona Coyotes are close to the bottom of the league in nearly every single unit of measurement, with only four wins on the season. Only the lowly Ottawa Senators have fewer points than them, but that will almost certainly change by season-end.
The Wild, on the other hand, are one of the best teams in hockey. They have a 14-6-1 record, a tidy +14 goal differential, and find themselves on a three-game winning streak. Kirill Kaprizov has been sensational for Minnesota and he enters tonight’s game with eight points in his last five. He must be salivating at the opportunity to crack open one of the league’s worst teams with his brilliantly creative offence.
This isn’t one to overthink. The Wild win this one in a romp and continue their quest for the Central Division crown.
Prediction: Wild win 5-1
Anaheim Ducks vs Los Angeles Kings
Head-to-Head: Ducks 0 – 0 Kings
The battle of SoCal kicks off tonight with the first matchup of the season between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. If this game had taken place even just a couple of short weeks ago, we would be talking about a premiere game. Alas, both teams have started to falter a bit since then, the Kings especially so. After rattling off a seven-game winning streak that extended into early November, Los Angeles has spun around and lost five of their last six.
The Ducks have held a bit steadier, still clinging to third in the Pacific. Like the Kings, they are also in a dip having lost four of their last five. Despite that, Anaheim does still have wins over the likes of the New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues, Seattle Kraken, and Washington Capitals this month. It’s increasingly difficult to determine if this team is an actual playoff contender or if the wheels are set to fall off. If they can secure a win against their biggest rival, maybe that helps answer the question.
After a scorching start to the season, Troy Terry has only two points in his last five games. This is a rope opportunity to kick things into gear and if he does, that’ll be enough to outscore the Kings’ weak offence.
Prediction: Ducks win 3-1
Carolina Hurricanes vs Dallas Stars
Head-to-Head: Hurricanes 0 – 0 Stars
It’s quite an accomplishment when a team can go 6-3-1 in their last 10 games and have that be considered as “cooling down”. That’s just simply how good the Carolina Hurricanes have been this season. They still lead the league in points percentage at .775 but have been shuffled out of first place in the Metropolitan by the surging Washington Capitals. In fact, even the New York Rangers now sit only two points back of the Hurricanes, with the same number of games played. It goes to show that as great as the Hurricanes have been, competition is always right at their heels in this league. They’ll undoubtedly be hungry to get back in the win column tonight.
For the Hurricanes, this matchup isn’t going to be as easy as it would have appeared earlier this month. The Dallas Stars, who looked totally dead in the water not too long ago, now find themselves on a four-game winning streak. They’ll be playing at home where they are a stellar 6-2-1. In last week’s game against the Edmonton Oilers, the Stars showed that they are capable of completely smothering high-powered offences. They’ll need to channel that same energy against the Hurricanes’ fast, dynamic firepower.
Another interesting factor is a potential Covid issue emerging for Carolina. Both Brett Pesce and Tony DeAngelo entered Covid protocol yesterday and will not be in the lineup this evening. Those players are both big-time contributors to the ‘Canes and their absences will sting. The Stars have shown an ability to play shutdown hockey, and they’ll take advantage of this opportunity.
Prediction: Stars win 4-2