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 Calgary Flames.
NHL Predictions with Carolina Hurricanes vs Calgary Flames
Boston Bruins vs Edmonton Oilers
Head-to-Head: Bruins 0 – 1 Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers are experiencing their first real slump of this season. The Oilers now have three losses in a row and have looked bland in all three. Quite frankly, their incomplete play leading up to this skid suggested that this was exactly to be expected. Edmonton has given up the first goal of the game in almost every one of their last 10-15 games, which is forcing them to play catchup. From there, the significant injuries to their defence are allowing their opponents to extend their lead, or, at least prevent the Oilers from getting sustained pressure. Lastly, add in the return of shaky goaltending and the three-game losing streak makes a lot of sense.
That sets an advantageous situation for the Boston Bruins. The Bruins, who themselves have been wildly inconsistent this year, arrive in Edmonton on a two-game losing streak. They lack a certain offensive spark this year, which is leading to them having to win low-scoring games as of late. The results have been mixed, with their most recent 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on the more disappointing end of the spectrum.
In terms of how these two teams compare, they are almost polar opposites. Edmonton scores a lot of goals per game, Boston does not. Boston tends to not give up as many goals per game, Edmonton sure does. This could be a game where Boston can shut down Edmonton, but they’ll have to do it at Rogers Place, where the Oilers are very good. That’s going to keep it close, but the Oilers have the edge in that regard.
Prediction: Oilers win 5-4 in OT
Winnipeg Jets vs Seattle Kraken
Head-to-Head: Jets 0 – 0 Kraken
Just a few weeks ago, this game would have looked lopsided in the Winnipeg Jets’ favour. Since then, over the last 10 games, the Jets have gone an ice-cold 3-6-1. It’s dropped them to sixth place in the Central Division. This is a serious rough-patch for the Jets, who have seen their overall record shrink to 12-9-4, one game below the real .500 mark. That puts Winnipeg in a tough situation as they head to Seattle for the first time in franchise history.
The Seattle Kraken aren’t necessarily world beaters, but their recent play has certainly been better than the Jets. After a tumultuous start to the season, the Kraken have now been playing .500 or slightly better hockey since. They still remain in last place in the Pacific, but they are slowly working their way out of that predicament. At this point, the playoffs still look very unlikely, but Seattle isn’t rolling over and that’s a good sign for this first-year expansion club.
One of the key things plaguing Winnipeg this year is their weak play on the road. They are a lowly 3-5-3. That;’s going to be enough to give Seattle the advantage,
Prediction: Kraken win 3-2
Minnesota Wild vs San Jose Sharks
Head-to-Head: Wild 0 – 1 Sharks
The Minnesota Wild have only had two regulation losses since November 16th. One of those came at the hand of the San Jose Sharks. Pretty much since then, the Wild have been nearly unbeatable. They are riding a seriously impressive seven-game winning streak into tonight’s game and showing no signs of slowing down.
What is so impressive about Minnesota is how they are winning games. They are diverse in doing so. They will have a game, like the one against the Oilers, where they keep the opponent to just one goal while finding a way to score three or more and keep the game completely out of reach. They’ll then pair up against the Jets and put seven on the board in an offensive romp. Or they will welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs into town and edge out a 4-3 victory with one of the league’s best teams. The Wild know how to win in several different ways.
The Sharks aren’t nearly as diverse in their talent, but they are at least a respectable 14-11-1 this season. That’s an improvement over the last couple of disappointing years. One part of the Sharks’ resurgence is the improved play of Erik Karlsson on the blue line. He is consistently playing more than 20 minutes a night this year and finding good production in those minutes. He has five points in his last five games, including four goals. The Sharks desperately needed him to find his game again, so this is a step in the right direction.
Despite Karlsson’s recent hot streak, nothing comes close to how the Wild are playing right now.
Prediction: Wild win 4-2
Dallas Stars vs Los Angeles Kings
Head-to-Head: Stars 1 – 0 Kings
These are two teams who are squarely headed in the opposite direction. The Dallas Stars have been one of the league’s best as of late, with an 8-2 record in their last 10, and one of the best defensive structures in the game. The Los Angeles Kings haven’t been anywhere near as good, with a 2-5-3 record in their last 10. At this rate, the Pacific Division basement looks well in reach for Los Angeles.
One of the more disappointing aspects for the Kings this year is the play f young netminder, Cal Petersen. He just signed a nice extension in the offseason, but so far his play hasn’t reflected that. He has a 5-5-1 record, but with a save percentage of only .893 and a goals-against average of 3.10. Those are weak numbers even for a backup, which Petersen is not supposed to be. It’s forcing Jonathan Quick to take on more of the load. That’s been fine so far, as Quick has been playing excellent, but at the age of 35, he can only handle so much.
In Dallas, Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski remain scorching hot with nine points for Pavelski in his last five, and five goals for Hintz. They’ll run the show tonight.
Prediction: Stars win 5-1
Carolina Hurricanes vs Calgary Flames
Head-to-Head: Hurricanes 0 – 0 Flames
Tonight, one of the best teams in the west takes on one of the best teams in the east in what should be a stellar matchup.
The Calgary Flames, although on a small two-game losing streak, bring to the table a defensively tight, tough checking game. It’s Sutter-style hockey that has given their opponents fits all year long. They use that tight checking ability to force mistakes and sustain long periods of offensive time. It’s clearly working. Johnny Gaudreau is having an excellent year with 29 points in 26 games, while Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk aren’t too far behind. Pair that with Vezina-calibre goaltending from Jacob Markstrom, and this team’s 15-6-5 record looks well-deserved.
The Carolina Hurricanes, on the other hand, don’t have quite the level of the defensive game that Calgary does. What they do have is a laundry list of dynamic, skilled players up and down their entire lineup. This high level of skill and creativity is what drives the ‘Canes motor and similar to Calgary leads to dominant possession metrics and major advantages in scoring chances. Sebastian Aho has seven points in his last five games as the leader of this truly entertaining brand of Carolina hockey.
In terms of offensive/defensive output, as well as special teams, these squads match up close to neck and neck. This game should be close enough to go to overtime, but Lindholm pushes them ahead in a big moment against his former team.
Prediction: Flames win 4-3 in OT
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