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 Rangers vs Florida Panthers.
NHL Predictions: December 29th Including New York Rangers vs Florida Panthers
After a long delay in games due to COVID-19, the NHL is finally back. While all of the games might not be going forward, the featured matchup of the New York Rangers vs Florida Panthers is set to.
New Jersey Devils vs Buffalo Sabres
Head-to-Head: New Jersey 1-0 Buffalo
These two teams first met back on October 23rd when the Devils pulled off a 2-1 win in overtime. This was the debut game of young goaltender Nico Daws, who has been up and down between the AHL this season.
Since this game, both of these teams have seen brief moments of hope. The keyword is brief. Both teams sit at 10-15-5 on the season, and neither are likely to make any sort of legitimate challenge at making the postseason either.
While there are individual players to watch that can give excitement, this game doesn’t look to be too exciting for neutrals.
Prediction: Buffalo wins 4-3
Nashville Predators vs Washington Capitals
Head-to-Head: Nashville 0-0 Washington
In their first meeting of the season, Nashville travels to Washington to take on the Capitals. Both of these teams are having good seasons respectively, with Nashville sitting at 19-10-1 and Washington at 18-6-7.
The success of Nashville this season is in large part due to the play of goaltender Juuse Saros. Saros is 15-8-1 on the season with a 2.22 GAA and a save percentage of .924 to boot. This is not at all to discredit the players in front of him. Roman Josi is, as usual, having himself a great season and both Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene are seeing a revival season.
For Washington, it is pretty plain to see who is stealing the show – Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin continues to pump out goals and points for fun. Ovechkin 22 goals on the season and 47 points, good for second and third respectively in the NHL.
While Saros has performed to a high level, it is going to be hard to deny the greatness of Ovechkin.
Prediction: Washington wins 3-2
New York Rangers vs Florida Panthers
Head-to-Head: New York 1-0 Florida
For the featured matchup of the day, we have the New York Rangers vs Florida Panthers. Much like their meeting on November 8th, where the Rangers won 4-3, this should be quite an exciting game to watch.
This game sees one of the best offences in the NHL in Florida (3.55 GF/GP, 3rd) take on one of the best defences in New York (2.53 GA/GP). This should equate to a tight matchup, with this game almost certainly going to be decided by one goal.
One of the factors that should bolster New York is that Igor Shesterkin is off the IR list and looks to make his return in this game. Shesterkin hasn’t played since December 3rd in a 19-save shutout against the San Jose Sharks. If New York stands a chance here, it will be with the Russian netminder between the pipes.
On the other end of the ice, Florida looks set to start a Russian in net of their own in Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky has proven that the $10 million AAV he is earning is not a waste this season. He has a 12-3-2 record this season thanks to a 2.47 GAA and one of the best scoring teams in the league in front of him.
This should be a fun matchup to watch solely for the goalie battle. On top of that, it is always a delight to watch talent like Jonathan Huberdeau (10-23-33, 29 games) and Adam Fox (5-26-31, 30 games).
Prediction: Florida wins 4-3