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 Anaheim Ducks vs Colorado Avalanche.
NHL Predictions: January 2nd Including Anaheim Ducks vs Colorado Avalanche
Winnipeg Jets vs Vegas Golden Knights
Head-to-Head: Winnipeg 0-0 Vegas
Both of these teams started off the season on a note of relative disappointment. The major difference is that Winnipeg is still well below expectations and the Golden Knights continue to look better each game.
For Vegas, they have been on a bit of a hot streak as of late, going 8-2-0 in the last 10 games, winning the last two respectively. They are employing a method of high scoring first, defence second. This is showcased by the fact that they’re scoring 3.53 goals per game, good for fourth in the NHL, and allowing 3.00 per game, 19th in the league.
As for Winnipeg, this has been a season of poor play and disappointment thus far. They currently sit at 14-11-5, good for fifth in the Central Division. This puts them firmly outside the playoff picture at the moment. They have relied heavily on Kyle Connor (18-14-32, 30 games) and Pierre-Luc Dubois (14-11-25, 30 games) so far, but if they want to win this game they are going to need more from the supporting cast.
This could very well be a game decided by special teams play. There is a clear advantage for Vegas in that department.
Prediction: Vegas wins 4-3
Calgary Flames vs Chicago Blackhawks
Head-to-Head: Calgary 1-0 Chicago
This one should be a safe bet, at least on paper. Chicago is in the second half of a back-to-back. One in which they got smacked by the Nashville Predators 6-1 in the first game. To add insult to injury, it is highly unlikely that the Blackhawks will be getting Marc-Andre Fleury back for this one either.
When you take a look at the other end of the ice, Calgary has gotten some fantastic play in between the pipes from Jacob Markstrom this season, who is currently 11-6-5 on the season with a .929 save percentage, 2.03 GAA, and five shutouts to boot. If he can get some goal support from the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, who has 12 on the year and three in the last five, and Andrew Mangiapane, who has 18 goals on the season, they should win this one comfortably.
Prediction: Calgary wins 5-1
Anaheim Ducks vs Colorado Avalanche
Head-to-Head: Anaheim 0-1 Colorado
For the featured matchup of the day, it is the Anaheim Ducks vs Colorado Avalanche. This game features two teams well in the playoff picture. The Ducks have exceeded virtually every expectation so far this season. Many saw them as bottom dwellers prior to the first puck drop. As for Colorado, despite a subpar start, they are in a wild card spot and have gone 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.
There are plenty of storylines to watch in this one, but the one to watch is the goalie matchup. Ducks netminder John Gibson has picked up where he always leaves off this season and is carrying a fair bit of weight of their success. Gibson has gone 11-8-6 so far this season and is sporting a .915 save percentage, despite being peppered by opposition on a regular basis.
On the other end of the ice, Colorado has seen a substantial increase in the quality of play from netminder Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper has won his last four starts and nine of his last 10, despite the 2.77 GAA even. Unlike Gibson, Kuemper gets plenty of goal support, with the Avalanche averaging 4.22 GF/GP, the best in the league.
If Anaheim hopes to pull out two points from this game, they are going to have to do two things. First, keep Colorado from shooting 40-plus times. Second, give Gibson a bit of support. Both of these happening in this game seems unlikely, so this leans this game decidedly in Colorado’s favour.
Prediction: Colorado wins 4-2