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 Minnesota Wild vs Boston Bruins. Be sure to check out our late predictions as well.
NHL Predictions With Minnesota Wild vs Boston Bruins
Minnesota Wild vs Boston Bruins
Head-to-Head: Wild 0-0 Bruins
Make it three straight wins for the Boston Bruins and an impressive 6-2-2 record in their last 10. They’ve sprung out of the Christmas break with a bounce in their step and now look more than capable of holding their own in the East’s wild card race. Charlie McAvoy has been exceptional this season and continues to step it up as of late. He’s played over 24 minutes in two of the last three games and has five points to show over that stretch. He’ll be a massive factor in tonight’s tilt.
The Minnesota Wild has been a bit quieter recently. They’ve dropped five in a row and now find themselves fourth in the Central Division. This is still a strong team, but with the Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, and Colorado Avalanche surging, the Wild have their work cut out for them. Kaapo Kahkonen will get his first start since December 11th, in place of the injured Cam Talbot. Kahkonen has a .906 save percentage and 2.67 goals-against average this season.
The Bruins’ offence has been rolling as of late and that will translate to a win against a slumping Wild team.
Prediction: Bruins win 4-3
San Jose Sharks vs Buffalo Sabres
Head-to-Head: Sharks 1-0 Sabres
One of the more curious cases of the Pacific Division this season is the identity of the San Jose Sharks. What is the true quality of this team? At times, they’ve shown flashes of quality play with wins over significant teams. At other times, like recently, they’ve looked defensively porous and vulnerable. Take for example their last five games. In total, they have given up 28 goals in those games, with only two wins, both of which came in overtime. This chaotic play has bled their goal differential to a lowly minus 12, which likely demonstrates the true quality of this team more than their .500 record.
The good news for the Sharks is that they’ll face an underperforming Buffalo Sabres’ offence this evening. The Sabres remain firmly entrenched in the lower portion of the standings, thanks in large part to anemic offence and slightly worse defence. The Sabres are 2-5-3 in their last 10 and have suffered four losses in a row. Rasmus Dahlin is one of the very few bright spots for the Sabres this season and with over 27 minutes of ice in each of his last two games. You can expect him to play a major factor in this one too. Unfortunately, it won’t be enough to beat the Sharks.
Prediction: Sharks win 5-3
Calgary Flames vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Head-to-Head: Flames 0-0 Lightning
Since December 10th, the Tampa Bay Lightning has played nine games with tonight being their tenth. The Calgary Flames, on the other hand, has only played four, with tonight being their fifth. It’s the Covid effect and it certainly opens the door for questions into how it’ll impact a matchup like this.
Coming out of their unscheduled break, the Flames looked great. They quickly accumulated wins against the Seattle Kraken and the Chicago Blackhawks, and despite the score, actually punched with some weight against the immaculate Florida Panthers. The period of rest, so far, looks beneficial to a team that had lost four straight immediately prior.
The reverse effects may be coming into play for the Lightning. They’ve been playing a lot as of late and despite a big win against the Columbus Blue Jackets in their last game, had lost three straight prior. That included a shutout loss to the New York Rangers and a 9-3 throttling by the Panthers.
Normally at home, the Lightning is a sure bet to win, but if there is an equally impressive home/away record, it has to be the Flames 13-5-2 record away from Calgary. That, plus the fatigue factor, gives the Flames the edge.
Prediction: Flames win 5-4 (OT)
Columbus Blue Jackets vs New Jersey Devils
Head-to-Head: Blue Jackets 1-0 Devils
As we inch closer to the halfway mark of the season, it becomes more and more evident which teams are truly in and out of the playoff race. Unfortunately for both of these squads, they look like they just won’t have enough to keep pace in the East’s wild card race. The Columbus Blue Jackets are 3-6-1 in their last 10, while the New Jersey Devils are 3-7. Both of them have more or less split the bit on the season and aren’t playing for too much other than the continued development of their young players.
One of those players who will be worth a watch this evening is Devils’ forward Jack Hughes. He has nine points in his last five games and should be able to capitalize on a team that’s given up 14 goals in their last two games.
Prediction: Devils win 4-1
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Philadelphia Flyers
Head-to-Head: Penguins 1-0 Flyers
The battle of Pennsylvania picks up again as these two teams meet for the second time this season. The last time these two met, the Pittsburgh Penguins skated away to a 3-2 victory and that was without Sidney Crosby. Flash forward to tonight’s game and not only is Crosby in the lineup, but the Penguins have actually won eight straight games. That seems less than ideal for a Philadelphia Flyers team that was just swept for three straight games in California.
What makes tonight’s matchup interesting is that both teams are playing for important points. The Penguins are working to solidify their spot as the number one wild card with their eyes set on maybe even climbing into their division’s top three at some point. The Flyers are four points out of the playoffs and looking at an uphill climb. Despite the long odds, with a hot stretch similar to their one in mid-December, the Flyers could climb their way back into contention.
This game will have some fire to it, but the Penguins are too good right now to lose.
Prediction: Penguins win 3-2 (OT)
Florida Panthers vs Dallas Stars
Head-to-Head: Panthers 0-0 Stars
The Florida Panthers are, simply put, a very good hockey team. They have a rockstar 22-7-4 record this season with a massive +31 goal differential. As of late, they’ve rattled off a 6-2 win against the Flames and put up nine goals against the Lightning. Sergei Bobrovsky is also coming off of arguably his most impressive start of the season, with 47 saves in the game against Calgary. Things are humming along quite nicely for the Panthers and their .727 points percentage has them well poised to finish no worse than second in the Atlantic.
Over in the other conference, the Dallas Stars haven’t been nearly as good. They did experience a wicked stretch of capable hockey a few weeks ago, but since then have been more or less a .500 team with a goal-suppressing defence but a routinely quiet offence. They’re technically not out of the playoff race yet, but if they have any hope of working their way back into the mix, they’ll need to find ways to consistently score more goals.
Thankfully for the Stars, things are trending up even if only slightly. After going four straight games without scoring more than a single goal in each game, they’ve suddenly potted 11 in their last two – both of which were wins. Dig a bit deeper and there’s another reason for optimism. The Stars are an impressive 11-3-1 at home, whereas the Panthers are a surprisingly average 4-4-4 on the road.
We’ll go off the board here and say the Stars find a way to get it done on home ice.
Prediction: Stars win 3-2 (OT)
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