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 Vegas Golden Knights.
NHL Predictions with New York Rangers vs Vegas Golden Knights
Winnipeg Jets vs Colorado Avalanche
Head-to-Head: Jets 0 – 0 Avalanche
Oddly for these division rivals, tonight’s matchup represents their first of the season. They played in separate divisions last year due to the COVID-related re-alignment, too. As things sit today, the Winnipeg Jets lie right on the playoff bubble, but on the outside looking in. The Avalanche, meanwhile, own the best points percentage in the Western Conference. The only thing keeping them ranked in a three-way tie for fifth out west? Colorado has played the fewest games of any team in the conference.
Winnipeg wants to buck the trend, though. They don’t have the luxury of games-in-hand like the Avs do, and remain in an unfavourable position. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck can be counted on as always, with his .917 save percentage. But the Avs score a league-high 4.21 goals per game. Winnipeg may be on a three game winning streak…but Colorado rides in at 7-1 in their past eight contests. The fact that Nathan MacKinnon only owns three goals through 19 games played would initially seem concerning. Then you notice he’s accumulated 25 assists and remains well over a point-per-game and those concerns quickly dissipate.
Prediction: Avalanche win 5-3
Chicago Blackhawks vs Arizona Coyotes
Head-to-Head: Blackhawks 1 – 0 Coyotes
The Coyotes in 2021-22 appear to want the moniker for “Worst Team in Cap Era History”. At 6-22-3, they currently rank as the league’s bottom team. (Unrelated: the Montreal Canadiens are also INSANELY bad, especially after reaching the Cup Finals last year. I mean, they’re 7-23-4! Arizona could leapfrog them with their three games in hand! But back to the Coyotes…)
Opposite them tonight, the Blackhawks sit one spot ahead of Arizona in the Central Division. They enter the contest on a five-game skid (0-2-3). Marc-Andre Fleury holds stronger numbers now than his abysmal start, but who in their right mind expected him to actually be a sub-par goaltender after his tremendous year last year (or career in general)? He’s 9-10-2 now, and the Hawks won’t want to blow this opportunity to get back in the win column.
Back to the Yotes… So, *checks notes*, can anyone find anything nice to say about Arizona?
Prediction: Blackhawks win 2-0
Detroit Red Wings vs Anaheim Ducks
Head-to-Head: Red Wings 0 – 0 Ducks
This matchup could be a preview of what will become a heavyweight battle in the next two to five seasons. Both teams appear ready to begin the transition from rebuilding to contending. That being said, they both reside closer to the start of that transition than the end of it.
The Ducks started the season mediocrely, then got really hot, and have since cooled off. They still sit second in the NHL’s weakest division, but the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and Kings aren’t far behind with games in hand to boot. Detroit looks like potentially the only team close enough to the playoff picture to even attempt to make the race out east interesting. The top eight teams right now end with the Boston Bruins. The Red Wings sit just one point behind them, but with a whopping five extra games played already. Expectations aren’t for Detroit to get in, anyways. But the fact that they sit in the ninth position remains a happy surprise and gives the fanbase plenty to be excited about.
Prediction: Red Wings win 3-2 OT
Nashville Predators vs Los Angeles Kings
Head-to-Head: Predators 1 – 0 Kings
Who would’ve thought the Predators would be sitting atop the Central Division on January 6th, 2022? Not most hockey fans. They enter this one on an 8-1-1 tear, led in goals by Filip Forsberg (17) and in points by Roman Josi (30). Matt Duchene has 29 points in 30 games of what has thus far been a major bounce-back campaign as well. But perhaps the best feeling for Preds fans has been the seamless takeover between the pipes. Juuse Saros boasts a 17-9-1 record with an astounding .927 save percentage, making the pain of Pekka Rinne‘s retirement go down far easier.
Speaking of retirement and goalies, Jonathan Quick sure looks great for 36 years old. He’s got his own stellar .923 save percentage to his name this season. Anze Kopitar remains a top five two-way centreman in the league, with 29 points in 33 games to lead his club. Ultimately, the Kings should be the hungrier team for two points, and could even up the season series with a home victory.
Prediction: Kings win 4-1
New York Rangers vs Vegas Golden Knights
Head-to-Head: Rangers 0 – 1 Golden Knights
The Rangers and Golden Knights represent two of the four division leaders in the NHL. New York, though, edges Vegas out by three points in the league-wide standings. And while the hockey community definitely expected a division title once again for the Knights, the same wasn’t said of the Rags this past offseason.
But here we are, and the Rangers look phenomenal. Artemi Panarin looks worth every dime the Rangers committed to his name with 36 points in 31 games. Adam Fox looks like he’ll be worth even more dimes (…and nickels….and quarters…) than potentially any defenceman in hockey sooner than later too. Fox already racked up 35 points in 34 games, one of three defencemen atop the scoring race with more points than games played (along with Cale Makar and Victor Hedman). Chris Kreider already surpassed the 20-goal plateau, plus Igor Shesterkin could be on his way to his first Vezina Trophy nomination (15-4-2, 2.09 GAA and .936 save percentage).
The Golden Knights are pretty good though, too. Jonathan Marchessault is scoring at a 35-goal pace over 82 games but might be the only individual bright spot thus far. It’s been tough sledding for their club to build momentum, as Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, and William Karlsson struggle with injuries. They have a young forward named Jack Eichel who hasn’t debuted yet this season due to a lingering injury, but people seem to think he might just have what it takes to make it in this league.
At the end of the day, both clubs are rolling. But the Rangers might just be rolling a bit harder and heavier than anyone else in the NHL right now.
Prediction: Rangers win 3-0