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 Colorado Avalanche vs Dallas Stars.
NHL Predictions With Colorado Avalanche vs Dallas Stars
Ottawa Senators vs Washington Capitals
Head-to-Head: Senators 0 – 2 Capitals
This matchup wraps up the season series between these Eastern Conference clubs. The Capitals took both of the first games, most recently in a 3-2 OT victory on January 22nd. The Senators may not be in the playoff race, but their young roster is beginning to blossom. They look more and more competitive with time, led by Drake Batherson, Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle and Joshua Norris up front. Each of those players ranks in the top five in points on their roster, and the oldest player is Batherson at just 23.
The future isn’t quite here yet for Ottawa, however. The Capitals feature stars like Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and John Carlson, each of whom has tallied more points than anyone on Ottawa’s roster. What goes in the Sens’ favour currently is goaltending (though not by much). Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek look fine, though Samsonov’s save percentage (.905) leaves room for improvement. Their goaltenders cumulatively posted only a .408% quality start percentage, too. Ottawa, by contrast, owns a .535% rank in that statistical category. Performing at a much-improved clip, Matt Murray boasts a .920 save percentage despite his 5-7-2 record. Goaltending remains a great equalizer in this sport, and improvement between the pipes bodes well for Ottawa’s future.
Prediction: Capitals win 3-1
Buffalo Sabres vs Montreal Canadiens
Head-to-Head: Sabres 2 – 0 Canadiens
More often than not, our best guess on any given night would be to predict a loss for the Sabres or Canadiens. Two of the weakest teams in the league facing off against one another means one of them has to win, though.
Maybe Buffalo comes out on top. The Sabres hold the stronger stats in net, but their team save percentage of .905 doesn’t inspire hope. But where Buffalo struggles, Montreal struggles more; they own a .890 team save percentage. Neither team possesses a player even remotely close to a point-per-game pace, either. The only edge to be found here may be from the recent changes in Montreal’s organization. The Habs floundered time and time again this season, but with Martin St. Louis taking over the bench, maybe there’s finally some inspiration on the way. It might be just what the doctor ordered…or at least enough to beat the second-worst team in the East.
Prediction: Canadiens win 4-3
Pittsburgh Penguins vs New Jersey Devils
Head-to-Head: Penguins 1 – 1 Devils
Not many people trusted the Penguins to remain in the playoff picture before the start of this season. Yet here we are, another strong year from the Penguins. Another season above a point-per-game pace for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. And another year where the team manages to win games without one or both of those superstars in the lineup. Jake Guentzel leads the team in scoring and collected nine points in his last five outings.
The Devils look better than they did a season ago, with more building blocks in place. Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes continue progressing forward in development. They could use better play in goal, where Mackenzie Blackwood and company have all struggled to even reach the .900% save percentage plateau. However, they stole the last matchup against the Pens. Whoever wins this will take a 2-1 series lead into the final matchup later this month.
Prediction: Devils win 3-2 in OT
Colorado Avalanche vs Dallas Stars
Head-to-Head: Avalanche 0 – 1 Stars
The Avalanche expect a better outing than they delivered in the first matchup this year when the Stars cruised to a 3-1 victory in Dallas. That game feels like a lifetime ago. Colorado sat at 10-6-1 after that loss, and Dallas at a similar 9-7-2.
Since then, the Avs went 23-2-3, absolutely setting fire to the league. Dallas sits a handful of games over the .500 mark, but remain just outside the playoff picture. Their best player this year has been 37-year-old Joe Pavelski, playing over a point-per-game pace and coming off an All-Star Game appearance. Somewhat of a similar surprise, Nazem Kadri paces the Avs with 61 points in 42 games and competed alongside Pavelski at the All-Star Game. The difference for the Colorado Avalanche vs Dallas Stars lineups is in their overall depth.
Colorado already owns seven skaters with double-digit goal totals, and six skaters at or over a point-per-game pace. They lead the entire NHL in goals scored by defencemen, thanks in large part to Cale Makar (18 goals) and Devon Toews (nine goals). Dallas only received that kind of production from Pavelski and Jason Robertson. Their long-time leaders, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, simply aren’t the same level of athletes they were in seasons past. The Avs may be without Nathan MacKinnon, but their 3-2 victory over the defending two-time champs this week made it abundantly clear they can make due for now.
Prediction: Avalanche win 5-2