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 Nashville Predators vs Florida Panthers.
NHL Predictions Including Nashville Predators vs Florida Panthers
Minnesota Wild vs Ottawa Senators
Head-to-Head: Wild 1 – 0 Senators
The Ottawa Senators dropped the first of their matchups against the Minnesota Wild by a 5-4 score earlier this year. Tonight, though, they own the home ice advantage and hope to put it to good use. Unfortunately, they also own the fifth-worst record on home ice this season league-wide, plus the Wild hold the eighth-best road record.
Mats Zuccarello comes into this one on a tear, with ten points in his last five games. Only Kirill Kaprizov has collected more points over the course of the full season for Minnesota (62 points, compared to Zucc’s 52). The top scorers in Ottawa have barely half as many points as those top Wild players. Brady Tkachuk leads the way with 36, then Drake Batherson comes next with 34. These are two teams headed in very different directions this season, and the result tonight should mirror that.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Columbus Blue Jackets
Head-to-Head: Maple Leafs 1 – 0 Blue Jackets
The Toronto Maple Leafs suit up for the second time in as many days for this matchup. They remain in a dogfight for the Central Division title with the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite ranking fifth in the entire NHL, they still sit third in the Atlantic. They need every win they can get to keep pace with the Florida teams and expect two points from this one tonight.
The Columbus Blue Jackets sit deceptively close to a playoff berth but are likely already out of the race. They own a game in hand on the Boston Bruins in that final playoff spot but still sit many points behind them. Only Boone Jenner has more than 20 goals, though Patrik Laine will likely collect enough to join him past that plateau before the season’s end. Against the Leafs, they’re huge underdogs.
St. Louis Blues vs Philadelphia Flyers
Head-to-Head: Blues 0 – 0 Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers come off a game just one night earlier, giving the St. Louis Blues a slight advantage with regards to rest. The Flyers project to be one of the most active sellers at this year’s trade deadline, with Claude Giroux sitting atop most “trade bait” boards. He leads the team in scoring, along with Cam Atkinson; both forwards could finish the season in another city as Philly gears up for a rebuild.
The visiting Blues could be a potential suitor for some of those big names available from the Flyers. They sit dead center of the playoff picture in the West and went 3-0-1 in their last four games. Pavel Buchnevich leads them with nine points in their most recent five contests and 45 points on the season. He, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Jordan Kyrou each have 18 goals on the season, on a team with some really spread-out production. Perhaps the biggest surprise has been the emergence of Ville Husso in net. He sports the better numbers, in comparison to Jordan Binnington, with a .936 save percentage and a 12-3-2 record. It doesn’t mean a ton yet, but we may see Husso take over the crease in this year’s postseason if he continues performing this way.
Prediction: Blues win 5-1
New York Islanders vs Seattle Kraken
Head-to-Head: Islanders 0 – 1 Kraken
Both these clubs were projected to be a whole lot better this year than what has transpired. The Kraken are the easier to write off, as the high expectations surrounding them ahead of the expansion draft simply fell short. There are plenty of reasons (teams learned from the experience with Vegas Golden Knights a few years earlier, for one), but fans still are disappointed and a bit baffled overall.
More shocking, though, was the Isles fall. They’ve been a Stanley Cup contender each of the last few seasons, pushing the eventual championship Lightning team further than any other team in the postseason. They may have won it all in one of the last two years had they gotten just one or two more bounces in those series’ versus Tampa Bay. After a huge road trip to start the year, most people figured “hey they’ll figure it out and catch up when they start playing at home”. That simply didn’t happen. The hockey world seems to have forgotten about them entirely, and with an 18-20-7 record, that seems justified. Against Seattle, though, most teams are the favourite to pick up a win. They’ve got a score to settle after being shut out on home ice earlier this year, to boot.
Prediction: Islanders win 3-0
San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim Ducks
Head-to-Head: Sharks 0 – 0 Ducks
Surprisingly enough, this marks the first matchup of the season for these two divisional rivals. They play one another four times (including this game) between now and the season’s end. The San Jose Sharks reside at 22-22-5 and, barring an enormous win streak, will fail to qualify for the playoffs for the third year in a row. The Anaheim Ducks, on the other hand, remain right in the playoff race and want their first berth in five years. Their rebuild came together faster than anticipated this season.
For Anaheim, the emergence of Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras offensively and Jamie Drysdale defensively changed everything. When you still have an elite goaltender like John Gibson between the pipes, too, anything is possible. Playing in Anaheim gets Gibson far less league-wide notice than he deserves, but really his impact on that team is comparable to the Carey Price effect in Montreal.
The Ducks are on the rise, and the Sharks are still figuring out where they’re going. Anaheim should be the hungrier team in this one.
Prediction: Ducks win 6-2
Nashville Predators vs Florida Panthers
Head-t0-Head: Predators 0 – 0 Panthers
The Florida Panthers return to home ice after a successful 4-1-0 road trip. They won their first three games back after the All-Star break, outscoring their opponents 14-6. On home ice, the Cats possess a 23-3-0 record too. Sam Reinhart, Aleksander Barkov, and Jonathan Huberdeau usually come to mind first when the Panthers get mentioned. Lately, though, Mason Marchment stole the show, with ten points in his last five games. He’s the surprise X-factor on this team today, breaking out in a big way with 27 points through 25 games this season.
Visiting South Florida come the Nashville Predators, on a bit of a skid. They dropped their last four games in regulation and fell from second in the Central Division to a Wild Card spot currently. With four teams chasing them down for a playoff spot, each within four points too, they need a win. Needless to say, finding one on the road against the Panthers won’t be easy. The Nashville Predators vs Florida Panthers will be exciting, probably high-scoring, and definitely feature a Panthers win. You heard it here first.
Prediction: Panthers win 6-3