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 Edmonton Oilers vs Tampa Bay Lightning.
NHL Predictions Including Edmonton Oilers vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Winnipeg Jets vs Dallas Stars
Head-to-Head: Jets 1-1 Stars
Each of these two teams finds themselves amid the mess of Western Conference teams trying to scratch and claw their way into a Wild Card spot. The Dallas Stars are slightly ahead of the Winnipeg Jets, with 56 to 52 points respectively, but both remain a touch off the playoff pace. As a result, tonight’s game has increased importance. With a four-point swing up for grabs, games like tonight can help expedite the buyer/seller decision that looms ahead of them.
The Jets are a bit patchy defensively this year, leaving their goaltender out to dry and consequently, have seen their goals against balloon as a result. Connor Hellebuyck remains one of the league leaders in goals saved above expected, but with an offence that ranks 20th in goals-for per game, even his elite performance isn’t enough. They enter tonight’s tilt on a two-game skid.
The Stars remain incredibly inconsistent, as they have been all year. At times, they have looked legitimate, at other times rather docile. A recent loss to the Arizona Coyotes, just two games after beating the Colorado Avalanche, is a testament to their uneven nature.
In a toss-up like this, the home team gets the advantage. In this case, that’s the Stars.
Prediction: Stars win 4-2
Colorado Avalanche vs Detroit Red Wings
Head-to-Head: Avalanche 1-0 Red Wings
This matchup brings up memories of the classic games between these two franchises from the turn of the millennium. The battle between Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman was one of hockey’s best and that history helps breathe life into what is now an inter-conference, currently lopsided affair.
The Colorado Avalanche represents exactly what Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings are trying to accomplish in Detroit. Draft, develop, and then explode onto the scene. The Red Wings look to be on the right path, but they aren’t quite there yet. The Avalanche are simply elite this year, with a 36-10-4 record and a whopping +56 goal differential. Compare that to the Red Wings’ 23-22-6 record and -29 goal differential and… yeah, there’s still a gap.
As a result, tonight’s decision isn’t in much doubt. It will, however, be a great opportunity to watch how one of the league’s current best teams matches up with one that is on the rise. Included in that is a matchup between Avalanche star, Cale Makar, who has seven points in his last five games, and rookie of the year contender Moritz Seider, who has 35 points in his inaugural campaign including six in his last five games.
Prediction: Avalanche win 5-3
Buffalo Sabres vs Montreal Canadiens
Head-to-Head: Sabres 3-0 Canadiens
This battle between two of the league’s most struggling teams has been incredibly lopsided all year long. The Buffalo Sabres have won all three matchups against the Montreal Canadiens and are looking to complete the sweep tonight.
The only thing different about those other games and this one is that the Canadiens have actually now started to win a few under head coach Martin St. Louis. They enter tonight’s game on a three-game winning streak, with impressive victories against the Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues included in that tally. The Sabres, on the other hand, are losers of their last three straight.
The Canadiens are humming a bit and will be playing at home. They should claw out a win.
Prediction: Canadiens win 3-2
Los Angeles Kings vs Arizona Coyotes
Head-to-Head: Kings 1-1 Coyotes
The Arizona Coyotes might be completely out of it, but the Los Angeles Kings are in a serious fight for the playoffs. That desperation discrepancy should provide a sound advantage for the Kings, even on the road. Drew Doughty has been exceptional of late with seven points in his last five, including the game-winner between these two teams when they last met on February 19th. Look for Doughty to play a big factor again tonight in a Kings’ win.
Prediction: Kings win 5-1
Edmonton Oilers vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Head-to-Head: Oilers 0-0 Lightning
What is the Edmonton Oilers’ biggest weakness? Goaltending. What is the Tampa Bay Lightning remarkably good at? Scoring goals. That could spell trouble for an Oilers’ team on the first of their five-game road trip. One thing in favour of Edmonton, however, is the new regime of Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson. Their improved defensive structure has shown an immediate impact with the Oilers rattling off five straight wins and an overall record of 5-1 since their takeover.
Another factor in Edmonton’s corner is an awakened Connor McDavid. The young phenom was a tad bit quiet leading into the All-Star break, causing some to wonder about a possible injury but has returned from the break with a bounce in his step. He has eight points in his last five and will likely be buzzing for a matchup against one of the league’s best teams.
As usual, Andrei Vasilevskiy gives a huge advantage to the Lightning in the net. His .922 save percentage hovers more than 20 points higher than either of Edmonton’s main roster netminders. If the Oilers want to have even a puncher’s chance in this game, they’ll need to seriously limit high danger chances against. Edmonton has been better at stopping the rush at the blue line as of late, but the Lightning will be a whole other level of test.
McDavid will keep the Oilers close, but a superior Lightning team should pull away in extra time.
Prediction: Lightning win 4-3 (OT)
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