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 Toronto Maple Leafs.
NHL Predictions with Minnesota Wild vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Washington Capitals vs New York Rangers
Head-to-Head: Capitals 1 – 0 Rangers
The Capitals and Rangers continue to jockey with one another for a top-three spot in the Metropolitan Division. The Rangers lead the Caps by four points and have two games in hand.
These two clubs haven’t met since the opening night of the 2021-22 season, where Washington took the game handedly 5-1.
Goals won’t come as easy for the Capitals this time around. Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin has settled into his crease nicely and looks to be the favourite for the Vezina trophy once award season rolls around.
This is a much different Rangers team than when the Caps met them the first time around.
Prediction: Rangers win 4-2
Columbus Blue Jackets vs Florida Panthers
Head-to-Head: Blue Jackets 0 – 2 Panthers
The Florida Panthers have had their way with the Blue Jackets this season. Florida has scored at will in their previous two meetings, winning by a combined score of 17-4. Outrageous.
Florida certainly hasn’t had an issue scoring this year. Their 4.12 goals-for per game is the highest in the league. And they are the only team averaging four goals a game or higher.
The Blue Jackets know a thing or two about scoring as well. They may not be scoring at a rate like the Panthers, but they’ve certainly heated up as of late. The Jackets have scored 18 goals in their last three games.
That recent surge in scoring is in large part due to Finnish sniper, Patrik Laine. Laine is on a 10 game point streak where he has registered 12 goals and 20 points.
The Finnish phenom will look to keep the scoring up and help his team upset the Panthers. The Blue Jackets are coming into this one as winners of six of their last seven games.
Prediction: Panthers win 5-2
Pittsburgh Penguins vs New Jersey Devils
Head-to-Head: Penguins 2 – 1 Devils
The Devils took the first meeting between these clubs, but the Penguins have had the Devils’ number since.
That first win by New Jersey also came at a time when the Penguins were without their stars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
On paper, the Penguins are the far superior team. They have depth at positions on all ends of the ice and flex a lot more star-power.
But you never know what sort of Devils team will show up on any given night. This is a team that lost to the lowly Ottawa Senators 4- 1 two weeks ago, but then turned around a couple of nights later and put up a touchdown on the St. Louis Blues as they rolled to a 7-4 win.
Both teams are coming off long rest. The Pens have sat for four days while it’s been a whopping nine-day break for the Devils.
Extended breaks are nice but they can cause you to take a while to get your legs back up to game speed. And the Penguins are not a team you want to start off slow against.
Prediction: Penguins win 5-2
Minnesota Wild vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Head-to-Head: Wild 1 – 0 Maple Leafs
This is the second and final meeting between the Wild and Leafs. Minnesota bested Toronto back in December in a hard-fought game. The Wild came away with a 4-3 win at home thanks to Kirill Kaprizov’s shootout winner.
We can expect another tight battle from these two tonight. It may be a bit of a goal fest as both teams have ample scorers up front. Compound that with the fact that Toronto’s goalies are struggling to protect their crease, and we have a recipe for a high-scoring game. Toronto has conceded four or more goals in their last three games.
Auston Matthews will look to lead the way in terms of offence for the Buds. His 34 goals are good enough for second in the NHL and he currently ranks first, for the third year in a row, for goals scored at even strength.
Countering Matthews will be Minnesota’s own lethal sniper, one Kirill Kaprizov. Kaprizov has six goals in his last nine games but if he falters in finding the back of the net, he has found some nice supplementary scoring from teammates Matt Boldy and Mats Zuccarello. The young rookie, Boldy, has been running hot since getting called up from AHL affiliate Iowa Wild. He has 16 points in 17 games and four goals in his last five. Zuccarello has 16 points in his last 10 games. But Zuccarello is listed as questionable for this one as he is nursing an unknown upper-body injury.
Regardless of who is able to dress tonight, getting to watch two of the top teams in the league is always good entertainment.
Prediction: Leafs win 4-3 OT