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 Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Rangers.
NHL Predictions with Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Rangers
Washington Capitals vs Buffalo Sabres
Head-to-Head: Capitals 2 – 0 Sabres
The Washington Capitals come into tonight’s action having lost two games in a row. They sit in the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference, but are still comfortably in the playoffs. With eight goals in his last 10 games, Alex Ovechkin eclipsed the 40-goal plateau for the 12th time in his career. The Capitals captain currently has 76 points in 63 games – a 1.20 points per game pace he hasn’t had since the 2009-2010 season.
The Buffalo Sabres are playing great hockey of late despite being nowhere near the playoff picture. They have five wins in their last six games, including victories over the Maple Leafs, Penguins and Flames. Over those six games, the best player for the Sabres has been Tage Thompson. He has four goals, two assists and 23 shots over that span.
Prediction: Capitals win 4-2
Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Rangers
Head-to-Head: Penguins 1 – 0 Rangers
Our feature game of the evening features two teams that are currently on track to collide in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The last time these two sides met, Tristan Jarry stole the show, stopping all 27 shots in a 1-0 win. Expect another playoff-type atmosphere at MSG tonight.
That shutout came on February 26th – Jarry’s most recent of four shutouts on the season. The 26-year-old is having his most successful season to date. Through 50 games played, he holds a record of 32-12-6 with a 2.26 GAA and a .923 SV%. His lifetime record against the Rangers is 6-2-0. Up front, Sidney Crosby continues to prove that he’s still an elite point producer in the NHL. He has 66 points in 53 games this season, including 16 points in his last 10 games.
Opposing both Jarry and Crosby tonight is expected to be Igor Shesterkin. He’ll be looking to exact revenge after being near-perfect during the last meeting yet still suffering one of his nine regulation losses on the season. He boasts an incredible 30-9-3 record with a 2.14 GAA and a .936 SV%. The Rangers forward group has been shuffled since losing handedly to the Devils 7-4 last game. Frank Vatrano will join Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider on the top line while Andrew Copp will play with Ryan Strome and Artemi Panarin. Head Coach Gerard Gallant will be hoping the shake up can spark his team to a victory and get within one point in the standings to the Penguins.
Prediction: Rangers win 3-2 in overtime
Columbus Blue Jackets vs Winnipeg Jets
Head-to-Head: Blue Jackets 1 – 0 Jets
As the Blue Jackets try to make an improbable run to the postseason, they’ve recently been faced with a couple of key injuries. Boone Jenner is regarded as week-to-week with an injury to his lower back and Joonas Korpisalo will miss the remainder of the season with a hip injury. If (and when) they miss the playoffs, it won’t be due to a lack of effort by Patrik Laine. He has 48 points in 43 games this season and six points in his last five games. He’ll be taking on his former team for the first time.
The Jets are desperate for wins. Last night’s regulation loss to the Senators hurt their chances of making the postseason considering all the teams around them picked up points. Despite the loss, Kyle Connor continues to be one of the quietest superstars in the league. He scored a goal, giving him 40 goals and 40 assists on the season – the first player in Jets (2.0) history to reach that mark.
Prediction: Jets win 4-2
Philadelphia Flyers vs Colorado Avalanche
Head-to-Head: Flyers 1 – 0 Avalanche
The Flyers are coming off a 5-2 win in St. Louis last night. The game-winning goal was scored by Travis Konecny, who now has six points in his last three games. But the story of last night’s game was Hayden Hodgson. After spending the last five seasons in the ECHL, Hodgson had a goal and an assist in his NHL debut. What does he have in store for an encore?
The Avalanche are the class of the National Hockey League. They sit atop the standings with 95 points with 18 games remaining. Tonight, they expect to fill the void left by Gabriel Landeskog in the top-six with the newly acquired Artturi Lehkonen. Lehkonen had nine points in his last nine games before being traded to the Avalanche at the deadline.
Prediction: Avalanche win 5-2
Arizona Coyotes vs Calgary Flames
Head-to-Head: Coyotes 0 – 1 Flames
The Arizona Coyotes have won six of the past 10 games but are coming off three straight losses. They sit at the bottom of the league with just 44 points in 63 games. It’s not all doom and gloom in the desert, though. Both Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz are hovering around the point per game mark. Keller has 62 points in 63 games this season while Schmaltz has 43 points in 44 games this season. The last player (minimum 20 games played) that reached the point per game plateau was Ladislav Nagy in the 2005-2006 season when he had 56 points in 51 games.
The Calgary Flames and their fans have much more to be optimistic about. They are comfortably the second-best team in the Western Conference with 84 points in 63 games, a whopping 40 more points than their opponent tonight. Johnny Gaudreau and Jacob Markstrom, deservedly so, have garnered most of the attention in Calgary, but Matthew Tkachuk deserves his. Over the past five games, he leads the team with eight points. His 76 points have him sitting just six points back of Gaudreau for first in team scoring. He’s also just two points shy of setting a career high.
Prediction: Flames win 5-1