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 Anaheim Ducks vs Winnipeg Jets.
NHL Predictions: Anaheim Ducks vs Winnipeg Jets
New York Islanders vs Nashville Predators
Head-to-Head: Islanders 0-0 Predators
Despite struggling last season and missing the playoffs, many predicted the Islanders to bounceback in 2022-23. So far, that assumption holds true; at 11-6-0, they sit second in the Metropolitan Division. Meanwhile, after squeaking in as a Wild Card team in the west last year, the Predators currently sit on the outside looking in.
There’s plenty of hockey still to be played this season. That said, Juuse Saros must improve if Nashville expects to turn things around. His .907 save percentage and 3.03 goals against average won’t be enough to elevate a middle-of-the-road Predators roster to the playoffs. Meanwhile, Brock Nelson started at a career-best pace, with 18 points through 17 games. That has him in a tie with Mathew Barzal for the team lead. Barzal occupies that spot despite having no goals yet on the year (zero goals, 17 assists).
Prediction: Islanders win 4-1
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Minnesota Wild
Head-to-Head: Penguins 0-0 Wild
If the playoffs started today, the Eastern Conference playoff picture would have a noticeable abcense. Sidney Crosby skated in a playoff game for Pittsburgh in every season since his rookie year. But at the moment, they rank seventh in the eight-team Metropolitan Division.
Meanwhile, the Wild continue struggling to break out in the way many thought they would this year. They added a future Hall of Fame goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury, but he started slow in Minnesota. Kirill Kaprizov continues tearing up the league, but the offence dries up quickly after him. They sit at .500, so not really too behind the eightball yet, which is true of the Pens, too (6-7-3). If Fleury gets the nod, expect a big showing against his former team, in front of his new home crowd.
Prediction: Penguins win 4-2
Washington Capitals vs St. Louis Blues
Head-to-Head: Capitals 0-0 Blues
Here lie two more teams who feel like playoff locks year-after-year, yet sit on the outside looking in at the moment. In fact, five of the eight teams in this article were 2021-22 playoff teams, but reside beneath the cut line today. Alex Ovechkin paces the Capitals in scoring (colour me shocked) with eight goals and 14 points. In St. Louis, the team awaits for a leader to step up and drive this team.
Expect major pushes from both these teams as the season drives forward. The Capitals look like the more likely of the two to turn things around. Their underlying metrics reside in the middle of the pack, while St. Louis falls near the bottom especially when it comes to scoring. If there’s one thing that always feels certain: a healthy Ovi will score plenty of goals. Their goaltending looks stronger than the Blues’ thus far too, who are coming off a back-to-back to boot.
Prediction: Capitals win 5-1
Anaheim Ducks vs Winnipeg Jets
Head-to-Head: Ducks 0-0 Jets
Winnipeg quietly continues piling up wins and find themselves in second in the Central Division. At the other end of the spectrum? The Anaheim Ducks. They reside dead last in the NHL, at 5-10-1. In games that end in regulation, they sit at a staggeringly-bad 0-10-0. (I suppose one could argue they’re a good overtime team, where they are 5-1, but since three-on-three only exists in the regular season it just doesn’t mean much for a team that can’t deliver at all at five-on-five.
A team destined for the draft lottery, the most attention Anaheim will garner this year will come at the trade deadline. Then, the league will be watching to learn where John Klingberg inevitably gets traded to. Aside from their young core, plenty of tradebait candidates exist on this roster. Frank Vatrano, Jakob Silfverberg, and Kevin Shattenkirk all come to mind, among others.
The Jets look very much the opposite. Connor Hellebuyck continues posting stellar numbers (.935 save percentage, 2.08 goals against average), the most impressive though being his .818 quality start percentage. He’s covering up a fair number of less-attractive underlying numbers by delivering win after win. If he holds up, the Jets will, too.
Prediction: Jets win 3-0.
Be sure to check out Friday’s NHL Predictions.