NHL Predictions: January 1 including Buffalo Sabres vs Ottawa Senators

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 for NHL Predictions is between the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators.

NHL Predictions: Buffalo Sabres vs Ottawa Senators

San Jose Sharks vs Chicago Blackhawks

Head to Head: Sharks 0 – 1 Blackhawks

This matchup features two struggling teams, likely destined for the draft lottery next summer. Both boast sub-.500 records, and not by a small margin either. The San Jose Sharks remain the more competitive of the two, sitting at 11-19-7 at the time of this writing. The Chicago Blackhawks sit dead last league-wide, at 8-22-4.

Chicago now exists as the only squad without a double-digit number in their win column. With only one win in their last ten games, they don’t seem to be trending in the right direction, either. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews still generate buzz league-wide, but nowadays only as trade bait.

Erik Karlsson sits in a similar boat in San Jose but is experiencing a major resurgence performance-wise this year too. The Hawks will move whatever assets they can ahead of the deadline, so don’t expect any turnaround or playoff push from this team.

Prediction: Sharks defeat Blackhawks 4-1

New York Islanders vs Seattle Kraken

Head to Head: Islanders 0 – 0 Kraken

The New York Islanders and Seattle Kraken face off against one another twice this year, the second matchup coming in February. Both teams need the two points, too. Each sits in the mix for a playoff push in their respective conferences. Seattle has been the biggest surprise out west, having been significantly more competitive this year than they were last. Much of that can be attributed to the new faces in their lineup, most importantly their star young centre Matthew Beniers.

On the other side of the country, the Islanders also occupy a Wild Card spot today. They, too, had a serious resurgence year-to-date after flopping and missing the postseason a year ago. Brock Nelson and Mathew Barzal lead the team in scoring. These teams continue trending in the right direction and turning heads league-wide.

Prediction: Kraken defeat Islanders 6-3

Buffalo Sabres vs Ottawa Senators

Head to Head: Sabres 1-1 Senators

Thus far, the Sabres and Senators exchanged 4-1 victories, leaving them tied in their season series entering action tonight. Each of these teams raised expectations entering this season and hoped to push for a playoff spot. If either still has that goal in mind, then the time to get going is now. Buffalo sits one point ahead of Ottawa in the standings, but both remain eight points behind the playoff race.

For Ottawa to get on a roll, they need to tighten up their defence and goaltending. Cam Talbot has room to improve, but the crop of defenders ahead of him hasn’t made life easy. Scoring has not been the problem. The team already has six players with double-digit goal totals. Drake Batherson, Alex DeBrincat, Claude Giroux, Tim Stutzle and Brady Tkachuk all hover around the point-per-game threshold, too.

For Buffalo to get on a roll, see above. Their situation is practically identical to Ottawa’s. The Sabres feature, yes, six double-digit goal scorers too. Rasmus Dahlin, Alex Tuch, Tage Thompson, Jeff Skinner, and Dylan Cozens all hover around the point-per-game pace as well. If they want to win more games, the defensive side of the rink needs some work. If Craig Anderson could play every night, they might actually be a playoff team today.

However, Buffalo remains cautious with the 41-year-old netminder, and rightfully so given his age and injury history. But when you only have one goalie above the .900 save percentage bar, typically you want to just ride that guy. And at a stellar-.922% marker, Anderson is the obvious option between the pipes. Maybe they’ll push him a bit down the stretch, as it could be their only shot at a playoff berth. And heck, it could very well be Anderson’s final run, too.

Prediction: Sabres defeat Senators 3-1.

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