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 between the Detroit Red Wings and Vegas Golden Knights.
New Jersey Devils vs Seattle Kraken
Head-to-Head: Devils 0 – 0 Kraken
The Seattle Kraken just wrapped up a historic 7-0-0 road trip and kicked off 2023 with an 8-0-0 win streak. They dropped the two games since, but at 26-14-4 now, it feels safe to view them as a legitimate team out west. The New Jersey Devils feel like the Eastern Conference version of Seattle. At 29-12-3, they earned their respect as well.
Both clubs sit within one game of overtaking the top spot in their divisions. Neither qualified for the postseason last year, and they weren’t particularly close either. Despite those facts, they both sit well within the top ten squads league-wide today.
Comparing the Turnaround Squads in Each Conference
In New Jersey, Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt and Nico Hischier lead the way. Each scoring at a point-per-game pace or better, with Hughes at a whopping 55 points in just 44 contests. Their goaltending has been stellar too, with a team quality start percentage of .705%.
Seattle gets it done differently, with no point-per-game players. Their victories come by a committee in scoring, and a fantastic preventative system. No one player resembles this more than defenceman Vince Dunn, who sits two points away from setting new career highs with just under half a season left in front of him. Seattle plays such great defence that their goaltending woes get hidden entirely. They carry a team save percentage of .888%, ranked fourth-worst in the NHL.
Prediction: Kraken win 5-4 in OT
Dallas Stars vs Los Angeles Kings
Head-to-Head: Stars 1 – 1 Kings
Tonight marks the final game of the season series between these clubs. in this third contest, the series winner will be decided (as they split the first two decisions evenly). For two teams cemented in the playoff battle out west, these points carry significant value.
The Dallas Stars currently sit atop the Central Division, but with no room to breathe. Jason Robertson paces the team in scoring by a wide margin and has already posted 29 goals through 45 contests. The Los Angeles Kings sit third in the Pacific Division, within a couple of points of first as well as fifth. This tight race will only get tighter down the stretch, a fun note for NHL predictions writers.
The place where these two teams differ the most lies in goal. Jake Oettinger ranks third in the league in both save percentage (.926%) and goals against average (2.21). Those numbers contribute massively to the fact that Dallas ranks second in the league in team save percentage and goals against per game. The same can’t be said for LA, where three goalies already recorded double digits in games played. Pheonix Copley has taken the reigns and owns a fantastic 12-2-0 record this season. That hasn’t fixed their season-long numbers yet, where they remain third-worst in save percentage.
Prediction: Stars win 4-3 in OT
Detroit Red Wings vs Vegas Golden Knights
Head-to-Head: Red Wings 0-1 Golden Knights
Of all six teams featured in this article, only the Wings currently have more losses than wins. In fairness, they sit above the .500 line, with an 18-17-8 record. But at the end of the day, they dropped 25 out of their 43 games to date. Meanwhile, Vegas sits atop the Pacific Division, at 28-15-2.
To Detroit’s credit, they actually score nearly as much as Vegas. With 3.09 goals per game, they fall a smidge beneath Vegas, at 3.20. Chandler Stephenson still leads Vegas in scoring, a surprising fact for a team boasting players like Mark Stone, Jack Eichel, Phil Kessel, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith. Both teams also rank in the top three fewest penalized teams in the league. However, differences start appearing when comparing their defence and goaltending.
The Red Wings allow the tenth-most goals against per game, while Vegas allows the tenth-fewest. Unsurprisingly, none of Detroit’s goaltenders sport good numbers; each sits under .900 in save percentage, with less than 50% quality start rates to boot. Alex Nedeljkovic just hit the waiver wire in Detroit, a shocking turn of events just a year and a half after General Manager Steve Yzerman was heralded for obtaining the goalie in a trade from Carolina. On the other side of the ice, Vegas received essentially league-average goaltending thus far. For a team exceeding the league average in every other aspect, though, that is no issue.
Prediction: Golden Knights win 3-1.