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 New York Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
New York Rangers vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Head-to-Head: Rangers 1-0 Maple Leafs
The second of three meetings between these clubs will be the only one played in Toronto. The first meeting was just over a month ago with the Rangers taking a tight contest 3-1. The Rangers have played very well as of late, going 7-2-1 in their last ten. Leading scorer Artemi Panarin has been quiet lately which could be concerning for tonight’s game. But he is coming off a three-assist game so perhaps he is ready to get going offensively again. Leading goal scorer Mika Zibanejad has three goals in his last two games. The Rangers will need production from these top guys to repeat a victory tonight.
The Maple Leafs are coming off a dominant victory over the New York Islanders on Monday evening. Having gone 3-1-1 their past five, the Maple Leafs are beginning to put a little cushion over teams below them in the Atlantic Division. The issue for Toronto has been the health of the blue line, and it will take another hit tonight as TJ Brodie will miss his second straight game. Yet even with the issues, Toronto has quietly been the third-best defence in the NHL this season, giving up a mere 2.6 goals per game. It is an added bonus to a stout offence that ranks ninth in the league. William Nylander and Auston Matthews are leading the way here, with 26 and 25 goals respectively. They have a combined nine goals in the last five games.
Two very similar teams in stats. The Rangers are 14-5-3 on the road and are 3-1-2 their last six road games. The Maple Leafs are 18-3-4 at home and have won five straight at home. Something has to give. The Rangers played them hard the first time and we expect that to be the same with some extra hockey being played.
Prediction: Rangers win 3-2 in OT
Head-to-Head: Islanders 1-0 Senators
The second of three games between them will see two teams trying to turn things around. The Islanders have lost five straight, two of them in overtime. A current 1-6-3 stretch has dropped them solidly out of playoff contention. There is still time to climb back in, but the urgency needs to provide a win tonight. Leading goal scorer Brock Nelson has been cold during this stretch but does have points in three straight. He needs to keep rolling to pull the Islanders out of this funk.
The Senators have gone 4-6 their last ten. It’s been a rough week for them, losing Josh Norris for the season to a shoulder injury. For a team struggling to score, they will miss his production. This puts even more strain on Brady Tkachuk to keep with his point-per-game pace if the Senators are to win games consistently. But they also need their goalies to stop pucks which have been lacking, especially lately. They have allowed 22 goals in their last five games.
The good news for the Senators is that they are at home where they play slightly better. The bad news is that this game means much more to the Islanders.
Prediction: Islanders win 5-2
Head-to-Head: Hurricanes 1-0 Stars
The final match between these two sees the Hurricanes coming off back-to-back 5-2 victories. Sebastian Aho recorded a hat trick in his last contest and has nine points in his last six games. Top-minute defenseman Jaccob Slavin will miss his second straight game, but missing him certainly did not hurt the last game. Against a better offensive opponent though, they do wish he was in the lineup. Still, expected starter Frederik Andersen has been strong in net. He has won all four of his starts since returning from injury and has looked good in doing it, giving up no more than two goals in each.
The Stars are coming off a 3-2 OT loss on Monday. That was a rare game of scoring less than three for this squad, who are currently the seventh-best offence in the league. Leading scorer Jason Robertson continued to fill in the scoresheet, and he will be someone the Hurricanes must keep in check. Sitting fourth in the league in goals with 32, the home ice will allow the coaching staff to deploy him in favourable situations. That could be the difference tonight if Robertson is on his game.
Look for this to come down to possession. The third and fourth-ranked faceoff teams are very different in zone start percentage. Carolina has the best oZS% to dZS% in the league. Even if the draws go 50/50, Carolina will start with the puck more often in dangerous areas.
Prediction: Hurricanes win 4-3 in OT
Blue Jackets 0-0 Oilers
The first of two meetings. The Blue Jackets are coming off a 4-3 OT loss on Monday. This marked only the fourth time this season that they have had a streak of two games with at least a point. Only once have they had points in three straight. It has been a very difficult season for Columbus. On both sides of play, they are at the bottom of the rankings, sitting 30th in offence and defence. Leading scoring Johnny Gaudreau only has 46 points on the season, and leading goal scorer Patrick Laine only has 14. They both must get going tonight if they are to get a victory.
The Oilers on the other hand can score seemingly at will. Riding the insane season of Connor McDavid and the return of Evander Kane to the lineup, the Oilers have scored at least four goals in each of their current six-game winning streak. What is adding benefits to their recent run has been the goaltending. Averaging 3.23 goals against per game, they have allowed just above two during this streak. There is no reason to believe this will slow down tonight.
The Oilers play worse at home which does benefit the Blue Jackets. But they are very much outmatched here. It should be entertaining to watch though. We expect a higher-scoring game.
Prediction: Oilers win 6-4
Head-to-Head: Canucks 2-0 Kraken
The third of four meetings between these division rivals brings in two teams heading in different directions. The Canucks, if you haven’t heard, are still reeling from a highly publicized management debacle. Their debut under new coach Rick Tocchet ended in victory. This is common for teams to play energized after an in-season coaching change. As a team, that marks just their second win in the last nine games. The bright spot this year for them has been the rising play of rookie forward Andrei Kuzmenko, who scored twice in the victory. His total is now up to 21, good for second on the team.
The Kraken, even though they have lost both games to the Canucks, are marching up the standings. Even though they have gone 1-2-1 their last four, they find themselves just two points out of first in the Pacific Division with three games in hand. Much of that has to do with the spread-out offence. Their leading scorer Andre Burakovsky has a mere 38 points, yet the team ranks fourth in goals per game. It is up and down the lineup. As a team, they rank 29th in save percentage, so the scoring is required and must continue.
The Canucks played last night. Seattle will be on three days’ rest. A tired team versus a rusty team. Vancouver still has that new coach smell, and Seattle struggles at home. Both teams can score, and both have issues stopping the puck. Which of course means a defensive struggle. Tie goes to the rested team.
Prediction: Kraken win 2-1
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