Welcome back to NHL Game Day Predictions at Last Word on Hockey. Every day, we release an article (or two) giving analysis and predictions for every game on the schedule. Each release also includes a featured game that stands out on the slate. Today’s feature is the Toronto Maple Leafs vs Boston Bruins. This article covers the early games for tonight. For a breakdown of the later games, check out this article.
NHL Predictions: Including Toronto Maple Leafs vs Boston Bruins
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Boston Bruins
Head-to-Head: Maple Leafs 1-0 Bruins
What’s a more fun matchup to cover in NHL predictions? This matchup sees an exhausted Toronto squad roll into Boston as this is Toronto’s third game in four nights, including an overtime win at home against Boston on Saturday and a tilt with the Columbus Blue Jackets yesterday. The Leafs are 2-1-0 on the road so far this year on the road and are still without pivot John Tavares as they enter enemy territory. As per usual for the second night of a back-to-back, backup Michael Hutchinson is projected to start. He’s 0-1-1 this year with a suboptimal .886 save percentage and 3.98 goals-against-average. He might pose as a weakness yet again.
The Bruins are on a bit of a roll right now as they come into tonight with a four-game point streak (2-0-2). They haven’t played since Saturday night’s 4-3 overtime loss to Toronto at Scotiabank Arena. Offensive depth is proving to be a concern again so far this year, however, as only four players (David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Torey Krug) have more than two points on the season. Injuries have been an issue as well with David Krejci and Joakim Nordstrom both missing the last game. However, expect a tired Leafs team to give up defensive lapses, and the Bruins stars will certainly take advantage.
Prediction: Bruins win 3-0.
San Jose Sharks vs Buffalo Sabres
Head-to-Head: Sharks 0-1 Sabres
The San Jose Sharks last game was against these same Buffalo Sabres, a 4-3 loss at home. Before that, however, the Sharks had put up two convincing wins against the Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes. While they’re not out of the mud yet considering their slow start, they’re certainly on their way to finding some consistency. The Sharks do have special teams working in their favour, with a power-play of 23.3 percent and a penalty kill of 92.9 percent. Both values are above the league average. Goaltending has proved troublesome yet again, as neither Martin Jones or Aaron Dell is above a .900 save percentage. Marc-Edouard Vlasic has been notably bad as well, with no offensive production to speak of through eight games. He’s also a -9.
The Sabres also haven’t played since Saturday night at the Shark Tank. Buffalo has soared above expectations so far, sitting at 7-1-1 on the season. That record is mostly boosted by the early-season play of Carter Hutton yet again, as he sits undefeated with a 5-0-0 record supplemented by an insane .953 save percentage and 1.39 goals-against-average. The kids are alright, too, as rookie Victor Olofsson has six goals in nine games and is third in points on the team behind other youngsters Rasmus Dahlin and Jack Eichel. However, Hutton’s play is unsustainable and the Sharks are an angry team on the upswing trying to get back into the playoff picture before it’s too late. Look for the away team to upset in this one.
Prediction: Sharks win 4-2.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Florida Panthers
Head-to-Head: Penguins 0-0 Panthers
The injury-riddled Pittsburgh Penguins roll into Sunrise tonight for their first matchup of the year against the Florida Panthers. Despite missing all of Evgeni Malkin, Nick Bjugstad, Alex Galchenyuk, Bryan Rust, and Jared McCann at points this season, Pittsburgh sits at 6-3-0 on the campaign. They’re coming off a 3-0 shutout at home at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights, as they were stifled by their former goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. The goaltending for Pittsburgh has performed well, and backup Tristan Jarry has played great in a limited sample size.
The Panthers have gotten points in five straight games (2-0-3) and are starting to look more like the team we thought they’d be. However, centre Aleksander Barkov may be injured and that’s certainly going to affect the team’s depth. Barkov has yet to score but has put up six assists in eight games. They still need him to produce offensively, but not at the cost of his long-term health. They’re getting very respectable contributions from Mike Hoffman, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Brett Connolly to make up for Barkov. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has gotten off to a slow start, but backup Sam Montembeault has impressed. The Panthers are rolling and will take advantage of an injured Penguins squad.
Prediction: Panthers win 4-2.
Arizona Coyotes vs New York Rangers
Head-to-Head: Coyotes 0-0 Rangers
This matchup sees the beginning of the Arizona Coyotes‘ four-game road trip across the Eastern seaboard, and they’ll start with arguably the weakest team. This bodes well for the Coyotes, who have won three straight and have a five-game point streak (4-0-1). After dropping the first two games of the season in regulation, they’ve turned it around. With defensive specialist Niklas Hjalmarsson out of the lineup long-term, goalies Darcy Kuemper (3-2-0, .949 save percentage, 1.62 goals-against-average) and Antti Raanta (1-0-1, .926 save percentage, 2.43 goals-against-average) have taken it to another level. They’re scoring by committee, too, as Nick Schmaltz is their only player above or at a point-per-game pace.
The New York Rangers… are a completely different story. Off-season hype has turned into a poor outlook and unfavourable NHL predictions. They’ve dropped their last four contests in regulation and have looked completely outmatched at times. They’re getting decent goaltending and solid point production from Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, and Jacob Trouba, but that’s it. Rookie Kaapo Kakko has underwhelmed, and they’ve played some ugly defensive hockey. The Rangers will get a boost from playing at home, but the Coyotes will prevail over a struggling team.
Prediction: Coyotes win 5-4 in overtime.
Vancouver Canucks vs Detroit Red Wings
Head-to-Head: Canucks 1-0 Red Wings
The Vancouver Canucks are another young team on the upswing. They’ve been able to stay healthy, and both Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko have been among the League’s best goalies so far (.932 and .943 save percentages, respectively). Point-per-game production from J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson in addition to some unexpected contributions from players like Brandon Sutter have helped them create a more balanced and dangerous attack than in previous years. While not a playoff lock by any means, they’re out to make things interesting. They already supplanted the Detroit Red Wings 5-1 at home this year, making for an interesting matchup tonight.
Detroit’s between a rock and a hard place at the moment and haven’t fared well in NHL predictions. They’ve only scored one goal in each of their past three games and lost all of them by a collective score of 12-3. Both goalies have been suboptimal, but there’s a bright spot with the top line of Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin, and Anthony Mantha all at around a point-per-game pace. Not much to say about this team, who has a chance to make things interesting, but will ultimately fall to the Canucks.
Prediction: Vancouver wins 2-1 in a shootout.