Welcome back to Last Word on Hockey’s NHL Predictions series. Tonight’s slate of games sees nine different tilts, so this article will only cover the early start games for tonight. You can find the late start games here. Every night, we feature a game that’s sure to be must-watch hockey. For these early games, it’s the Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs.
San Jose Sharks vs. Boston Bruins
Head-to-Head: Sharks 0 – 0 Bruins
The San Jose Sharks roll into TD Garden tonight in an attempt to win their first game against the Boston Bruins since March 2016. The Sharks have dropped two straight and are a rough 4-7-1 on the season. Their last game was a 5-2 loss to the lowly Ottawa Senators. The Sharks have some bright spots from the play of their older stars, but young core pieces like Timo Meier (2-2-4 in 12 games) are struggling. Consistently poor defensive performances from Marc-Edouard Vlasic and shaky goaltending from both Martin Jones and Aaron Dell are sinking the Sharks so far this year.
The Bruins, however, have won their past three games and have points in their last seven. They’re off to a hot start, as David Pastrnak has transcended this reality with 23 points in 11 games, but secondary scoring is again an issue. Only four players on the team have more than four points so far. Tuukka Rask has been lights out for the team as well, compiling a 5-0-1 record with a 1.48 goals-against average. Look for Boston’s stars to take over this game.
Prediction: Bruins win 5-2.
Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Head-to-Head: Capitals 1 – 0 Maple Leafs
The Washington Capitals head into Canada’s biggest city having already beaten the Maple Leafs once this year, a come-from-behind 4-3 win on October 16th. Washington has not lost in regulation from that game on. Their last game saw them overcome a 5-1 deficit against the Vancouver Canucks to see them win 6-5 in a shootout. They’re sitting on an 8-2-3 record despite poor goaltending at points, mostly due to the monstrous play of defender John Carlson. Washington can’t seem to lose right now, an unfortunate reality for a struggling Toronto team.
The Leafs have had a season of ups and downs so far and have made NHL predictions tough, but could see a boost from the return of Travis Dermott to the lineup. That could happen tonight, but it’s an unknown. Even still, Toronto sits without Zach Hyman and John Tavares, though not for long. Inconsistent stretches of play combined with average goaltending from Frederik Andersen has caused some issues for the Leafs, who might struggle at home against a hot Capitals team.
Prediction: Capitals win 5-3.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Head-to-Head: Flyers 0 – 0 Penguins
The Philadelphia Flyers sit at a pedestrian 5-4-1 record despite being analytical darlings so far this year. That could be due in part to the unexpectedly poor play of Carter Hart. The Flyers are getting balanced scoring, and new acquisition Kevin Hayes has performed well with seven points in 10 games. Ivan Provorov seems to be off to a bounce-back season as well. However, the Battle of Pennsylvania is always rough, and a gritty (no pun intended) Pittsburgh Penguins team may be tough to beat at home.
The Penguins are performing well despite the immense amount of injuries the team’s had to deal with. They’re coming off a 3-0 shutout of the Dallas Stars and are building up a lot of confidence. Great goaltending has helped them along the process. The stars are performing as expected, with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel both at or above a point-per-game pace. The Penguins are rolling and will come out with the win at home.
Prediction: Penguins win 2-0.
Calgary Flames vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Head-to-Head: Flames 0 – 0 Hurricanes
The Calgary Flames have had an underwhelming start to their season, coming off an overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets at the Heritage Classic. A pedestrian team going into PNC Arena to play the Carolina Hurricanes is going to lose more often than not. While on the ice it does look like the Flames are starting to gel together, the average goaltending and lack of offensive depth has hurt them so far and will continue to tonight.
Carolina’s hit a bit of a rough patch lately, but they’ll be okay. They’re 7-3-1 and are coming off a statement 4-0 win against Chicago after dropping their last two games. They’re getting good goaltending again this year, and the play of Dougie Hamilton has driven this team to success so far. Against a team still trying to find their identity, Carolina should pot an easy victory.
Prediction: Carolina wins 3-1.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Rangers
Head-to-Head: Lightning 0-0 Rangers
While the Tampa Bay Lightning have struggled a bit out of the gate, they’re in smooth waters compared to the New York Rangers. Tampa Bay has gotten good goaltending so far, and are coming off a tough 3-2 overtime loss against Nashville. New acquisition Kevin Shattenkirk has performed well, and he’ll look to serve retribution against his former team. Tampa still has the potential to be a Presidents’ Trophy team, and they’ll try to showcase that against a struggling Rangers team.
Nothing has gone right for New York, and they’re not a smart bet in any NHL predictions. They were just slapped around by the aforementioned Bruins 7-4, and there’s no reason to believe tonight should be any better. Rangers fans have been calling for coach Dave Quinn‘s head, and if tonight follows in succession, the Rangers’ front office may be forced to make a move. Kaapo Kakko has looked lost most of the time, with two points in 11 games and playing poorly in his own end. It’s going to be a struggle for the Rangers to pull off the upset.
Prediction: Lightning win 2-0.