Welcome back to NHL Predictions, brought to you daily by the Last Word on Hockey squad. Each article (or two) provides a prediction and detailed analysis of every game on the schedule that night. Every piece also features a game that is a must-watch event; tonight, it’s the Florida Panthers visiting the Boston Bruins. Due to the high volume of games, this article only features the early-start games for tonight. You can find our predictions for the later games right here.
Florida Panthers at Boston Bruins
Head-to-Head: Panthers 0-0 Bruins
Florida is a team on the rise and attempts to win a game in a very tough TD Garden. New acquisition Brian Boyle has worked out quite well with five points in his first nine games with the team. Their top unit of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, and Evgenii Dadonov is rolling as well, as they all have at least 16 points on the year. Goaltending has been the only thing holding this team back, as Sergei Bobrovsky has struggled to get settled into his new South Florida habitat. However, they should still pose a tough challenge for the Bruins tonight.
Boston has hit a bit of a hiccup after a very strong start, coming off a tough loss on the road to the Detroit Red Wings and a shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. This could be in part due to the host of injuries that have recently seen Jake DeBrusk added to them. He’s a huge part of their secondary scoring that has been entirely lacking this season. Their goaltending is the opposite story of Florida’s, as whoever’s in net has been fabulous for the majority of the season. A strong performance in front of a home crowd should help them dig out the win.
Prediction: Boston wins 3-1.
Columbus Blue Jackets at Montreal Canadiens
Head-to-Head: Blue Jackets 0-0 Canadiens
The Columbus Blue Jackets are a team in turmoil and an unpopular pick in NHL predictions. Coach John Tortorella has become frustrated with the negative emotion shown by goalie Joonas Korpisalo during games, so Elvis Merzlikins gets the start tonight after being called up from Cleveland (AHL). The offence has been an issue, as Pierre-Luc Dubois and Gustav Nyquist are tied for the team lead with only 11 points. Despite his antics, Korpisalo is performing quite admirably in a tough situation as Columbus’ starter, and Tortorella’s frustration with him may cost Columbus a win tonight as Merzlikins has not shown capability at all.
The Montreal Canadiens are a team “in the mix,” as former defender P.K. Subban would say. They’ve gone 6-3-1 in their last 10 games and sit at third in the Atlantic Division. They’ve carried a good power-play (21.43 percent), but the penalty kill (72.22) has been sub-optimal at times. Defenceman Shea Weber is looking like his old self, coming off a two-goal game against the Los Angeles Kings. Carey Price is dependable as always, holding them in games. Montreal isn’t anything special, but certainly solid enough to throw off the Blue Jackets at home.
Prediction: Montreal wins 3-1.
Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers
Head-to-Head: Penguins 0-0 Rangers
The Pittsburgh Penguins ride into Madison Square Garden with Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, and Kris Letang all unavailable due to injury. In other words, what else is new? Pittsburgh has yet to have a full, healthy roster since opening night, and are still 10-6-1, good enough for the first wild card spot. Goalie Matt Murray has been the team’s MVP, and Crosby has been as good as ever. Now, in his absence, others will have to step up. While a tall task to replace his offence, the Rangers are a good team to experiment and juggle lines against. Expect Pittsburgh to narrowly, but surely win tonight.
The New York Rangers now sit over .500 after a very rough start, but analytics suggests that this is just a hot streak. While Artemi Panarin has been everything they could have hoped for, young pivots like Lias Andersson, Brett Howden, and Kaapo Kakko have been among the team’s worst players. Ryan Strome has benefitted greatly from playing alongside Panarin in Mika Zibanejad‘s absence with 16 points in 15 games, but still carries an abysmal 40.9 Corsi For percent. Goalies Henrik Lundqvist and Alexandar Georgiev have been the team’s bright spots, but the Penguins’ deep offence will give them issues tonight.
Prediction: Pittsburgh wins 4-3 in overtime.
Arizona Coyotes at St. Louis Blues
Head-to-Head: Coyotes 0-0 Blues
The Arizona Coyotes haven’t changed their style of play at all from last year, something that has benefitted goalies Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta. However, their offence has struggled mightily at points and they’ve hit a rough patch as of late. A healthy Nick Schmaltz has been a godsend with 15 points in 17 games, making up from a concerning lack of production from players like Derek Stepan and Christian Fischer. They’ve maintained strong defensive play despite the long-term loss of Niklas Hjalmarsson, but their scoring issues have limited them lately and will again tonight against the Blues.
Despite missing star Vladimir Tarasenko, the St. Louis Blues are 9-1-0 in their past 10 games. Jordan Binnington has shown he’s the real deal with a .922 save percentage. David Perron has picked up the offensive slack with 18 points in 18 games. Coach Craig Berube has them playing a solid structure once again, and expect them to pounce on a stingy Arizona team tonight and grab themselves another ‘W’.
Prediction: St. Louis wins 3-1.
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