Welcome back to NHL Predictions! Each day, the Last Word on Hockey team will break down every game and give our NHL predictions for each game. This will also include a featured game that should be must-watch hockey. Tonight’s featured game is the Vegas Golden Knights vs. St. Louis Blues. This is the early game slate of NHL Predictions. Be sure and check out NHL Predictions for the late games too.
Nashville Predators vs. Buffalo Sabres
Head-to-Head: Predators 0-0 Sabres
This is the first of two meetings between the Nashville Predators and Buffalo Sabres. The Predators enter the game on a two-game winning streak, but it will not be easy to extend their winning streak to three games. It has been an up and down year so for the Predators. They’re are on the outside of the playoff picture coming into the night. While Matt Duchene has 20 points through 28 games, he has not made the impact one might have thought he would have made after signing his new deal in the summer. The numbers for Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros have gotten better, but still not great. That is one area that needs to improve for the Predators to have success.
The Sabres also enter this matchup on a two-game winning streak but look like the better team. Coming off a win against the St. Louis Blues, the Sabres remain in second place in the Atlantic Division. Jack Eichel remains red hot. He is on a 14-game point streak as he leads the team with 44 points (20 goals and 24 assists) in 32 games this season. Eichel has taken his game to another level, which has elevated his teammates. Can anyone stop Eichel and his line? The Sabres are also playing well defensively under head coach Ralph Krueger. Having your star player and captain buy into the system makes the Sabres a dangerous team.
Prediction: Sabres win 4-2.
Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Head-to-Head: Lightning 1-0 Bruins
This is the second of four meetings this season between the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning. The first matchup was excellent as the Lightning defeated the Bruins 4-3 in a shootout. The Bruins are looking for some revenge. It will not be easy as they will have played the night before against the Washington Capitals. The Bruins are looking like the Lightning of last season. They are running away with the division but did not face any adversity until now. While the Bruins lead the division, they are on a four-game losing streak. Over their losing streak, the Bruins have not gotten off to the best of starts. They are playing from behind way too much. Boston is a better team playing with the lead as they can control the game with their style of play. Tuukka Rask will again be in net for this matchup. He stood on his head in the first game and will look to do the same in this game.
Tampa Bay is still trying to find their game. After a disappointing loss in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Lightning have let that mentality carry over into this season. But considering the Lightning never faced any adversity until the playoffs last season, this is a good thing. It shows a team they cannot just flip a switch. Going through some hard times helps a team succeed later on. If the Lightning squad wants to get back in the playoff race in the Eastern Conference, this is a game they must win. Look for this one to be a tight affair, even with the Bruins playing the night before.
Prediction: Lightning win 4-3.
New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers
Head-to-Head: Islanders 2-0 Panthers
This is the third and final meeting of the season between the New York Islanders and the Florida Panthers. The Islanders are looking to sweep the season series after taking the first two games. New York took the first game back in October in a shootout and then took the next game in November in regulation during the team’s 17-game point streak. The Islanders continue to be red hot and the class of the Metropolitan Division, just behind the Washington Capitals. New York has one loss in its last five games and will look to finish its three-game road trip on a high note with a win against the Panthers. The goaltending tandem of Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov continue to exceed expectations, not to mention how well defensively the Islanders are playing under head coach Barry Trotz.
The Panthers come into this matchup on a loss after losing to their in-state rival, the Lightning. Florida needs to be prepared for a tight Islanders team that will limit their top scorers. While the Panthers remain in third place in the Atlantic Division, teams are starting to catch up and inch closer in the standings. Sergei Bobrovsky has yet to find his groove with the Panthers, though he has a history of getting off to slow starts. Head coach Joel Quenneville has even given him nights off because the backup goalie was on a winning streak. Even with their success this season, no one is talking about them. And that is just the way they like it.
Prediction: Islanders win 3-2.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Head-to-Head: Blue Jackets 1-1 Penguins
The Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins are meeting for the third time this season. Columbus and Pittsburgh split the first two meetings of the season. The Penguins won 7-2 in Pittsburgh back in October, while the Blue Jackets won 5-2 in Columbus back in November. These two teams have a history of playing very physical games, especially when they have met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Both teams are very different this season. The Blue Jackets lost three free-agents in the off-season, which has forced them to play a different style. They no longer have a go-to player on the front end. It was good to see Cam Atkinson finally get on the board, but Columbus will need more from him offensively.
The Penguins continue to amaze despite all their injuries. Even without Sidney Crosby in the lineup, the Penguins sit in the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. After a three-game winning streak, the Penguins came up short on Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens. Even with the injuries, there is a bright spot. Goaltender Tristan Jarry has come into his own this season. He continues to push Matt Murray for the number one spot in Pittsburgh. That is a good thing, as you see with the Islanders. Having two guys that can play is ideal for a team. The Penguins need a rebound win to maintain their position in the Eastern Conference.
Prediction: Penguins win 4-2.
Winnipeg Jets vs. Detroit Red Wings
Head-to-Head: Jets 1-1 Red Wings
This is the second and final meeting between the Winnipeg Jets and Detroit Red Wings as the two teams play and home-and-home series. In the first matchup, the Jets blitzed the Red Wings 5-1. The Jets continue to find ways to win despite having to put together a makeshift defence. It does not hurt that Connor Hellebuyck is playing up to form that led him to a Vezina Trophy nomination in the 2017-18 season. When Hellebuyck needs a night off, Laurent Brossoit has come in to keep things even keel. Head coach Paul Maurice has made some great adjustments. One of them is moving Blake Wheeler to the centre. His line of Nikolaj Ehlers and Mathieu Perreault has been outstanding. Also putting Patrik Laine on the top line with Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor has given the Jets two very good lines.
The Red Wings are just a mess. They have lost 12 straight games despite picking up two points in extra sessions during their road trip through California. Detroit is just a very young team that is going through a rebuild. And there are no easy nights in the NHL. After a hot start by Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi, they have cooled off. They are a work in progress. It will be another long season for Red Wings fans. But they know like the rest of the hockey world, it will take some time before the Red Wings get back to being a competitive team. How long can this losing streak last? Well, it continues for at least one more game.
Prediction: Jets win 5-0.
Vegas Golden Knights vs. St. Louis Blues
Head-to-Head: Golden Knights 1-1 Blues
This is our NHL predictions featured early game of the night.
This is the first of three meetings between the Golden Knights and Blues. The Golden Knights are hitting the road for two games through the Central Division. Vegas is still trying to find their groove. Getting Marc-Andre Fleury back between the pipes certainly helps. The players know they can be better as Mark Stone expressed before the team’s game against the New York Rangers on Tuesday night. Vegas will be in the playoffs come April, but in a tight Pacific Division getting on a winning-streak will vault them in the standings.
Meanwhile, the Blues have lost three straight games. They have not looked like the defending Stanley Cup Champions at all. Too many mental mistakes have led to goals by the opposition. While the Blues remain in the first place, the Jets and Colorado Avalanche are right behind in the standings. Not having Vladimir Tarasenko in the lineup is hurting them offensively. He brings such a different dynamic that teams had to prepare for. Not to mention their goaltending has been just ok. This will be a fun game to watch.
Prediction: Golden Knights win 4-3.
This does it for NHL Predictions for the early games on December 12th, check back tomorrow for another edition.
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