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 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Edmonton Oilers. This is the early game slate of NHL Predictions. Be sure and check out the late games too.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs Ottawa Senators
Head-to-Head: Blue Jackets 1 – 0 Senators
The Columbus Blue Jackets will be at the end of a four-game road trip where they beat the Washington Capitals and then lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday night. They also will have the pleasure of facing the Capitals again December 16th, this time in Columbus. The Jackets are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. They are paced by Gustav Nyquist who has 19 points in 30 games. Their weakness is scoring goals, since they are ranked 29th in the league. This game could be a game that the Blue Jackets could gain some confidence if they can win it.
The Ottawa Senators have started to show some sign of improvement lately including an impressive 5-2 win against the tough Boston Bruins. One player of note for them is Anthony Duclair who is on scoring tear of seven points including five goals in his last five games. That has placed him second in scoring on the team with 15 goals, seven assists in 32 games. Duclair has bounced around the league landing on four different teams since he broke into the NHL with the Rangers in 2014-15. If he stays hot, the Sens could grab a win here.
Prediction: Senators win 4-3
Buffalo Sabres vs New York Islanders
Head-to-Head: Sabres 0 – 1 Islanders
The Buffalo Sabres are currently in second place in the Atlantic Division and eight points behind the Bruins. The Sabres are paced by the 1.39 points per game provided by their star centre Jack Eichel. Eichel has tallied 22 goals, 24 assists and in the game against the Nashville Predators on Thursday night he scored twice in the middle stanza. After this game, the Sabres have two more tough road games against the Flyers and Maple Leafs. The Sabres had another good start to their season, only to falter later on much like last season. After starting out 9-2-2 in their first 13 games, they’ve slipped to 16-11-6. This road trip is vital to their success.
The New York Islanders who have slipped a bit after a torrid winning streak are now 5-4-1 in their last 10 games. It’s tough to score against the Islanders who hold down the top spot with a stellar 2.33 goals-against average. If they can stymie Eichel and company they have a good chance to skate away with two points. They also possess the second-best point percentage in the NHL with a .733 win ratio. The game plan should be simple for the Islanders… score enough to allow their defence to win the game.
Prediction: Islanders win 2-1
New York Rangers vs Anaheim Ducks
Head-to-Head: Rangers 0 – 0 Ducks
The New York Rangers have been quite inconsistent this season and their last couple of games illustrate that. They looked formidable by shutting out the Vegas Golden Knights 5-0. The Rangers then followed that up with a loss to the Los Angeles Kings in a close game going down 3-1. Then, they trounced the slumping San Jose Sharks 6-3 Thursday night to confirm their up and down play. They still have Artemi Panarin who is having another exceptional year with 17 goals, 23 assists in 31 games, and had two goals, one assist in the Sharks game.
The Anaheim Ducks have gone 3-5-2 lately and stand seventh in the bunched up Pacific Division. They struggle to score but have John Gibson in net fortifying their efforts. If they can level off their 27th placement in scoring to equal their excellent 11th ranking in defence they’d be doing much better. The Ducks faced their crosstown rival Kings on Thursday night and lost 2-1 placing them just two points ahead of L.A. This game could be who wants to not lose rather than win.
Prediction: Rangers win 4-3
Carolina Hurricanes vs Calgary Flames
Head-to-Head: Hurricanes 1 – 0 Flames
The Carolina Hurricanes are on a five-game road trip and were enjoying a three-game winning streak going into their game Thursday night against the Vancouver Canucks. That streak ended when the Canucks shut them out 1-0. The issue the Hurricanes need to overcome is that the Flames are currently on a seven-game run. New interim head coach Geoff Ward is unbeaten in six games since taking over. Stopping the Flames run may be a huge task so the Hurricanes will have their work cut out for them.
The Calgary Flames are playing out of their heads lately. They have gone 8-1-1 with seven straight wins to catapult them into a tie with the Oilers, both trailing the Arizona Coyotes for first in the Pacific Division. It goes without saying that the Flames organization is headed in the right direction since the Bill Peters fiasco. Johnny Gaudreau has been instrumental in the Flames turnaround tallying four goals, one assist in his last five games. Can the Flames stay hot?
Prediction: Flames win 5-2
Dallas Stars vs Nashville Predators
Head-to-Head: Stars 0 – 0 Predators
The Dallas Stars are playing very well of late and have gone 5-3-2 in their last 10 games. They won three straight games before losing in overtime to the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday night and are one of five teams who have had a coaching change recently. They hold down the first wild-card spot and are just one point behind the Winnipeg Jets in the Central Division. The Stars have become quite a defensive team leading the league with a stingy 2.33 goals allowed per game. If they can score more, they’d be pretty unstoppable.
The Nashville Predators have not been the team they’ve been in the past this season. They are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games but are buried in sixth place in the Central Division. So, what’s wrong with this team? It’s not Roman Josi who is leading the team with 26 points in 30 games from the blue line. They can score, they can defend, yet they are spinning in circles. Pekka Rinne has not been dominant with a 10-4-3 record and a less than stunning .897 save percentage. He has given up 2.92 goals a game but has three shutouts. The Preds may have some issues against the Stars.
Prediction: Stars win 3-1
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Edmonton Oilers
Head-to-Head: Maple Leafs 0 – 0 Oilers
The Toronto Maple Leafs are sixth in the Atlantic Division, just six points ahead of the last-place Ottawa Senators who have a game in hand. Yet, they are only four points behind the second-place Sabres. Their season has been tumultuous, to say the least. They’re going through a coaching change, trying to overcome injuries, and attempting to remain liked by their demanding fans. That’s a tough road to navigate. Their only chance for this game is that the Oilers are not playing very well lately.
The Edmonton Oilers have slipped down out of first in the Pacific and have lost three straight including an overtime defeat. They are an offensive dichotomy with two players dominating the scoring. Almost no secondary scoring has been noticed. This holds true when you see that they have scored 105 goals, while allowing the same. So, can the Oilers’ stars outplay the Leafs’ stars? It may amount to that. Edmonton needs to get out of their funk and this game could do just that with a victory.
Prediction: Oilers win 6-4
Philadelphia Flyers vs Minnesota Wild
Head-to-Head: Flyers 0 – 0 Wild
The Philadelphia Flyers are playing well, yet are still only in fifth place in the tough Metro Division. They have gone 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and reside in the second wild-card spot going into this game. The Flyers goaltending tandem of Carter Hart and Brian Elliott have a respectable .911 save percentage and a 2.52 goals-against average. They can score too, so the Wild will need to play well to stop the Flyers.
The Minnesota Wild have gone 6-1-3 in their last 10 games and are a tough team to beat at home. They possess an excellent 8-1-3 home record and have been getting along well even without their star goalie Devan Dubnyk who has taken personal time off to care for his ill wife. In his stead, Alex Stalock has filled in admirably. With the Wild’s excellent home record, the Flyers will have to be on their best game to win this one.
Prediction: Flyers win 3-2 in overtime