Welcome to NHL Predictions! Each day, Last Word On Hockey will break down every game and give our NHL predictions for each game. In today’s NHL predictions, we’ll cover the six games happening on January 5th. Each piece will include a featured game that should be must-watch hockey. The featured game for this article is the matchup between the Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild.
San Jose Sharks vs Washington Capitals
Head-to-Head: Sharks 0 -1 Capitals
The day starts out with a fairly obvious mismatch. The Washington Capitals have led the league for months at this point. They’re currently holding on to a 28-9-5 record (61 points) despite playing in the third-fewest games among anyone in the top-10. They have immense star power at every position, with defenceman John Carlson leading the pack. He has scored 51 points this year, eight more than any other defenceman in the league. Carlson is the ringleader of a Capitals team that, pending any divine intervention, is looking to win their second Stanley Cup this year.
On Sunday, they’ll match up with a San Jose Sharks roster that is snowballing down a hill. They’re currently stuck with a 19-21-3 record, good for sixth in the Pacific Division and 13th among the 15 Western Conference Teams. It’s been a terrible year for a Sharks team that is only a few months removed from a Western Conference Final visit. They boast very little offensive threat and have allowed the second-most goals in the entire league so far. This is a flaw that the potent Capitals are sure to take advantage of on Sunday, much as they did in the two teams’ last meeting where Washington won 5-2.
Prediction: Capitals win 6-0.
Florida Panthers vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Head-to-Head: Panthers 1 – 0 Penguins
The Florida Panthers had high hopes coming into the 2019-20 season but have yet to break past mediocrity. On the bright side, their playoff hopes are very much alive. They currently sit one win outside of a Wild Card spot, with a game in hand. Thanks to a very well-rounded roster, the Panthers will surely put up a fight in Sunday’s matchup.
The Pittsburgh Penguins may not be in much of a place to match that fight. The team is currently facing injuries to five key players, including Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby. Guentzel’s injury was the most recent of the five. He fell awkwardly into the boards on December 30th and is expected to miss significant time.
This leaves a tremendous hole in the Penguins lineup. Crosby’s injury left a void that only Guentzel could fill. Now that neither player is in the lineup, Pittsburgh’s offence is left to the wolves. This was evident in their first game without Guentzel. They faced off against the struggling Sharks and ended up losing 3-2, although they did manage to force overtime. It was a close game but clearly showed Pittsburgh’s struggles. Against a Florida team that has scored the fourth-most goals in the league, Pittsburgh’s struggles are sure to continue.
Prediction: Panthers win 3-1.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Carolina Hurricanes
Head-to-Head: Lightning 0 – 2 Hurricanes
The Tampa Bay Lightning are heading into Sunday’s match boasting a six-game win streak. They’ve set a dominant goal differential of 26-for to 14-against in these six games. After a first-half, that saw them barely top mediocrity, Tampa is finally back to their dominant ways. This is especially true for Victor Hedman. While he has been tremendous all year long, this win-streak has brought out an added punch in Hedman. He has tallied 10 points in the six-game span, most of any defenceman since the start of the streak.
If there is any team to halt the Bolts, though, it’ll be the Carolina Hurricanes. This season they have continued their dominant, well-rounded, ways of last season. The Hurricanes rank 11th in goals-for and seventh in fewest goals-against, stats that have helped propel them to a 24-15-2 record. This is good enough for fourth in the Metropolitan Division and the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. While they aren’t dropping jaws like they did last year, their consistent and strong play poses quite a threat to the red-hot Lightning. Yet, Tampa’s play as of late has simply been too dominant to be quelled by the modest Hurricanes. Their win streak will surely continue to seven games.
Prediction: Lightning win 5-3.
Calgary Flames vs Minnesota Wild
Head-to-Head: Flames 0 – 1 Wild
The meeting between the Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild is likely to be the closest bout of the day. The Flames are in the process of a too-early spring-cleaning as they prepare to add talent for the playoffs. Every mind in Calgary is dead-set on reversing the team’s recent fate and putting a roster that is filled with skill back into the win column. In their last five games, Calgary has set a measly 2-3-0 record with a goal differential of 14-for to 17-against.
They’ll hope to reverse their fortunes on Sunday but it seems like hope is the best they’ll be able to manage. Minnesota is simply too much of a threat. That’s right, Minnesota. After coming into the year with virtually no expectations, the Wild are now in tight contention for a Western Conference Wild Card. They’re only three points out heading into Sunday’s matchup. Since the start of December, only six teams have scored more than Minnesota. Their offence is truly potent, something they flaunted in their last meeting with the Flames, where they won 3-0.
Unfortunately, this shutout was an anomaly for the Wild. Since December’s start, the Wild have allowed the fourth-most goals-against. Their goal differential in this span is a mere -2, showing how tight-knit and high-scoring their games are becoming. This could mean a very exciting matchup with a similarly skilled, and fast, Flames lineup on Sunday. It’ll be a fight between a struggling powerhouse and an overperforming rebuilder that is sure to be high-paced, high-scoring, and exciting to watch. With their recent change in mindset, though, the Flames may be able to fight out a victory.
Prediction: Flames win 5-4.
Detroit Red Wings vs Chicago Blackhawks
Head-to-Head: Red Wings 0 – 0 Blackhawks
To help fans calm down after such a high-paced Wild vs Flames game, the NHL has provided a bout between the bottom-feeding Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. Neither team has provided many fireworks through the first half of the year. The Red Wings have been particularly terrible. Their 10-29-3 record places them firmly in last place in the league. In fact, the Wings are a full 13 points behind the second-to-last New Jersey Devils.
It’s been a terrible season for Detroit, something that Chicago will only make worse on Sunday. While the Hawks haven’t managed much either, they do boast a few bright spots. Their goaltending has been particularly to note, with Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner combining for arguably the best duo in the Western Conference. Their offence has also stayed fairly potent, with five players currently sat with double-digit goal totals. This includes Patrick Kane, whose 53 points in 42 games places him ninth in the league in scoring. While these are fairly bleak bright spots, they are beyond enough to beat a Red Wings team that has gone 1-7-0 in their last eight games.
Prediction: Blackhawks win 4-1.
Nashville Predators vs Anaheim Ducks
Head-to-Head: Predators 1 – 0 Ducks
The Nashville Predators have been the talk-of-the-town lately, although for all the wrong reasons. Many speculate that the team may be on the brink of parting ways with head coach Peter Laviolette; a result of the continued struggles experienced in Nashville. The Preds have gone 2-3-0 in their last five games. One of those wins came on Saturday when the Predators topped the Los Angeles Kings 4-1. This win will surely give the Predators enough confidence and forward-momentum to topple the Anaheim Ducks; a team that has fought to stay above water as of late.
The Ducks currently rank dead last in the Western Conference. After a modest start to the year, their potency has simply withered away. It seems they will simply be burning a year once again, far removed from the glory days they saw at the beginning of the decade. The Ducks have scored the second-fewest goals since the start of the year, in company with the terrible Red Wings. They’ve gone 4-8-1 in their last 13 games, although all four wins have come in extra time (three in a shootout). The mediocre Predators will surely add one more loss to that tally on Sunday.
Prediction: Predators win 2-0.