Welcome back to the Last Word on Hockey team’s NHL Predictions series. Our daily articles predict every game on the night’s schedule and provide a breakdown of the matchup. Each article also highlights one game on the schedule that should be must-watch hockey. Tonight, that game is a cross-conference matchup between the red-hot Vancouver Canucks and Tampa Bay Lightning. As there is a multitude of games tonight, this article will only cover the first six games. For the rest of the games, check out our later game predictions.
Vancouver Canucks vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Head-to-Head: Canucks 0-0 Lightning
This is our featured early game for Tuesday, January 7th.
Vancouver is solidly positioning themselves in the Pacific Division playoff race for the first time in years, sitting in third with 50 points and a 23-15-4 record. Their last outing was a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers, getting goals from Antoine Roussel and Tyler Myers. This road trip is crucial to their playoff positioning, and a win against Tampa would surely help. The Canucks have been a good team at both ends of the ice, in combination with good goaltending. Their best player has arguably been goaltender Jacob Markstrom, as he’s brought in 15 wins, a .919 save percentage, and 2.66 goals-against average. 21-year-old Elias Pettersson leads the team offensively, as his 19 goals and 44 points lead the team.
Tampa has rebounded into a divisional playoff spot after a worrisome start and increasing their favorability in NHL predictions, also sitting at third in their division with a 24-13-4 record and 52 points. They beat the Carolina Hurricanes on the 5th of this month, and Mitchell Stephens, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point scored. Ryan McDonagh missed their last game, and his status is unknown for tonight. They have developed their two-way game closer to where it was last season, and they’ve won seven games in a row. Although he doesn’t lead their team in points, their MVP this season has probably been Victor Hedman. His 39 points in combination with good defensive play have helped spark the team back to its former glory.
While Vancouver’s played good hockey, Tampa is playing at their best right now, and very few teams in the league can stop them. Look for a Tampa victory tonight.
Prediction: Tampa Bay wins 3-0.
Arizona Coyotes vs. Florida Panthers
Head-to-Head: Coyotes 0-0 Panthers
The Arizona Coyotes are staying afloat in a weaker Pacific Division, as they’ve gathered 52 points and a 24-16-4 record, good enough for second place. They lit up the Philadelphia Flyers 6-2 last Saturday, as Brad Richardson, Jordan Oesterle, Lawson Crouse, Derek Stepan, and Clayton Keller (twice) all put their names in the goal column. Both of their NHL goaltenders are injured at the moment, so for now, Adin Hill steps into the net. The Coyotes have been held afloat by an elite defence, considering their mediocre offence. Their best player this year has been Vezina candidate Darcy Kuemper, as he’s got 15 wins, a .929 save percentage, and a 2.17 goals-against average. He’s a large reason why the Coyotes are in playoff position for the first time in a long time.
The Florida Panthers could be playing better, but are still in the thick of the playoff race. They’re fourth in the Atlantic Division with a 22-15-5 record and 49 points. They did successfully beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 the other night, getting goals from Frank Vatrano, Brett Connolly, Mike Hoffman, and Evgenii Dadonov. The team is being held back by defensive struggles, despite being an elite offensive team. Their best player hasn’t been centre Aleksander Barkov, but Jonathan Huberdeau is having a stellar season at age 26 — he’s got a stellar 57 points and 40 assists to lead the team.
If Florida’s last game is any indication, they should be able to beat an Arizona team with questionable goaltending.
Prediction: Florida wins 4-3.
New York Islanders vs. New Jersey Devils
Head-to-Head: Islanders 0-1 Devils
The New York Islanders have continued the standard set last season, defying NHL predictions, and they’re in a divisional playoff spot with 53 points and a 25-12-3 record. Their previous outing against the New Jersey Devils was a tight 2-1 loss on January 2nd. It was recently announced that Adam Pelech, one of their best defensive defencemen, would be out for the rest of the season. A poor offensive team, elite defence and goaltending have kept them in a good spot. Semyon Varlamov has found his groove again on the Island, compiling 14 wins, a .920 save percentage and a 2.40 goals-against average in a platoon situation with Thomas Greiss.
The Devils are still struggling in a tight Metropolitan Division, coming in last with a 15-20-6 record and 36 points. They’ve played better as of late, but are coming off a tough 5-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in which Blake Coleman and Jesper Boqvist scored. As of now, youngsters Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt are both sidelined with injuries. They don’t play great hockey at either end of the ice but are becoming more fun to watch. Youngster MacKenzie Blackwood has impressed in net this year, compiling a 14-11-5 record, .908 save percentage, and 2.83 goals-against average. All are great numbers considering New Jersey’s poor defensive ability.
Despite the standings, the Islanders have struggled to score lately, and the Devils have taken advantage of New York once already. Look for New Jersey to be victorious again tonight.
Prediction: New Jersey wins 2-1.
Ottawa Senators vs. Washington Capitals
Head-to-Head: Senators 0-0 Capitals
The Ottawa Senators have somehow exceeded expectations this season, but still are only 7th in the Atlantic Division with a 16-21-5 record and 37 points and an unpopular team in NHL predictions. Their previous game was a 5-3 loss at the hands of the Lightning, but they got goals from Chris Tierney, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Mark Borowiecki. They recently acquired defenceman Mike Reilly from the Montreal Canadiens for some added cheap depth on the back end. They’re a poor team in terms of offence and defence but play a high-action game. Pageau is having one of his best seasons at age 27, getting 30 points in 42 games (19-11-30).
The Washington Capitals are flying again this year, as they’re first place in the Metro Division with 63 points and a 29-9-5 record. They had an incredible 5-4 comeback victory against the San Jose Sharks, with Lars Eller getting the overtime winner. They’re among the league’s best offences but have been closer to average defensively. John Carlson is still having his best season to date, leading the team with 52 points in 43 games.
Expect a blowout from a strong Washington team.
Prediction: Washington wins 4-0.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Head-to-Head: Flyers 2-0 Hurricanes
The Flyers are staying afloat in a tight Metro Division race, placing fifth with a 22-15-5 record and 49 points. They’ve defeated the Carolina Hurricanes twice this season by a combined score of 9-4. The Flyers have been remarkably average in both ends of the ice, but coach Alain Vigneault is helping them find ways to win hockey games. Defenceman Ivan Provorov is having a rebound year with 24 points in 42 games, including nine goals.
The Hurricanes sit only slightly above the Flyers in the Metro Division, making this a very meaningful game for both teams tonight. They’ve got 50 points and a 24-16-2 record. Carolina’s stellar play on both ends of the ice, continuing their strong play from last season. They’re currently operating with a fully healthy roster. Defenceman Dougie Hamilton is still controlling play and putting up points, he’s got 37 in 42 games.
Philadelphia has hit a snag, and Carolina should beat them easily tonight.
Prediction: Carolina wins 4-0.
Colorado Avalanche vs. New York Rangers
Head-to-Head: Avalanche 0-0 Rangers
The Colorado Avalanche are second in the NHL’s Central Division, tallying 54 points and a 25-13-4 record. They’re among the best offensive teams in the league and hold their own defensively. The Avalanche are one of the most complete teams in the league, emphasized by the strong play of centre Nathan MacKinnon — he’s got 64 points in 42 games. The Cup contender Avalanche looks to take down the Rangers tonight and should be able to on the road.
The New York Rangers are floating right around .500, which is a tough recipe for success in the tight Metro Division and not great for NHL predictions. While they play a high-energy and solid offensive game, their defensive structure has been limiting their ceiling this year. Free-agent acquisition Artemi Panarin has been great in leading the Rangers out of their rebuild, getting 55 points in 41 games while leading the team with 22 goals. However, a strong Colorado team should beat them tonight.
Prediction: Colorado wins 4-3.