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 four games happening on January 19th. Each piece will include a featured game that should be must-watch hockey. The featured game for this article is the matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins.
New York Islanders vs Carolina Hurricanes
Head-to-Head: Islanders 0 – 1 Hurricanes
Two of the greatest defensive teams this year will butt heads to start Sunday’s meetings. The New York Islanders rank fourth in the league for fewest goals-against, continuing to show why Barry Trotz is among the best coaches in the league. Unfortunately, close behind is the similarly-strong-coached Carolina Hurricanes, who rank sixth in the same category.
This could spell a very low-scoring, tightly-contested matchup. The Islanders have gone a modest 5-4-1 in their last 10, posing ultimately very little threat. In these games, they’ve only managed 27 goals-for, showing once again that, while they have an elite defence, their offence is far below league-standard. In fact, they rank 22nd in goals-for this year. This places them behind the Chicago Blackhawks, Arizona Coyotes, and Minnesota Wild in scoring.
Eerily, almost the exact same can be said about the Hurricanes. They’ve gone 5-4-1 in their last 10 and scored 26 goals. The two teams have been almost identical and will struggle to gain ground in Sunday’s matchup. New York will have the defiant upper-hand, though, thanks to the recent injury to Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton has steered the ship in Carolina this year, netting 40 points in 47 games on pace to a Norris-calibre year. Yet, he fell to a broken leg in the team’s last meeting. This is a huge blow to the Hurricanes lineup and will dramatically affect their game on Sunday.
Prediction: Islanders win 3-1.
Winnipeg Jets vs Chicago Blackhawks
Head-to-Head: Jets 1 – 1 Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks have been surprisingly hot lately. They’ve gone 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. It’s been dazzling for Chicago, who had absolutely no expectations heading into the season. Now, on the back of Vezina-calibre years from Robin Lehner and Corey Crawford, the Hawks are only four points out of a Wild Card spot. Despite immense struggles and an admittedly poor lineup, Chicago could actually make the playoffs. Seriously.
One of the few teams standing in their way are the Winnipeg Jets. However, Winnipeg doesn’t pose much of a wall anymore. They’ve gone 4-5-1 in their last 10, falling from grace in the Western Conference postseason race. Neither their potent top-six or elite goaltending have managed much through the 10-game stretch, with their goal differential falling to a measly 29-for and 35-against. There’s been no glimmer of hope in Winnipeg; they’re simply just ice cold. On Sunday they’ll face a red-hot Chicago team. The game seems almost too easy to predict.
Prediction: Blackhawks win 5-3.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs New York Rangers
Head-to-Head: Blue Jackets 0 – 1 Rangers
The day’s meetings return to toe-to-toe matchups with a bout between the red-hot Columbus Blue Jackets and the simmering New York Rangers. Columbus has blown away the league as of late, going 12-2-2 in their last 16 games. It’s been an impressive rise to power that’s seen the entire Blue Jackets roster click. They’ve tallied 48 goals-for in that period but managed to limit opponents to a much more impressive 28 goals-against. That’s an average of only 1.75 goals-against-per-game.
While this is a testament to Columbus’ great defence, it shines a particular light on rookie goalie Elvis Merzlikins. Merzlikins had a dazzling career in Europe before coming to North America this season. Many were wary about how the youngster would play but he’s dazzled fans so far. Since December 31st, Merzlikins has gone 8-2-0 and allowed a mere 15 goals-against. This includes his performance on Saturday, where he recorded an amazing 41-save shutout over the New Jersey Devils. It was an astonishing performance, one that he hopes to match when he faces New York on Sunday, as he’s expected to.
Of course, New York will look to do all they can to stifle the rookie’s four-game win streak. They’ve gone 6-4-0 in their last 10 and have averaged just over four goals-per-game in that stretch. They’ve also averaged over 30 shots-per-game. Artemi Panarin has finally earned his $11 million price tag and is leading the pack in New York. They’re a potent offence that will face off against one of the hottest goalies in the league. Or, more specifically, one of the strongest overall teams when it comes to limiting goals. For all it’s worth, it’ll be an exciting meeting that either team could pull ahead in. Ultimately, though, Merzlikins will likely pull another rabbit out of his hat and topple yet another team.
Prediction: Blue Jackets win 5-4.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Boston Bruins
Head-to-Head: Penguins 0 – 2 Bruins
The day’s featured game is a meeting between two of the best teams in the league. The Bruins currently rank second in the league-wide standings, while the Penguins are close behind coming in at fourth. Both teams have had stellar years, making deciding between the two a hard task.
Diving deeper doesn’t make things any clearer. The Penguins have been absolutely terrific recently. In their last 17 games, they’ve set a 13-3-1 record. In that stretch, they’ve outscored opponents by a combined 60 to 45. Six of these games came without both Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel, the two engines behind the Pittsburgh offence. Still, the Penguins managed to go 4-1-1 in those games.
Their perseverance was rewarded with Crosby returning to action three games ago. He’s made an immediate impact for Pittsburgh, tallying six points in the last three games. For a Pittsburgh team that did just fine without him, gaining back one of the best players in recent memory will surely make things easier.
But not too easy. Despite Crosby suiting up, the Penguins still weren’t able to beat Boston on January 16th. In fact, the Bruins dominated the Penguins by a 4-1 tally. It was only Boston’s seventh win in their last 15 games, as they’ve hit a bit of a rough patch. Still, the win over Pittsburgh proved that their losing skid was simply a fluke. With that win looming, and Boston receiving plenty of rest since then, there’s no doubting history will repeat itself once again. Although Pittsburgh will surely put up much more of a fight this time around.
Prediction: Bruins win 6-5.