Welcome back to Last Word on Hockey’s NHL Predictions series. Every day, our team publishes an article (or two!) breaking down every game on that night’s schedule, offering our analysis and prediction for each matchup. As the All-Star break looms and teams begin to take their bye weeks, there are only five games on a normally busy Tuesday slate. All of them will be covered here, including our featured game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Boston Bruins
Head-to-Head: Golden Knights 0-1 Bruins
The Vegas Golden Knights are currently a part of a four-way tie for second place in the Pacific Division, sitting with a 25-19-7 record and 57 points. They were lucky to get a point out of their last game, a 5-4 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. They’ll be without their top centre William Karlsson again tonight, as he’s week-to-week with an upper-body injury. Vegas has been one of the top teams in the league this year offensively but has struggled in terms of keeping the puck out of the net. They’ve dropped five of their past six contests. Max Pacioretty continues to lead the Knights offensively, with 21 goals, 26 assists, and 47 points in 51 games.
The Boston Bruins sit atop the Atlantic Division with 68 points and a 28-10-12 record. Their last victory against Vegas was a 4-3 win on the road back on October 8th. The Bruins could potentially get even more of a boost soon, as they’re looking at adding pieces up front via trade. Boston is a very good team offensively, but are elite defensively due to great goaltending this season from Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. However, the Bruins have dropped three of their past four games. Boston is led by the elite goal-scoring touch of David Pastrnak, who leads the team with 37 goals and 70 points in only 50 games.
It should be a very close game tonight between two good teams who have struggled a bit as of late, but the more complete team in Boston should win a tight battle at home.
Prediction: Bruins win 2-1.
New York Islanders vs. New York Rangers
Head-to-Head: Islanders 0-2 Rangers
The New York Islanders sit in third in the Metropolitan Division, tallying a 28-15-5 record for 61 points. They’ve dropped two games against the New York Rangers, 6-2 on the 13th and 3-2 on the 16th. The Islanders are a poor offensive team but are an elite team defensively and in the net. The “other” New York team has dropped three straight contests, including the latter loss to the Rangers. Goalie Semyon Varlamov‘s play has taken a step back as of late, as he now sits with a 15-8-4 record supplemented by a more average .915 save percentage and 2.59 goals-against average.
Despite a decent 23-20-4 record and 50 points, the Rangers sit all the way down in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division. They’re coming off a tough-to-swallow 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night. Despite that, the Rangers have won four out of their past six matches. The Rangers are slightly above-average offensively but have a bit of cleanup to do in their end of the ice. The dynamic play of Artemi Panarin has solidified him as the team’s best player, as he leads the team with 26 goals, 42 assists, and 68 points in 47 games.
The Rangers’ edge over their crosstown rivals this season should continue tonight.
Prediction: Rangers win 3-2 in the shootout.
Winnipeg Jets vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Head-to-Head: Jets 0-1 Hurricanes
The Winnipeg Jets are still in the Central Divison playoff race, tallying a 25-20-4 record and 54 points so far for fourth place. Their last outing was a 5-2 loss to the division rival Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night. They’ll have to move forward without centre Adam Lowry for at least a month due to injury, however. Winnipeg has been a markedly average team at each end of the ice this season. They’ve dropped four out of their last five games, making them an unpopular pick in NHL predictions lately. Connor Hellebuyck‘s good season in goal carries the team: he has 21 of the team’s 25 wins complemented with a .919 save percentage and 2.71 goals-against average.
Despite a very good 28-18-3 record and 59 points, the Carolina Hurricanes are only fifth in the Metropolitan Division. Their last matchup against Winnipeg resulted in a 6-3 victory against their former Southeast Division (yep) rivals. Carolina is an average offensive team but excels at keeping the puck out of their net. However, the team’s dropped three out of their past four games. Their record has been largely boosted by the two-way play of the now-injured defenceman Dougie Hamilton, who had 40 points in 47 games before his injury.
A much more dynamic Hurricanes team should dominate Winnipeg tonight in Raleigh.
Prediction: Hurricanes win 4-0.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Head-to-Head: Penguins 1-0 Flyers
This is the Last Word on Hockey featured game of the night.
The battle of Pennsylvania rages on tonight — the Penguins come in ranked second in the Metropolitan Division with a 31-13-5 record and 67 points. They trounced Philadelphia, 7-1, all the way back on October 29th. However, their injury list sees another addition before tonight’s match as Dominik Kahun has been diagnosed with a concussion. Pittsburgh is one of the best all-around teams in the league despite their extensive injuries this season. They’re extremely hot right now, having won six out of their past seven games. Bryan Rust has had an incredible season for this squad, leading the team with 21 goals despite playing in only 35 games.
Philadelphia remains in a tight playoff race, as they maintain a 26-17-6 record and 58 points, only good enough for sixth place in the Metropolitan Division. A solid 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday has their confidence up. They may be preparing to add a veteran at the trade deadline to boost their playoff chances. Philadelphia has been rather average at both ends of the ice, however, and things will need to improve sooner rather than later. The team’s won three out of their last four. A breakout season from Travis Konecny has helped the team this year, as he leads the team with 17 goals and 42 points.
Pittsburgh is on fire rolling into tonight, and they’ll win a tight matchup against their cross-state rivals.
Prediction: Penguins win 2-0.
Florida Panthers vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Head-to-Head: Panthers 0-0 Blackhawks
The Florida Panthers sit at third place in the Atlantic Division with a 27-16-5 record and 59 points. Florida is coming off a shocking 5-4 win over the Minnesota Wild last night, scoring the tiebreaking goal with five seconds left in the game. Florida has evolved into an elite offensive team, but have significant struggles in the defensive zone. The Panthers have now won five straight games but will be exhausted after last night’s outing. Jonathan Huberdeau‘s career-best season continues, leading the team with 46 assists and 64 points.
Chicago has maintained respectability with a 24-20-6 record, tying them for fourth in the Central Division with 54 points. A 5-2 win against Winnipeg recently was crucial in maintaining their playoff positioning. They have to be looking ahead to their goaltending situation this summer, though, as covered in one of our latest NHL Rumours pieces. Chicago has been okay offensively but has struggled in terms of defensive structure. However, Chicago’s won five straight games and can’t be counted out of the playoffs yet. Robin Lehner‘s great play has been the biggest reason for their success, as he’s maintained a .924 save percentage while facing a large number of high-quality chances.
Chicago should win a tight matchup against a high-powered but tired Panthers team.
Prediction: Blackhawks win 5-4.
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