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 late game NHL predictions, we’ll cover the four of the nine games happening on February 16th. Each piece will include a featured game that should be must-watch hockey. The featured game for this article is the match between the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs New Jersey Devils
Head-to-Head: Stars 0 – 0 Senators
The New Jersey Devils are just-okay as of late, a modest step up from the terrible play they’ve seen for most of the year. In their last eight games, New Jersey has gone 3-2-3. It’s a ‘meh’ record that is helped by the fact that between the three wins, New Jersey has only allowed one goal. In the combined five losses, though, the Devils have allowed 24 goals; showing how truly hot-or-cold the team is. More-often-than-not, this pendulum tips towards ‘cold’ for New Jersey, who ranks dead-last in the Metropolitan Division.
This cold-streak is sure to continue against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are sizzling hot lately. They’ve gone 9-2-3 in their last 14 games, although they are on a four-game losing streak currently. Still, the Blue Jackets are blowing past expectations and sure to get one of the Eastern Conference’s Wild Cards as a result. They’ve been hard to top, with even their losses being closely contested. Columbus hasn’t lost a game by more than two goals since December 7th. Since then, they’ve gone 19-5-7.
For the late game set’s first bout, this seems fairly black-and-white. While the Devils are improving as of late, they’re still struggling overall. And while Columbus has started to dip, they’re still a red-hot team that’s nearly impossible to emphatically stop. The latter will easily prevail to start Sunday’s late-game set.
Prediction: Blue Jackets win 3-1.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Buffalo Sabres
Head-to-Head: Leafs 2 – 1 Sabres
The Toronto Maple Leafs have really cooled down since December, where they went 9-3-1 and scored 53 goals. Now, in their last 10 games, the Leafs are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games; despite having one of the best lineups, on paper, in the league. This is a lineup that includes the league’s leading goal-scorer, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner, who ranks ninth in assists.
It’s been a strange year for Toronto, as they sit just above a playoff spot thanks to the weak Atlantic Division. Luckily on Sunday, the Leafs will face one of the weakest of said Divison. While the Buffalo Sabres are still much better than the laughable Detroit Red Wings, the trendline is still dramatically negative. Buffalo has gone 4-5-1 in their last 10 games, somehow still a dramatic improvement from their play in late December. Still, Buffalo is falling deeper-and-deeper into the Division’s standings, so much so that the disgruntled fan base has even taken up protesting outside of the team’s home rink to try to spark a change. With such a volatile, and struggling, Sabres roster in the opposition, Toronto shouldn’t struggle at all to end their weekend on a high note.
Prediction: Leafs win 4-1.
Chicago Blackhawks vs Winnipeg Jets
Head-to-Head: Blackhawks 2 – 2 Jets
The Winnipeg Jets have continued their almost-perfectly mediocre season with a 3-3 record in their last six games. It’s been a back-and-forth year for Winnipeg, who has struggled to tip their fates in either way despite great names like Connor Hellebuyck and Mark Scheifele manning the guns. Still, they’ve only managed a 29-25-5 record. While this has kept them in a weak-yet-exciting playoff race, it hasn’t been enough to excite fans. Instead, things just seem to keep getting worse for Winnipeg. The latest edition to this spiral was the announcement that Bryan Little would miss the remainder of the season.
This removes one of the true signs of hope that Winnipeg had this year. Now, instead of waiting for the great scoring-threat that is Little to return to the lineup, the Jets have to look for a new fix. In the meantime, they’ll look to fight forward with a Chicago Blackhawks team that they’ve split their season-series with so far. The Hawks have, overall, been worse than Winnipeg this season but has at least managed plenty of excitement. Between great goaltending, the continued prowess of Patrick Kane, and rookies looking better than veterans; the Hawks have been certainly exciting to watch this year. Still, they haven’t been winning.
They have only won once in their last seven games; seemingly finally falling off the wagon. In this stretch, they’ve allowed over three-goals-per-game on average and scored an even two-goals-for on average. There seems to be no beating around the bush. Chicago is finally losing at the rate that many expected them to from the start of the year. There is no end in sight for Chicago, either, and a just-okay Jets team shouldn’t struggle to top them.
Prediction: Jets win 2-0.
St. Louis Blues vs Nashville Predators
Head-to-Head: Blues 0 – 3 Predators
As they so often do, the Blues and Predators are appearing in a back-to-back weekend series. Saturday’s game was filled with theatrics that should be a perfect basis for Sunday’s bout. These theatrics included two fights before the Blues even tallied two shots, a strong St. Louis comeback, and an even stronger game-winning-goal from Nashville’s Mikael Granlund.
It was as close of a bout that St. Louis can ask for. They have been truly bad lately. Saturday’s game was the 11th-straight that they’ve allowed three-or-more goals; something that the franchise hasn’t managed since 1991. The Blues have gone 2-6-3 in this 11-game stretch. It’s been their worst play since early last season, when they looked like one of the worst teams in the league. No matter how hard head coach Craig Berube searches, he can’t seem to find the culprit either. It’s instead been a mixed bag for St. Louis, as they’ve cycled between goaltending-woes, terrible defence, and unproductive offence on any given night.
Meanwhile, Nashville has started to pick their act up. They have gone 6-4-0 in their last 10 games. This included a 5-0 win over the defensively-gifted New York Islanders; tied for the Islanders worst loss of the year, with their only other five-goal-loss being when the Predators beat them 8-3 in December. Yet their recent success has been a bit thin-veiled. In their last 10 games they’ve set a goal differential of only 31 goals-for to 32 goals-against.
Saturday’s game against St. Louis was great proof of how evenly-split Nashville’s play has truly been. The Predators jumped out to a 2-0 lead by the end of the first period, extending it to a 3-1 lead in the second. But then Nashville quickly let St. Louis back into the game. The Blues tied the game up by the end of the second period and fought tooth-and-nail for the rest of the game. Thanks to a third-period power-play goal from Granlund and a healthy amount of late-game luck, though, Nashville managed to barely squeak by with a win after blowing their lead.
Between the multiple fights and the back-and-forth game that occurred on Saturday, Sunday is sure to be exciting. The Blues are getting madder by the day, furious with their recent struggles. While they will surely rebound soon, the Predators may no be the team to do such against. Nashville has beaten St. Louis all three times the two teams have faced this year and is likely to repeat on Sunday.
Prediction: Predators win 3-2.