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 five of the 10 games happening on March 12th. 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 Columbus Blue Jackets.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Columbus Blue Jackets
Head to Head: Penguins 2 – 1 Blue Jackets
This is our NHL Predictions featured game of the night
We start our NHL Predictions with a Metro Division battle between the Penguins and the Blue Jackets. This will be the fourth and final meeting between the two teams. The Penguins lead the season series thus far 2-1. However, they have been struggling as of late. The Penguins have gone 3-7 over their last 10 games and were dominated in back to back games over the weekend against the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes. The Penguins won their last game against the bottom-feeding New Jersey Devils by a score of 5-2 and are looking to put together a nice winning streak heading into the playoffs as they look to secure home ice for the first round. Evgeni Malkin put the team on his back in that game, scoring two goals including the game-winner and adding an assist.
For the Blue Jackets, they will be looking to build off their latest win which found them beating the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 on March 8th. The Blue Jackets have been in a funk recently as well going just 3-4-3 in their last 10 games but will need to quickly turn things around if they want to hold onto their playoff spot. The Blue Jackets are currently sitting in the second Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference, but the New York Islanders, New York Rangers and Florida Panthers are hot on their trail. In order to do this, they will have to do a better job keeping the puck out of their net. The Blue Jackets have allowed at least four goals in 10 of their last 13 games. Having Elvis Merzlikins back may solve that problem. However, the high powered offence of the Penguins might be too much for the Blue Jackets in this one.
Prediction: Penguins win 4-3
Vegas Golden Knights vs Minnesota Wild
Head-to-Head: Golden Knights 1 – 1 Wild
The Vegas Golden Knights are, finally, establishing just how great of a team they are. In their last 13 games, they’ve set a terrific 11-2-0 record. Part of this is largely thanks to newcomer Robin Lehner, who has won all three of his starts since joining Vegas at the Trade Deadline. In those three starts, he’s only allowed a combined five goals and set a terrific .940 save percentage. His introduction into the Vegas lineup has only bolstered a team that was already playing at a league-best level.
This amazing play has even come without Mark Stone, who has missed the team’s last six games. He’s expected to miss a bit more of time as well, leaving Vegas without one of the best players in the league and their second-ranking scorer. What’s even worse is that, now, Vegas is also missing their leading scorer: Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty is expected to be out for as long as Stone. if not longer, meaning the Knights two best offensive weapons are now out of action. While the Knights other forwards, defence, and goaltending are all still great enough to keep them competitive, they’re sure to struggle a bit more.
The Minnesota Wild will be hoping to take advantage of these struggles in Vegas’ first game without both players, on Thursday. Minnesota has been strong in their own right, though, going 8-3-0 in their last 11 games. This has been a great exceeding of expectations, with Minnesota’s entire lineup participating in every single win, although Kevin Fiala‘s recent play has been terrific as well. Nonetheless, the depth in the Wild lineup is clearly a threat. Especially considering the team’s added motivation, as they fight for a Wild Card spot. With a lineup that’s clicking and against a Vegas team that’s struggled, Minnesota may just manage an upset.
Prediction: Wild win 3-1.
Dallas Stars vs Florida Panthers
Head-to-Head: Stars 0 – 1 Panthers
The Florida Panthers are falling off the wagon as the season is coming to an end. They’ve gone from an Atlantic Division role to outside of the playoffs entirely. This is thanks to a poor last 10 games, where the team has gone 4-4-2. While not terrible, things need to turn around quickly for Florida if they want to reach the post-season.
The stars could be aligning for the Florida Panthers, who face off against the terrifically struggling Dallas Stars. Dallas has been great this year, looking just as strong as they did last year. That is, until late-February. Since February 27th, Dallas has gone 0-4-2 and only scored nine goals. This is despite averaging roughly 35 shots on goal in each game. It’s been a weird stroke of bad luck and inefficient offence, even in the face of what’s continued to be a terrific Dallas defence. While they are seemingly one step away from figuring things out and returning to greatness, a determined Florida team could surely keep Dallas in the dumps.
Prediction: Panthers win 2-0.
New York Islanders vs Calgary Flames
Head-to-Head: Islanders 0 – 0 Flames
The New York Islanders, much like the Dallas Stars, have fallen off since late-February. Since February 25th, the Islanders have gone 0-3-4. Unlike Dallas, though, New York’s offence and defence are both, well, average: it’s simply been terrible luck or to some an inability to finish, working against them.
The Calgary Flames have, on the other hand, started to emerge from the ashes. They’ve gone an admirable 6-3-1 in their last 10 games as they slowly climb the Pacific Division’s standings. Despite their warming up, though, Calgary’s starter on Thursday could serve to work against them. David Rittich will be taking the net for the Flames, looking to build off of what’s been a slightly disappointing season. On the year, Rittich has a .907 save percentage and 2.97 goals-against-average, set on track to a 24-17-6 record. While this isn’t an awful stat-line, it does give the Islanders a bit more hope than if Calgary had gone with Cam Talbot, who has looked much stronger this year. Still, with four days since their last game and strong performances as of late, Calgary is sure to pull ahead against the struggling Islanders.
Prediction: Flames win 4-1.
Vancouver Canucks vs Arizona Coyotes
Head-to-Head: Canucks 1 – 1 Coyotes
The Arizona Coyotes have gone a meagre 5-5-0 in their last 10 games. It’s been a modest-at-best streak to perfectly reflect their modest-at-best year. While there have been flashes of greatness, like February 22nd’s 7-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the sense of the streak has been more of a pessimistic one.
With that said, this modest-at-best play is going to be plenty to lead Arizona over the Vancouver Canucks, who are starting to show their true colours. Many worried that such a young Vancouver team would struggle to find success this season and, after a very exciting year, it seems that’s finally becoming the case. Vancouver has gone 4-6-1 in their last 11 games, simply failing at every step along the way. It’s been hard to watch for those that were cheering for the black-horse Canucks as they entered the playoffs. Now, their season may be cut short. Vancouver currently sits just outside of a Wild Card, losing in a tiebreaker to the Nashville Predators. Unless they can re-find their groove on Thursday, things won’t get much better. Arizona, while not daunting, is sure to take advantage of a Canucks team that’s looked entirely bent out of shape.
Prediction: Coyotes win 2-1.