This is the first edition of Hardball Central’s NHL Game Day series, where we will break down the games each day and provide our “expert” (very loose term) opinion on who will win/lose the game, as well as a miniature excerpt about why that pick was made.
The slate on February 1, 2017 is a light one with just three games, after 14 games on the last day of January. All 14 of those games ended in regulation, marking the first time in NHL history where 14 games were resolved in regulation on the same calendar day.
Of the six teams playing today, five of them will be playing in the second half of back-to-backs. The Kings are coming off a 3-2 victory in the desert against the Coyotes, the Bruins defeated the Lightning 4-3, the Wild coming away victorious against the Oilers 5-2, a 3-2 loss for the Capitals against the Islanders and a 5-1 defeat for the Avalanche against the Ducks. The Flames will play their first game after the All-Star break on Wednesday.
Let’s take a look at the three contests that myself (@TheBKing4), Matt Layman (@MattJLayman), Madalyn Heimann (@MHeimannASU), Richard Duflo (@9Richard19) and Aaron Shapiro (@AJShapi1) broke down:
Boston Bruins (58 pts) @ Washington Capitals (72 pts)
The matchup between the Bruins and Capitals is this first of two Wednesday Night Rivalry games on NBCSN (the Avalanche and Kings will be the second game of the doubleheader), which will be broadcast nationally. Boston (26-21-6) has a three-game winning streak on the line against the NHL’s best team so far in Washington (33-11-6).
Even strength play could be the determining factor in this contest, as both teams’ penalty kill units are solid in their respective craft as Boston is the No. 2 unit and Washington ranks 4th in the NHL.
Despite Washington’s loss to the Islanders on Tuesday, the Capitals are 20-4-3 in their last 27 games. In that stretch they have outscored their opponents 98-to-52. Washington started Phillipp Grubauer in net on Tuesday, so All-Star Braden Holtby figures to draw the start against the Bruins.
Brendan: Capitals win 4-2.
Matt: Washington has the superior record and is playing its first home game since Jan. 23. After beating the Bruins at home in OT in December, look for the red-hot Braden Holtby to help the Capitals win 3-2.
Madalyn: The Boston Bruins head into D.C. in search of their fourth straight win, but the Washington Capitals are a tough opponent. The league leading Capitals boast an impressive line-up, but Patrice Bergeron may be the key in this game. In 39 games against the Capitals, Bergerson has an impressive 10 goals and 24 assists, and he could help extend the Bruins win streak. Both teams played last night, so it should be a competitive game, but the hot team here will win. Bruins win 4-2.
Richard: Boston isn’t a bad team, but they aren’t that same Cup Contender we’re used to anymore. Washington however, is an elite team still and they dominate the Atlantic division as they’ve gone 43-11 in their last 54 against the division. Capitals win 4-2.
Aaron: I think Braden Holtby outplays Tuuka Rask (both All-Stars) and the Capitals have a better offense. Capitals win 2-1.
Minnesota Wild (71 pts) @ Calgary Flames (53 pts)
Brian Elliott will get the call to start for the Flames (25-24-3) to begin the second half against the Wild (33-11-5), who are the best team in the Western Conference so far. Elliott has struggled so far this season as he is 9-12-2 with a 2.88 GAA and a .892 save percentage, and he will have to be on his A game Wednesday if he wants to push his victory count to double digits.
This game isn’t necessarily a must-win for Calgary, but yesterday’s Kings victory did move the Flames out of the playoff picture for the time being.
Minnesota doesn’t need to worry too much about missing the playoffs, as they currently sit seven points ahead of the San Jose Sharks for the Western Conference lead in points. The Wild will bank on Devin Dubnyk to slow down the Flames’ offensive attack. Dubnyk did not start Tuesday after playing in the All-Star Game on Sunday, but he has gone 18-2 in his last 20 starts.
Brendan: Flames win 3-2 (OT).
Matt: Minnesota has won 10 of their last 13, and lead the Central Division, while Calgary is 5th in the Pacific. The Flames just snapped a four-game losing streak before the All-Star break. Devin Dubnyk has been one of the best goalies all year, and he’ll be tasked with shutting down Calgary’s offense on the road. I think he’ll manage, though the Flames could be hungry. Wild win 3-1.
Madalyn: It´s the struggle of the NHL schedule, the Minnesota WIld played last night while the Calgary Flames haven’t played in almost a week. This is the third game of the three game season series for these two teams, with Calgary holding the 2-0 advantage. Minnesota is the better team, but the fact that they played may hurt their chances tonight, while a well rested Flames team begin their post All-Star Break schedule. Flames win 2-1.
Richard: Minnesota is having an outstanding season and Calgary is still in the midst of a rebuild. These teams are on the opposite sides of the spectrum and I think Minnesota adds another W tonight. Wild win 3-2.
Aaron: The Wild been on fire as of late, and I don’t think Calgary will be able to play up to their level. Wild win 3-2.
Colorado Avalanche (28 pts) @ Los Angeles Kings (54 pts)
The Colorado Avalanche (13-32-2) have dropped their last eight games and are currently on pace to finish with the NHL’s worst record this season. What better remedy for the Avalanche to overcome their recent misfortune than to play the Kings (25-21-4), as Colorado has won their last three head-to-head contests with Los Angeles.
The Kings have played well as of late, however, as they will look to extend their current winning streak to four games, as they begin to crawl back into the Pacific Division playoff picture.
They will look to avenge a 4-1 defeat to the Avalanche on Nov. 15, and this time around Anze Kopitar will be in the lineup for the Kings as he missed the first contest with an upper-body injury.
Brendan: Kings win 4-1.
Matt: The Kings return home for the second game of a back-to-back after beating Arizona at their place on Tuesday. Colorado took a 5-1 loss at Anaheim yesterday and have struggled all season. I don’t see Wednesday being any different, especially when Colorado’s special teams are among the worst in the NHL. Kings win 4-1.
Madalyn: Both the Los Angeles Kings and the Colorado Avalanche are on the second half of a back-to-back. The Kings played and won in Arizona on Tuesday night, while the Avalanche played in a loss to Anaheim. Even though Colorado is ranked last in almost every category, they beat the Kings 4-1 in their match-up earlier this season. Based on the Avalanche’s recent struggle to score goals, coupled with their 5-1 loss to the Ducks last night, the Kings will get their revenge with a win tonight. Kings win 3-2.
Richard: To put it nicely, Colorado is having a rough season. They’re bad. Very bad. It appears that they are headed to a rebuild, with their stars being sold off at the deadline. LA is jus too good of a team to sink down and take a loss to a team of this caliber. Kings win 4-1.
Aaron: The Kings are going up against the worst team in the NHL, and are at home. Even though they are on the back-end of a back-to-back I still think Los Angeles will beat Colorado easily. Kings win 3-1.