A potential playoff preview takes the ice on Monday, as the Vegas Golden Knights (21-7-1) host the St. Louis Blues (16-10-5).
The Blues overcame five straight losses, two of which came against Vegas, and have won their last two games, Friday and Saturday road matchups against the Sharks.
Meanwhile, the Golden Knights used that sweep in St. Louis to launch into a five-game winning streak. However, that streak came to an end with a loss on Sunday to the Kings.
Here is a closer look at some key stats, along with some important players, before we get to a free pick. Vegas is favored at home at -155, while St. Louis is +133 as the road underdog.
By the Numbers
The Golden Knights have the advantage in a few key offensive categories. Vegas is averaging 3.28 goals per game, seventh in the NHL, and also rank within the Top 10 in shot per game with 31. However, their power play has been a disappointment, converting just 17.6 percent of the time.
As for the Blues, their offense has dropped off a bit from where they began the year. St. Louis is 12th in the league with 3.03 goals, but also sits 22nd with just under 29.5 shots. They do, however, own a slight advantage on the power play, converting 19.6 percent of the time with the man-advantage.
Defensively, Vegas has the upper hand considerably. Only one team in hockey allows fewer goals per game than the Knights’ 2.24, while they also give up the fifth-fewest shots and own the sixth-rated penalty kill. On the other hand, St. Louis is 21st with 3.13 goals allowed, while also ranking 14th in shots allowed and 25th on the penalty kill.
Injuries are hitting both of these teams hard heading into Monday. The Blues have lost a ton of depth up the middle, with Oskar Sundqvist out for the season and both Robert Thomas and Ivan Barbashev still on Injured Reserve.
Vegas has fewer injuries, but the absent players account for a huge impact. Number one defenseman and former Blue Alex Pietrangelo has been out since March 6th, while leading goal-scorer Max Pacioretty sat out Sunday and will likely miss Monday’s game as well.
However, both teams still have some options to rack up goals. The visiting Blues have veterans Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron, who have continued to be big contributors. O’Reilly shook off a three-game scoreless drought with a four-point effort on Saturday, while the same thing happened with the team point-leader Perron, who also had a goal and three assists against San Jose.
Others to watch for St. Louis include Jordan Kyrou, who had two goals and a helper on Saturday, as well as d-man Vince Dunn, who earned one goal and one assist two days ago as well. There’s also the always-dangerous Vladimir Tarasenko, who has four points in seven games but has been held scoreless in his last three contests.
With no Pacioretty, more will fall on leading point-producer Mark Stone. Stone was held without a point on Sunday, ending his 10-game point streak in which the right wing netted six goals to go with 12 helpers. Not too far behind is defenseman Shea Theodore, also blanked on Sunday, who entering the game had two goals and seven assists during a six-game point streak.
Others have stepped up recently for Vegas. Tomas Nosek has points in his last three games, increasing his yearly total from three to seven. Center William Karlsson potted his seventh goal of the year last Friday, while Jonathan Marchessault added a couple of assists to his season total. Vegas’ wild card is right wing Alex Tuch, who with 13 goals is second only to Pacioretty on the Knights but has just one goal in his last seven games.
St. Louis should once turn to Jordan Binnington to man the net. The third-year netminder is 10-7-4 with a 2.73 GAA and .907 save percentage.
With Marc-Andre Fleury starting yesterday, Vegas will likely hand the reins to Robin Lehner, who is back after missing time with an injury. Lehner carries a decent 4-1-1 record, but has a 2.80 GAA and an .894 save percentage.
Both teams are a little short-handed, with Vegas playing without a couple of huge contributors. This game should still be close; two of their three previous meetings needed overtime.
However, I like the Blues to pull off the upset. St. Louis has the advantage in net, the extra day of rest on their side, and their top goal-scorers also entering the game with some juice. At plus money, they offer decent value as well. Take the Blues to leave Sin City with a W.
Betting Pick: St. Louis Blues +133
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