The NHL All-Star break has come and gone, and now the second half of the NHL season starts with a battle of two first-place clubs. The St. Louis Blues (30-11-8) head to Rogers Arena to face off against the Vancouver Canucks (27-18-4) on Monday night.
Here is a preview of Monday night’s matchup, along with odds and a free pick.
By The Numbers
We’ll start with the Blues, who ended the first half with losses to the Flyers and Avalanche. St. Louis is 11th in goals per game with 3.22 while averaging the 22nd-most shots at 30.2. However, the Blues also rank seventh with a 10.7 shooting percentage and have the fourth-best power play at 25.3 percent.
The Blues rank seventh in both goals allowed and shots allowed, coming into the game with 2.67 and 30.1, respectively. Their penalty kill is also a solid 81.7 percent, 14th in the NHL.
Meanwhile, the Canucks ended the first half with back-to-back wins against the Coyotes and Sharks. Vancouver is just ahead of St. Louis in goals scored, averaging the 10th-best total of 3.24. The Canucks are averaging 31.6 shots, 14th in the league, and have the seventh-best power play at 23.6 percent.
The Canucks are 14th in goals allowed, giving up 3.02 goals per game. They’ve allowed 32.4 shots on average, 25th in the NHL, and carry the 16th-ranked penalty kill that is successful 80.6 percent of the time.
Who To Watch
The Blues were well-represented at their home arena during All-Star weekend, and those same All-Stars will play a big role for them Monday night. It starts with David Perron, who ended the first half with a multi-point effort against Colorado to give him 21 goals and 28 assists on the season.
Next is Ryan O’Reilly, last year’s Conn Smythe Trophy winner, who leads the team with 34 assists and picked up another pair against the Avalanche. Finally, there’s the captain, Alex Pietrangelo, who with a goal and an assist right before the break reached 13 goals and 27 assists this season.
The first-place Canucks also had some representation in St. Louis over the weekend, as their young stars are ready to reignite Vancouver beginning Monday night. That will revolve around Elias Pettersson, last year’s Calder Trophy winner for the best rookie. Pettersson ended the first half with three assists in two games, giving him 30 helpers on the season to go with 21 goals.
He’ll be aided by rookie defenseman and first-time All-Star, Quinn Hughes. Hughes, the older brother of Jack Hughes of the Devils, scored his fifth goal of the season against the Sharks right before the break, adding to his 34 total points.
St. Louis is expected to trot out its All-Star goalie, Jordan Binnington. The second-year goaltender is 22-8-5 with a 2.58 GAA and a .912 save percentage.
Vancouver is also expected to send out its All-Star netminder, Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom is 18-13-3 with a 2.71 GAA and a .916 save percentage.
Odds and Pick
In this highly-anticipated matchup between two first-place clubs, the Blues are favorites at -125 to start the second half of the season with a win.
Both of these teams have similar offensive firepower, but one has a clear advantage defensively. Look for St. Louis to make things difficult for Vancouver’s young scorers, creating turnovers that set itself up for success on the other end. This should be a good game, but I like the Blues -125 to get the win Monday night.