The final day of the regular season is here, and there is still one division up for grabs. This afternoon, the St. Louis Blues (44-28-9, 3rd Central) will aim to complete their improbable season with a division title as they host the Vancouver Canucks (35-36-10, 5th Pacific).
Despite being in third place, the Blues are very much in contention to win the division. At 97 points, they are tied with the Jets and one point behind the Predators. A win from St. Louis and losses from both of those teams would result in their first division title in four seasons. Meanwhile the Canucks will have the opportunity to play spoiler and end their season on a high note.
Back on December 20th, when St. Louis was still stuck in a rut, Vancouver smoked them 5-1. Today, the Blues are massive home favorites at -265.
Rags to Riches
No team in hockey has had a turnaround quite like the Blues. St. Louis was 7-9-3 before firing Mike Yeo in November, and on January 3rd sat dead last in the Western Conference. But things turned around in a hurry, sparked by an 11-game winning streak that shot the Blues up the standings. On March 29th, they officially clinched a playoff spot, and are now in a position to win the division.
Interim coach Craig Berube has built a team focused on shutdown defense. The Blues are currently sixth in goals allowed, fourth in shots allowed, and sixth in penalty kill percentage. They’ve also moved into the top half of the league offensively, ranking 14th in goals, 15th in shots and shooting percentage, and ninth in power play percentage.
Ryan O’Reilly leads St. Louis with 75 points. Vladimir Tarasenko is next with 66 points, along with a team-high 32 goals. St. Louis has a balanced attack with veterans like Brayden Schenn (53 points) and Alex Pietrangelo (40) helping shoulder the load. The Blues have 10 players all over 30 points this season.
Arguably the biggest catalyst for the Blues’ turnaround is Jordan Binnington, who is expected to start in the regular season finale. The rookie sensation is 23-5-1 with a 1.89 goals against average and .927 save percentage.
The Canucks have been playing the spoiler role well recently, going 6-4-0 in their last 10 games. In their most recent game on Thursday, they nearly beat the Predators, but Nashville escaped with a victory to keep their division-winning hopes alive. But Vancouver, even with focus on the future, has made it a point to play the playoff-bound teams well in the last few weeks of the season.
Vancouver is 23rd in goals, 24th in shots, and 25th in power-play percentage. They’re a little better defensively, ranking 20th in goals allowed, 17th in shots allowed, and 11th in penalty kill percentage.
Vancouver was hit hard with injuries, with Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Alex Edler and more all missing time. Pettersson is the leading scorer with 65 points, followed closely by Bo Horvat with 61. Just five players have more than 30 points.
Jacob Markstrom is expected to start in goal for Vancouver. Markstrom is 28-23-9 with a 2.77 GAA and .912 save percentage.
The Canucks will fight tooth and nail today, making sure they make things difficult for the Blues. But when it comes down to it, the Blues will come out on top and hope the Jets and Predators go down as well. I’ll pick the Blues -265.