Two of the hottest teams in the NHL face off in St. Louis on Monday, when the Vegas Golden Knights (42-27-6, 3rd Pacific) go up against the St. Louis Blues (40-27-8, 3rd Central).
Both teams have played well enough as of late to avoid Wild Card spots. Vegas has 90 points, eight points ahead of the Stars for the first Wild Card position with seven games left for each team. The Blues also have seven games remaining and sit at 88 points, trailing the second-place Predators by two points.
The last meeting between these teams was all the way back on November 16th, when the Blues won 4-1. St. Louis is favored at home, listed at -120.
The Golden Knights, who started this season a lot slower than last, are hitting their stride just in time for the playoffs. Saturday’s overtime loss to the Red Wings was just their second loss in 12 games and the first in their last five. Over their last 10 games, the Knights are 8-1-1.
Vegas is an elite possession team, ranking second in shots on goal and fifth in shots allowed. They are 11th in goals and tied for seventh in goals allowed. Their penalty kill is also in the top-10.
A huge reason for the turnaround has been the elite play of Mark Stone. Since being acquired from the Senators at the February trade deadline, Stone has four goals and eight assists, 12 points out of his season total of 70. Since his arrival, Vegas is 10-1-1 and has a +23 goal differential.
In addition to Stone, Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Cody Eakin have all reached the 20-goal mark, with Alex Tuch (19) and Reilly Smith (18) not far behind.
Tonight in net, Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to start. Fleury is 35-19-5 with a 2.46 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.
Hitting the High Note
Once in the lottery mix, the Blues seem to be on a three-month-long hot streak. They are currently on a three-game winning streak, recently beating the league-best Lightning, and are 10-2 in their last 12 games at home. St. Louis is 6-2-2 over the last 10 games overall, and 4-0-1 in the last five.
St. Louis has never had a dynamic offense this season. They are average across the board, coming in at 16th in goals, 15th in shots, and 13th in power play. But their turnaround has been a result of strong defense and consistent goaltending. The Blues are top-6 in goals allowed, shots allowed, and penalty kill.
Ryan O’Reilly leads the Blues with 44 assists and 70 points. Vladimir Tarasenko and his 29 goals are second with 60 points. Veteran David Perron, the only other player on the roster to reach the 20-goal mark besides the aforementioned two, had a 17-game point streak that was snapped on Saturday against Tampa Bay.
The rookie revelation, Jordan Binnington, is expected to draw the start. Binnington is a remarkable 20-4-1 with a 1.84 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.
Two teams that are equally hot in the last few games of the regular season. It really doesn’t get better than this. Tonight, I’ll go for the “upset” and pick Vegas. I think their offense continues to show up and Fleury gets it done. Plus even though St. Louis is great at home, they’re just a little over .500 against teams in the West (22-18-6). Meanwhile, Vegas is an average road team but an impressive 27-14-2 against the West.
I’m picking the Golden Knights (+100) to win a close one on the road.