St. Louis Blues vs. Vancouver Canucks Game 6 Odds, Picks & Predictions (Friday, August 21)
Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Ryan O’Reilly
Blues vs. Canucks Odds
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|Blues Odds||-143 [BET NOW]|
|Canucks Odds||+123 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||5.5 (+108/-130) [BET NOW]|
|Time||9:45 p.m. ET|
A television show crammed with too many characters and plot points can quickly grow wearisome. Not true with the NHL. The Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues’ series has so many different threads to chase that the drama is riveting.
Allow me to provide the CliffsNotes from the last episode. Both Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko and Canucks forward Tyler Toffoli are done for the series. Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler looks like he will play in Game 6 despite having his ear lacerated by a skate blade. This is fortuitous since the Canucks already lost defenseman Tyler Myers for the series and losing another top-four defenseman could paralyze their efforts to make the next round.
Canucks coach Travis Green tinkered with the lines in Game 5 and tried Bo Horvat with J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser. And there are rumblings that Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington may get the nod in Game 6 despite Jake Allen being the far better option at the moment.
For a series that has spawned two overtime finishes and been extremely close, the Blues are being given the respect of a Stanley Cup champion with a -132 moneyline on DraftKings.
Personally, I would refrain. The price is too high, and the Canucks have the skill to shine a spotlight on the Blues’ blemishes. Since to me it’s basically a coin flip, read on for why I would snatch Vancouver at +114.
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St. Louis Blues
In Games 1 and 2, the Blues relied on their defensemen to vitalize their offense. But with the injury to Tarasenko, Blues coach Craig Berube moved Jaden Schwartz onto the Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron line. For the Canucks, it was the “ay, caramba!” moment of the series. The trio proved to be gangbusters.
In Game 3, they collected 33 shot attempts while only allowing eight. In the last three games in almost 40 minutes together, they have an expected goals of 75.18% and have collected 38 shots while conceding 14.
As one would expect, the O’Reilly line has carved up Vancouver’s defense with the forecheck and on the cycle.
In Game 6, Vancouver will have the last change, which makes it interesting to see how coach Green tries to slow down the O’Reilly line. When he has used his top defensive pairing of Quinn Hughes and Chris Tanev against them, it has been gruesome. In 21 minutes, this Canucks’ defensive pairing has a 27.73% expected goals against when facing the Blues’ best offensive trio.
Green also looked to use Bo Horvat’s line to play against O’Reilly’s and the numbers for Vancouver’s shutdown forward line are woeful. What about the Brock Boeser-Elias Pettersson-J.T. Miller line you might ask? In 10 minutes, they accrued one shot on goal against the O’Reilly line while allowing ten. Their expected goals percentage was under six!
Game 4 had an illuminating goal that could foreshadow a ploy by the Blues in Game 6. Much the way a city can be a character in a movie or book, inanimate objects can take on critical roles in ice hockey.
On the first goal the Blues scored, they were on the power play and Alex Pietrangelo intentionally fired a puck wide of the net, setting up the carom for an O’Reilly chip shot into the back of the net. Using the lively boards in Edmonton as a prop for a one-on-one battle around the crease is one way to unsettle the Canucks’ wobbly defensive group.
The problem with the Blues is that, for how dominant the O’Reilly line is, the rest of the forward lines are lackluster. In Game 5, the O’Reilly line accumulated seven shots on goal at 5-on-5. No other Blues line produced more than four. This is the case even in games the Blues win and ostensibly control.
In Game 4, the O’Reilly line had nine shots at 5-on-5. The Robert Thomas line was second most with three shots. Even in Game 3, which extended nearly four periods, the lines with the second most shots were the Tyler Bozak and Oskar Sundqvist lines with five. For context, the O’Reilly line had 18. That is a lot of pressure on one line to generate scoring.
Contrary to expectations, the Canucks have been beaten badly in expected goals only in two games against the Blues. In Games 2 and 5, they actually won the expected goals battle. To start the series, it looked like the path to victory for Vancouver was through its powerplay, stretch pass, and top line. Well, at least you can still say this is true of the power play. Playoff series can be thrilling because purported advantages disappear and teams are forced to adjust.
The stretch pass is a great example. The Canucks were able to employ the stretch pass to great effect to start the series, but in recent games the Blues’ defensemen started to jump those heaves through the middle. The result was detrimental because it led to Blues’ counterattacks. The entire posture of both teams toward the neutral zone is different.
To start the series, it was like a NAFTA port — easy accessibility. Now, St. Louis has tried to bulwark center ice and is looking to force Vancouver to chip and chase. Even when the Canucks do carry in the puck, the Blues are able to keep tighter gaps and decrease Vancouver’s speed on the entry.
But this is where the Canucks’ offense deserves praise, especially the core. Horvat, Miller and Pettersson have combined for 11 goals against St. Louis. Boeser has four assists, which ties Pettersson for the team lead. At all strengths, Miller and Horvat have an expected goals of two.
The Canucks power play has been a source of pain for the Blues as the Canucks have converted on six man-advantage goals. For a team that can be extremely dangerous on the rush, they have appropriately pivoted as the Blues have tried to contain their transition offense.
The top-six forwards and Hughes and Tanev create so much motion in the offensive zone that it can really cause a frenzy for the Blues because they are forced to make quick switches.
One thing I think Vancouver hit on in Game 5 is pouncing on areas around the off slot. Miller and Jake Virtanen both notched goals by attacking off the goal line, and the Canucks’ puck-handlers can weave in and out of the slot to attract attention while players on the fringes of the slot try to find space.
It seems unlikely that the Blues’ goaltender (whoever it might be) will allow more goals from bad angles, but a shot from the off-slot can force a rebound and a play in the low slot. If the objective is to amass shots and extend territorial advantage – while also nullifying the Blues’ own cycle game – this is the roadmap.
How I’m Betting It
It is easy to tsk-tsk picking Vancouver because their underlying metrics were poor in the regular season and they aren’t great now. But this argument doesn’t hold water. The Canucks aren’t playing a team like the Vegas Golden Knights, who would be well designed to pick apart and shred their weaknesses.
The truth is, St. Louis had a mediocre expected goals during the regular season and their goals against per 60 minutes were awesome solely because of their goaltending.
This is not the case at the moment. In fact, Vancouver has the goaltending edge and probably the better offense. This game will be close, which makes me lean toward betting on Vancouver with its better value.
My Bet: Canucks +114