Canucks vs. Blues Game 2 Odds & Pick (Friday, August 14): Don’t Bail on the Blues Just Yet
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images. Pictured: David Perron #57 of the St. Louis Blues
- Check out our betting preview for Friday's NHL Game 2 matchup between the Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues.
- St. Louis scored more points than any team in the West prior to season stoppage, but the Blues were also routed 5-2 in Game 1 against the Canucks.
- So, which version of that Blues squad should you bet on for Game 2? Read on for game odds, picks and predictions from Sam Hitchcock.
Game 2: Vancouver Canucks vs. St. Louis Blues Odds
|Canucks Odds||+116 [BET NOW]|
|Blues Odds||-134 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||5.5 (+108/-132) [BET NOW]|
|Time||6:30 p.m. ET|
Aside from the captain, no one takes pride in going down with a sinking ship. In sports gambling, one must distinguish between a crisis and a blip.
For the St. Louis Blues, Game 2 affords an inflection point. With the Blues down 1-0 in their series against the Vancouver Canucks and having lost four straight games since NHL play resumed, they need a strong showing to avoid catastrophe against a team that has ripped off four straight victories.
At -134, the smart money is on the Blues. Allow me to explain …
St. Louis Blues
As grim as things may seem, the Blues can take nuggets of encouragement from their game Wednesday night. Perhaps the most exciting development was that, after an uneven round robin, the team’s top-six forwards submitted their best performance yet.
By the numbers, the Ryan O’Reilly line dominated, outshooting the Canucks 9 to 1 at 5-on-5 and posting a 68.18% expected goals. The O’Reilly group did a nice job hemming in the Canucks and putting pressure on Vancouver’s fallible defensemen.
There was one mishap: a scorching shot yielded by the O’Reilly line at 5-on-5 when Vancouver’s Bo Horvat mortified Vince Dunn on the rush by deking past him and popping the puck past goaltender Jordan Binnington. Highlight reel stuff for Vancouver, but gray-hair-inducing for the Blues’ personnel. Oy.
The Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko line collected the highest expected goals of any Blues line with .46. What differentiated them from the other three lines was the spark they brought to the rush.
Schwartz had a dandy breakaway goal where he spirited the puck past Chris Tanev and then slipped it five-hole. A shot by defenseman Justin Faulk that sailed wide of the empty net would have stamped two goals for this line. But despite more diversity in the Blues’ attack and a better output from the core forwards, they lost because Binnington was awful and they committed too many penalties.
During the regular season, the Canucks’ power play ranked fourth in the NHL, converting on 24.2% of its chances. Last night, the Blues supplied the Canucks with six power-play chances and Vancouver scored on three of them.
The biggest wart on this team right now is its net-minder. Only Predators goaltender Juuse Saros, who was responsible for destroying his team in the qualifying round against Arizona, has a worse Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) in the playoffs than Binnington. Blues coach Craig Berube would be wise to switch to goaltender Jake Allen, who allowed one goal on 38 shots in a 2-1 shootout loss to Dallas.
In fact, the case for Allen was borne out during the regular season since he finished in the top 10 among goaltenders with a 7.03 GSAx and 11.04 Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA). To be fair, Binnington’s numbers were also strong in those metrics during the regular season, but that misses the point. He is not playing well now and Berube has another viable option on the bench and should use it. Time is running out.
If there is one stat that needs to be thrust into Canucks coach Travis Green’s face it is this: The usually formidable top line of Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser finished Wednesday night with zero shots at 5-on-5 while conceding eight.
Berube matched the O’Reilly line against that trio and the O’Reilly crew savaged them. So much of the Canucks’ success is animated by these three players that Green needs to be cognizant of avoiding that matchup.
One matchup that did work for Green was utilizing Bo Horvat’s line against the Schenn line. Even though the Schenn line had a jolt of offense on the rush, there were many instances where the speed in transition defense of Horvat and his wingers allowed Vancouver’s defensemen to step up and force the Blues’ forwards to chip it deep, taking away their time in the middle of the ice.
The Canucks’ stars accrued the points, albeit mainly on the power play, but the team’s success will continue to hinge on how well goaltender Jacob Markstrom plays. During the regular season, only the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Winnipeg Jets and Anaheim Ducks had a worse expected goals against per 60 minutes than Vancouver.
During the regular season, per hour, the Canucks averaged 33 shots against, which is only bested in putridity by the Blackhawks. Whiffs of this leakiness emerged Wednesday as the Canucks struggled against the Blues’ forecheck. But Markstrom is keeping his team afloat with a 1.65 GSAx in the playoffs, not quite Joonas Korpisalo or Carey Price, but just a notch below them. If the Blues can puncture Markstrom, Vancouver could be in serious trouble.
The Blues’ chances of repeating appears to be dimming by the day, but that doesn’t mean they will flame out spectacularly by being swept. In the near term, it’s possible for all of their issues to be remedied.
Berube should start Allen. For a team that committed only 3.28 penalties per 60 minutes — 23rd in the NHL — the Blues need to exercise that same discipline, effective immediately, and avoid giving the Canucks chances on the man advantage.
For a team that struggles to score, it was refreshing to see all the top forwards show life in the same game, not just on the power play, but at 5-on-5. Finally, the Blues will have the last change for one more game before being “away” for the next two, so they can dictate putting O’Reilly’s line out against the Miller line and force coach Green to adjust.
DraftKings Sportsbook has the Blues at -134, which is a solid value considering the Blues won the Cup last season and followed that up with the most points of any team in the West before the season’s stoppage. If the price rises to -140, I don’t know if the Blues can be trusted.
But stay calm and don’t jump ship yet. Back St. Louis.
The Bet: Blues -134 [Bet now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]