NHL Odds, Picks and Predictions: Vancouver Canucks vs. St. Louis Blues Game 5 (Wednesday, Aug. 19)
Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Goaltender Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues.
Vancouver Canucks vs. St. Louis Blues Odds
|Canucks Odds||+125 [BET NOW]|
|Blues Odds||-143 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||5 (-136/+112) [BET NOW]|
|Time||10:30 p.m. ET|
One thing we know for certain is that every team in the NHL postseason is adapting to the “bubble” lifestyle differently. Some teams made the transition seamlessly, others needed time to adapt to their new life.
It seems like the St. Louis Blues were one of the teams who needed time to adjust and it sure seems like the adjustment has been made.
After falling behind 2-0 in their first round series against the Vancouver Canucks, the Blues have come back to even the series heading into Wednesday’s pivotal Game 5.
The Blues were a decent-sized favorite — in the -150 range — in Games 1 and 2. After dropping both of those games, they were -130 favorites in Games 3 and 4. Oddsmakers have split the difference and the Blues are -143 heading into Game 5.
St. Louis Blues
Hockey, this beautiful sport we know and love, isn’t very hard to figure out. If a team’s results aren’t lining up with the underlying possession and shot quality metrics, there’s typically three reasons: goaltending, shooting talent, and special teams.
The hard part is being able to assess when these three factors will become an issue for a team and how to solve the streaks and raw luck involved in averages and percentages. For goaltending, the easiest solution is to make a change in net.
The Blues did exactly that, benching Jordan Binnington prior to Game 3 and turning the crease over to Jake Allen. In two games, Binnington stopped just 38-of-47 shots (.809). Since taking over, Allen has stopped 61-of-64 (.953). Yep, that’ll make an impact.
It would be incorrect to say that the sole change in the series has been in between the pipes for St. Louis. During the first two games, we essentially saw an even series. The expected goals were slightly in favor of the Canucks, with the Blues clocking in at 48.9%. Scoring chances were 36-35 in favor of the Blues, while high danger chances were 18-15 in favor of St. Louis.
In Game 3 and 4, the expected goals at 5v5 were 4.71 to 2.36 (66.62%) in favor of St. Louis. Scoring chances were 62-29 (68.1%) and high danger chances were 22-12 (64.7%). It’s safe to say that the Blues found another level in their game in addition to receiving competent goaltending.
Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.
Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.
xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.
The Blues’ improvement actually coincides with Vladimir Tarasenko leaving their lineup, which is bizarre. Tarasenko is the Blues’ most talented forward. He missed all but 10 games this past season, but the five years prior to this season, he eclipsed 30 goals in all of them.
The Blues are a team that focuses on their structure and defensive play, so losing one of their few game-breaking talents on offense is unfortunate. Tarasenko left the bubble to get his shoulder examined so he will not return in this series. The Blues have fared fine without him, but he is still a big loss.
Vancouver jumped out to a two-game lead in this series due to their tremendous advantage in goaltending as well as their insanely successful powerplay.
As I mentioned above, the first games of this series were evenly played. Vancouver has the benefit of Vezina candidate Jacob Markstrom playing between the pipes. When the games are closely played, Markstrom provides the Canucks a goaltending edge most nights.
Markstrom has posted a .929 save percentage in this series. He gave them a tremendous edge over Binnington and his .809 percentage in games one and two. He kept the Canucks in the game despite being dominated in games three and four.
Vancouver separated themselves from St. Louis in the first two games while on the man advantage. In Games 1 and 2, the Blues scored five times in eight powerplay opportunities. Obviously, this is unsustainable in a league where a good powerplay converts about 20% of the time. In Games 3 and 4, Vancouver’s powerplay has only converted once in nine opportunities. Relying on your special teams is a dangerous game.
The Canucks are top-heavy team that relies on talented players such as Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller and Quinn Hughes to drive their attack.
Pettersson has five points in four games against the Blues, Horvat has scored four goals, and the other three players are at, or near, a point-per-game pace in the postseason. Ryan O’Reilly is one of the best defensive forwards in the league and he still can’t keep this talented group off the board.
Unfortunately, it seems as the series has gone on, the quality of play has decreased from Vancouver. This is an extremely young team that is making its first playoff run as a group. St. Louis won the Stanley Cup last season and they have a better idea on how to tighten up a series and close teams out. Vancouver will need to change the tide of this series quickly.
The Blues were a bit overpriced in the first two games of this series when they were going off near -150. They were underpriced in the third and fourth game at -130.
Now, at -143, the price is pretty much spot on. It’s interesting to see the line adjustments game to game, and watching the market settle in a certain spot.
The most interesting spot here is the total. Awful goaltending from the Blues caused the first two games of this series to go over the total of 5.5, shaping a potential false narrative for the series.
The Blues are one of the best teams in terms of limiting chances against themselves and playing a slower, grinding game. However, no matter how good you are at keeping teams away from your net, there is no overcoming a save percentage near .800.
In addition, the Canucks’ powerplay started the series scoring on 63% of their chances. As we noted earlier, that unsustainable pace has slowed tremendously.
Games 1 and 2 look to have created some value on the under here.
Both games since then have gone under the total. Once St. Louis started to receive competent goaltending and Vancouver stopped scoring on over half of its man advantages, the goals stopped flowing as easily.
For a side, I can’t justify taking a team at -143 that was at -129 a few days ago. I don’t think there’s any value on the Canucks either as momentum has left their side completely.
If you need action, look towards the under and hope for another rocking chair type of affair.
The Pick: Under 5.5 (-135 at Bet365)