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NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Wild vs. Blues (December 31)

NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Wild vs. Blues (December 31) article feature image
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Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Joel Eriksson Ek of the Minnesota Wild

  • The Blues host the Wild on Friday night in a rematch from last year's postseason.
  • Minnesota has been on fire of late while St. Louis is hovering around .500.
  • Nicholas Martin digs into the matchup and offers up his best bet below.

Wild vs. Blues Odds

Wild Odds -130
Blues Odds +108
Over/Under 6 (-106 / -114)
Time 6 p.m. ET
TV BSMW
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

A rematch of last season’s Western Conference quarterfinals will take place when the St. Louis Blues host the Minnesota Wild on Saturday at Enterprise Center.

St. Louis bested the Wild in six games last spring but will enter this matchup as home underdogs desperate to gain some ground in the Western wild card race.

Minnesota, meanwhile, has put together a dominant December and enters play with a five-point lead over the Blues with one game in hand.

Will Minnesota extract a small measure of revenge for last season’s playoff defeat?

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Minnesota Wild on a Tear

After a slow start to the campaign, Minnesota has surged up the Central Division standings with a 13-5-0 tear.

Over its last 10 games, Minnesota has played to a 56.14% expected goals rate, which is the fifth-best mark in the league during that span.

To the eye, Minnesota’s play has looked very sharp, as well – particularly defensively, where its consistently high work rate has allowed each of its netminding options to shine.

Over the last 10 games, Minnesota has held opponents to 2.10 goals for per game, and the depth of its roster has begun to shine through.

The Wild feature one of the Western Conference’s deepest defensive cores, which is very capable of suppressing opposition chances and jumping up as the fourth man in the attack off the rush.

Elite defensive forwards such as Joel Eriksson Ek and Jordan Greenway make life difficult for the opposition, as well, and coach Dean Evason’s crew is simply not an easy roster to play against.

While another elite forward outside of Kirill Kaprizov would go a long way to making the Wild a legitimate threat to win it all, it’s reasonable that Minnesota will continue to find a ton of regular-season success yet again this season.

Marc-Andre Fleury is the Wild’s projected goaltender for this matchup, but confirmation will come after the morning skate.

Fleury has trended up considerably after a slow start to the season and has stopped .934% of shots faced over his last five matchups, and overall Fleury now owns a positive GSAx at +1.9 throughout 22 appearances.


St. Louis Blues Out of Balance?

Over the last two seasons, St. Louis’ offensive core has displayed the ability to overcome owning less of the overall run of play with its clinical finishing ability and creativity in front of goal.

Just ask the Wild, who allowed a ton of goals against the Blues in the first round of last year’s playoffs en route to defeat.

However, this season’s balance seems to be getting a little too far into the red with regards to holding far fewer chances for than the opposition, even if some of St. Louis’ positive traits are not entirely quantified analytically. Over its last 10 games, St. Louis has allowed 3.46 xGA/60 while generating just 2.61 xGF/60 for an expected goals share of just 43%.

That is an alarmingly low number,  which should hold some weight even if you are only a mild believer in underlying metrics as a relevant indicator of future success in the NHL.

St. Louis will now be tasked with covering the absence of its top defenders, as  Torey Krug is set to remain sidelined for the foreseeable future.

Jordan Binnington projects to start in goal for the Blues on Saturday, and his shaky play has been another reason for St. Louis’ poor current record.

Binnington has played to a save % of just .897 with a GSAx rating of -1.4 throughout 27 games played.


Wild vs. Blues Pick

Minnesota is skating a considerably more well-rounded roster than St. Louis, and it has allowed the Wild to control play at a far greater level than we have seen from the Blues of late.

Minnesota has done a significantly better job at suppressing the opposition’s high-danger chances than the Blues, which projects to be sustainable over a large sample considering its roster composition.

The Blues have some offensive talents capable of stealing any contest, but its defensive woes and suspect goaltending will be difficult to overcome in this matchup versus a well-constructed Minnesota roster.

At -130 we are being offered a strong price to back the Wild to take this matchup, and I would back them down to a price of -145.

Seeing any Blues contest break open with a higher total is always a firm possibility, considering it holds some lethal offensive skaters – but also a very shaky back end with dreadful soft goaltending.

Therefore, backing Minnesota to win and the game total to go over 6 at +242 odds is another option I like for a smaller stake.

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