Here are Today’s NHL Picks:
The scene shifts for the Western Conference Final as the San Jose Sharks face the St. Louis Blues in St. Louis. St. Louis was able to mostly control the first two games while splitting them on the road. The Blues played their game particularly in Game 2 and were able to keep San Jose shut down – except for the Logan Couture line. Can either team win two games in a row? That has been a bit of an issue this postseason.
As always, the goalies are paramount when trying to gauge how a prediction may go. This is never an easy process especially considering the low to medium shot outputs of both teams. Now, St. Louis, at home, typically loosens up a bit. The shots may elevate upward some tonight.
Again, aside from Logan Couture, Jordan Binnington performed much better and stop every shot that did not come from Couture on Monday night in the 4-2 win. Two key trends were established in San Jose. One, St. Louis was able to outshoot San Jose at even strength and were able to generate the more dangerous scoring chances as well (14-9 in Game 1, 9-4 in Game 2).
The expected goals for went down dramatically in Game 2 and yet the over just barely hit. That was on the goaltending partially as Binnington had a little trouble with the Logan Couture shot. Furthermore, the San Jose defense had a few blatant lapses in their slot which proved costly. Robert Bortuzzo should never be that wide open and scored a nice, backhand goal because someone forgot to cover the defenseman of all people.
Projected shots should rise to near 30 for each team as St. Louis does loosen up some at home. The medium and high-danger chances should rise as well. Expect San Jose to boost the pace of play as, at times, Game 2 resembled skating through quicksand. The goalies likely will see more of a workload on tonight.
Strength vs Strength:
Alas, St. Louis was able to dictate not only stretches of play but the entire pace as well on Monday night. The only line that executed for San Jose was the Logan Couture line which accounted for the second goal. Couture’s short-handed effort was almost all him on the first tally. St. Louis was able to stay balanced and roll out all four lines. The result gave them the ability to play a disciplined road game for the most part that generated five power-play chances.
One of the biggest problems San Jose is suffering from is their middle-six is getting hammered in at crucial times. The Joe Thornton line looked several steps slow on the Robert Bortuzzo goal and the Tomas Hertl line was shaky and at times very undisciplined. This series might be 2-0 St. Louis if they had any kind of power play whatsoever. San Jose must find ways to get more shots on net and more quality.
Injury wise, Erik Karlsson is not 100% and the suspect injury is the groin err core area again. He is not skating with the normal stride one is accustomed to seeing. Carl Gunnarsson may be out again for St. Louis (listed as day to day).
The Blues must not get away from what they are doing just because St. Louis is at home. It is how the team got in trouble in the Dallas and Winnipeg series. Yes, St. Louis fought back in both to advance but one gets the feeling nothing will come easy in this series as well. San Jose can push back better than the previous two opponents which makes things intriguing.
Game 3 Picks:
Our betting rationale is contingent on a few constructs. For one, how does St. Louis come out? Do they try to blow San Jose out of the building? Or, do the Blues play their game?
Expectations dictate that the teams should go over 5.5 goals again. The toughest part of this series is figuring when one of these teams wins two games in a row. If St. Louis is to pull that off, it would be tonight. However, watching both of these teams extensively makes this a guessing game.
Obviously, St. Louis scoring first helps immensely. Involving the crowd is paramount to winning. Getting San Jose to play to score effects is beneficial and leads to more transition opportunities for the Blues. It is partially why they have been able to control high danger scoring chances and in Game 2, that and the expected goals for translated to the scoreboard. San Jose’s only chance is to draw penalties on St. Louis or again, score first.
1u – STL Blues MoneyLine @ -135
1u – Over 5.5 total goals @ +100
By Chris Wassel