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The Pittsburgh Penguins pay a visit to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night. NHL handicapper Jason Yamaguchi offers his prediction.
ANALYSIS

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. St. Louis Blues Prediction: Expect the Penguins to Bounce Back

Following a day with just four games of action, Thursday's slate picks back up with 10 NHL games scheduled to take place. A few of them contain matchups between prospective playoff teams, including a bout between the Blues and the Penguins. Here is a complete look at my best bet for the game.

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Pittsburgh Penguins vs. St. Louis Blues Prediction

The Penguins (36-16-9) are fresh off of a 4-1 loss in Nashville, one that stands as their third loss in five games. However, those facts are a bit misleading—the Penguins lost on Tuesday despite thoroughly dominating the Predators, and all three of those losses came at the hands of playoff teams (the first two were against the Hurricanes and Panthers, the two best teams in the East). In other words, the Penguins are in better form than their recent record implies. They'll look to flip the script and grab a much-needed two points to catapult back into second place in the Metropolitan division.

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St. Louis (34-17-8) has also dropped a few games recently, but their results aren't so easily excused. The Blues have lost five of their last seven, including losses to the Islanders, Devils, and Senators (all non-playoff teams). The analytics confirm that the Blues are sliding heavily—they've lost the expected goals battle by a significant margin in each of their last five games. With Minnesota and Nashville breathing down their neck in the standings, they'll be fighting hard to reverse their fortune by grabbing a home win tonight.

While the Blues have, lately, been particularly bad at generating consistent offense while also defending effectively, they haven't exactly been good at either of those things at any point this year. Their expected goals share at even strength is just 47.26%, which ranks 23rd in the NHL. Meanwhile, the Penguins rank sixth with an expected goals share of 53.63%, which puts them among the league's best in the category. Pittsburgh should have the better run of play in this matchup.

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In spite of St. Louis's mediocre play at even strength this year, they've managed to string together enough wins to remain securely in a playoff spot. How is that possible? Well, one thing they've been able to lean on is their power play. The unit ranks third in the NHL with a conversion rate of 26.4%. However, they may find that this strength is neutralized—the Penguins have the third-best penalty kill unit, one that succeeds on 85.8% of their kills. It hasn't conceded a power play goal in over three games, despite facing two of the league's best power plays in Carolina and Nashville.

The Penguins won the first meeting between these teams, a 5-3 victory in Pittsburgh. The Blues have been stronger at home this season, which is worth considering for this game. However, any edge they might gain there is more than wiped out by their recent form and overall body of work. They may also be missing two key contributors in Pavel Buchnevich and Robert Thomas, which would only make matters worse. Overall, the Penguins are playing like a much better team, and the game isn't priced accordingly. Bet Pittsburgh down to -120 on the moneyline.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. St. Louis Blues

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Article Author

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Jason Yamaguchi is an avid New York sports fan. He has a proven record of providing +EV bets by combining traditional handicapping tactics with advanced statistics. You can follow him on Twitter @TopMoneyPicks to view all of his bets, including NFL, NHL, and MLB picks.

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