The two heavyweights of the NHL’s Central Division will battle it out Monday night in St. Louis, as the Colorado Avalanche (21-8-3) pay a visit to the St. Louis Blues (20-8-6). The Avalanche are riding a nine-game point streak heading into this one. Meanwhile, the Blues have won two in a row, their latest in comeback fashion after trailing 3-0 to the Blackhawks in the third period on Saturday.
Here is a preview for Monday night’s game, along with odds and a free pick.
By The Numbers
For the last couple of weeks, Colorado has been hotter than any team in the league. The Avalanche are once again first in goals per game and shooting percentage, averaging a whopping 3.66 goals on 11.5 percent shooting. Surprisingly, they rank only 13th in shots with 31.8 and have the 16th-rated power play at 18.5 percent.
Despite allowing the third-most shots per game with 32.8, the Avalanche have given up an average of 2.69 goals per game, the seventh-fewest in hockey. Colorado’s penalty kill also ranks 18th, shutting down penalties 79.8 percent of the time.
Meanwhile, the Blues recently went through a stretch of three straight regulation losses but have since bounced back. St. Louis is 15th in the NHL with 3.0 goals per game on 10.1 percent shooting.
That’s partially because the Blues don’t get a lot of shots on goal, just 29.7 per game, which ranks 25th. But St. Louis does have power-play success 21.6 percent of the time, ninth in the league.
Just like last season, St. Louis’ bread and butter is its defense. The Blues are sixth in goals allowed with 2.65, giving up the eighth-fewest shots per game with 31.0. Their penalty kill is a top-five unit, ranking fifth at 84.7 percent and averaging the fifth-fewest minutes in the box per game.
Who To Watch
The Avalanche are led by All-Star Nathan MacKinnon, who has been one of the few players on Colorado to stay healthy all season, putting up 50 points (20 goals, 30 assists) thus far. Thirty-two of those points have come in the last 17 games, and he will look to keep it rolling against one of the best defenses in the NHL.
Colorado has also gotten a big boost from the returns of Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. Rantanen has three goals and six assists in the seven games he’s played following an injury, while Landeskog has scored in three of his last five games.
The Blues are powered by center Ryan O’Reilly. Last year’s Conn Smythe Trophy winner, O’Reilly has 29 points on the season, 23 of which have come via assist. He’s been fairly steady all year long, with nine points in his last 10 games, and will be tasked with getting St. Louis’ offense on the same level as Colorado.
O’Reilly is far from alone, though, as you can expect veterans Brayden Schenn and Alex Pietrangelo to play a big role in this game. Schenn is currently leading the Blues with 14 goals, while the defenseman Pietrangelo has 23 total points, including points in three out of his last four contests.
The Avalanche will likely turn to Philipp Grubauer to man the net Monday. Grubauer is 10-5-2 with a 2.76 GAA and a .914 save percentage.
Meanwhile, expect the Blues to go with Jordan Binnington, who sports a 15-6-4 record with a 2.46 GAA and a .919 save percentage.
Odds and Pick
The Blues are -120 home favorites in this one, and they’re who I’m rolling with. I think Colorado’s injuries among its forward group will really limit its effectiveness past the first line. St. Louis’ offense will find a way to score against a team that sometimes is loose and undisciplined on defense. In this battle of Central Division contenders, give me the Blues -120 to prevail over the Avalanche.