Monday’s NHL action features an inter-conference showdown between the Florida Panthers (34-26-8) and the St. Louis Blues (41-18-10). The Panthers are clawing their way to a postseason spot, while the Blues hold a slight lead atop the Central Division.
Here is a preview for tonight’s game, along with a free pick.
By the Numbers
The Panthers were able to stop a four-game skid on Saturday with a 4-1 victory over the Canadiens. However, they’ve only won two of their last eight games, and trail the Hurricanes by three points for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
This season, Florida is seventh in both goals per game with 3.32 and shots per game with 32.6. Their 10.2 shooting percentage sits just outside of the top-10 as well, while they have a power-play percentage of 20.8 that ranks 14th.
Defensively, the Panthers are giving up the third-most goals per game with 3.28. They also come in 22nd in shots allowed with 32.4 and 20th on the penalty kill with a 78.3 percent success rate.
Although their eight-game win streak snapped on Friday, the Blues were able to bounce back with a 2-0 shutout yesterday against the Blackhawks. The defending champions have won nine of their last 10, and at 92 points lead the division as well as the conference by two points over the Avalanche.
On offense, St. Louis is 12th in goals per game at 3.16 on just 30.7 shots, which ranks 22nd. They do, however, boast a 10.3 shooting percentage that cracks the top-10, while also icing a power-play group that converts 24.2 percent of the time, the third-best in hockey.
On the other side, the Blues are giving up the fifth-fewest goals allowed at 2.7, while also ranking fourth with 29.6 shots allowed per game. Their penalty kill percentage sits at 79.6, good for 17th in the NHL as well.
Who to Watch
One of Florida’s most consistent options on offense this year has been Mike Hoffman. Hoffman played a large role in the team snapping their losing streak, earning a goal and an assist on Saturday.
His second multi-point effort in a week brings him to 28 goals and 30 assists on the year, his fifth straight season of reaching 30 helpers or more.
The Panthers are also led by a couple of stars, but ones that need to pick it up for the team to reach the postseason. Jonathan Huberdeau scored a goal on Saturday, his first point in five games.
Florida is hoping that is the first point of many to come for Huberdeau, who leads the team with 55 assists to go along with 23 goals.
There’s also Aleksander Barkov, who, after five straight games with a point, has now gone five without a point. Barkov has 42 assists with 20 goals and needs to start making plays as soon as possible.
Often overlooked as one of the best offensive players on St. Louis, Jaden Schwartz is on a roll. The winger assisted on both goals yesterday against Chicago, giving him 11 points over his last eight games. At 22 goals and 35 assists, Schwartz needs just seven more points to set a new career high.
Brayden Schenn has also been crushing it as of late. The 28-year-old recently had a five-game goal streak come to an end but is currently on a seven-game point streak in which he has five goals and four assists.
Schenn, who has 25 goals and 32 assists, is well on pace to reach 60 points for just the second time in his career. Finally, David Perron is itching to snap his three-game scoreless drought. The veteran has 25 goals and 35 assists during his All-Star season.
The Panthers are expected to go with their normal starter, Sergei Bobrovsky, who is 23-19-6 with a 3.23 GAA and .900 save percentage.
After going with their backup yesterday, the Blues will likely turn to Jordan Binnington. Binnington is 30-12-7 with a 2.57 GAA and .911 save percentage.
The Blues are one of the best home teams in the league, entering tonight with a 23-6-5 record at Enterprise Center. The Panthers meanwhile are a decent 17-12-4 on the road.
Florida holds a slight advantage on the offensive end overall and in the rest department, with St. Louis having played yesterday. However, the Panthers have too many stars who are slumping, and asking them to rebound against one of the league’s toughest defensive teams is no small task.
Not to mention, the difference between Binnington and Bobrovsky this year has been sizable, with the former having a clear edge. So I’m picking the Blues to get the win tonight at home.