Saturday night features a dynamic matchup between two teams that went into the NHL season with championship expectations. But so far, only one of them has played as expected. The disappointing Toronto Maple Leafs (13-13-4, fifth in Atlantic) will look to rebound against the defending champion St. Louis Blues (18-6-6, first in Central).
Here is a preview for Saturday night’s game at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, along with odds and a pick.
By The Numbers
We’ll start with the Maple Leafs, who have lost two in a row and were outscored 9-2 in the process. Even with the recent cold streak, Toronto is still 11th in goals per game with 3.13, averaging the fifth-most shots per game as well. The Maple Leafs also still top 15 in the power-play department, converting with the extra attacker 19 percent of the time.
Keeping pucks out of the net is a different story. The Maple Leafs are near the bottom in every defensive category, allowing the sixth-most goals per game with 3.3 on the fifth-most shots allowed as well. They also rank a paltry 28th in penalty kill, killing off the man advantage just 75.5 percent of the time.
The Blues were shut out by Pittsburgh on Wednesday night 3-0, snapping a four-game winning streak and five-game point streak. Overall, St. Louis is 14th in goals per game at an even 3, despite averaging just the 24th-most shots with 29.5. However, the Blues’ power play is among the best, ranking sixth at 23.7 percent.
Much like last season, the Blues thrive defensively. St. Louis is allowing only 2.5 goals per game, the fifth fewest in the NHL, on 31.5 shots allowed per game. The Blues are also one of the best penalty killers with an 85.1 percent success rate and do a good job of staying out of the penalty box altogether.
Who To Watch
Toronto is led by All-Star center Auston Matthews. The fourth-year pro is the team leader with 16 goals and 31 points. William Nylander is next up with 22 points, while captain John Tavares is after him with 20. Tavares missed practice Friday due to personal reasons, and his status for Saturday night’s game is questionable.
The Leafs are also happy to see Mitch Marner (18 points) back in the lineup after he missed time with injury, especially now that winger Andreas Johnsson just suffered a long-term leg injury.
St. Louis has overcome several injuries this season. With Vladimir Tarasenko, Sammy Blais and Alexander Steen all missing time, veterans like David Perron, Brayden Schenn, and Ryan O’Reilly have stepped up big time.
Perron leads the team with 28 points, followed by O’Reilly (26) and Schenn (25). The Blues have also been getting recent production from Jaden Schwartz and Ivan Barbashev. Schwartz recorded a goal and assist in two of the last three games, while Barbashev has two goals and four assists in his last five games.
The Leafs are expected to go with Frederik Andersen in net. Andersen has had a good season despite the subpar defense in front of him, going 13-7-3 with a 2.56 GAA and .918 save percentage.
The Blues will likely counter with Jordan Binnington, who is picking up where he left off from his stellar rookie year, going 13-5-4 with a 2.30 GAA and .925 save percentage.
Odds and Pick
The Blues are favored Saturday night at home, listed at -120. Both teams are dealing with long-term injuries, with Tavares’ status being the only player who is up in the air. Expect the Maple Leafs offense to put some shots on Binnington, but the Blues to respond with some offense of their own against one of the more porous defenses in the league. It’ll be a highly-competitive game, but one that the Blues -120 will be victorious in.