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Huge Opportunity For Golden Knights To Bury The Blues Tonight

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The most dangerous team to the Golden Knights’ playoff hopes this season is the next team on the schedule, the St. Louis Blues. However, with a great 60 minutes, Vegas can essentially extinguish that threat tonight.

After firing their Stanley Cup winning head coach, Craig Berube, in December, the Blues have turned their season around. They started the year at 13-14-1 under “Chief” Berube and have improved dramatically with a record of 25-16-2 under Drew Bannister. Recently, the Blues have been even hotter too. St. Louis is 6-1-0 in their last seven games and have stormed back to within four points of the Golden Knights in the standings.

Here’s the lineup the Blues are expected to use against the Golden Knights tonight at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis.

Neighbours-Thomas-Schenn
Saad-Buchnevich-Kyrou
Toropchenko-Hayes-Kapanen
Walker-Sundqvist-Blais

Leddy-Parayko
Krug-Kessel
Perunovich-Faulk

Binnington

One of the key players who hasn’t quite made his name for himself nationally yet is Jake Neighbours. The 2020 1st round pick (3 picks before Brendan Brisson), has been on a scoring tear in his first full season in the NHL. He has 25 goals in 71 games including five in the last six games. He also has 18 of his 35 points in the last 26 games.

The other names to watch are the same guys who have been driving the bus for years since Alex Pietrangelo came to Vegas. Robert Thomas is a point per game player that might be one of the most underrated stars in the league. Jordan Kyrou and Pavel Buchnevich drive the offense, and Torey Krug and Colton Parayko continue to control the back-end.

Both St. Louis goalies have been on top of their game recently with Joel Hofer outpacing Binnington by a small margin recently. However, Binnington remains the undisputed starter and has been excellent in the past month posting a .926 save percentage in March.

As a team, the Blues are selective with their shooting while they allow bundles of them to the opposition. St. Louis averages just 29 shots per game (VGK average 31) while allowing 32 (VGK 30). Recently, those numbers have been even more contrasted as they’ve allowed at least 33 shots in nine of their last 11 games and have allowed more than 40 eight times this year.

St. Louis is one of the rare good opponents the Golden Knights face that are worse than Vegas at both special teams. The Blues PP operates at just 17.6% on the season (VGK are 19.0%), while their PK is 78.8% (VGK 80.5%).

What makes St. Louis so dangerous is their ability to transition from defense to offense using their mobile D corps to spring the stable of high-scoring forwards into the offensive zone. The Blues are averaging four goals per game over their last seven and have allowed just 2.29 per game in that time. Neighbours, Kyrou, Buchnevich, Thomas, and Brandon Saad all have at least 22 goals this year and Alexey Toropchenko has been red hot with four goals in his last 10 games as well.

To win this game, the most important game of the year to this point, the Golden Knights are going to have to be able to generate offense with extended zone time against a compact defensive unit. St. Louis plays a similar box-and-one zone style defense as Vegas with their defensemen looking to push the puck out with stretch passes when the opposition turns the puck over. In the VGK defensive end, clean breakouts will be paramount. The STL D are incredibly active coming down the walls which means Vegas will have to be on point with their puck support to give additional options on exits. St. Louis doesn’t shoot the puck a ton, but if you give them a Grade A chance on a failed clearance, they will feast on it.

With a win, the Golden Knights will take a stranglehold on final spot in the playoffs and can return to setting their sights on catching LA and/or Nashville to move out of the 8 seed. With a loss, there will be some fanny clenching the rest of the way, as the Blues will be alive and well to try and steal that place from the defending champs.

This is unquestionably the biggest game of the season for both teams involved. May the victor go the spoils.

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10 Comments

  1. Rashaad

    Vegas was so impressive and efficient in the playoffs and other than a minor blip against Dallas they generally stomped on a teams neck when they knew they could end their season. That included destroying Winnipeg in the first round. That was the only series that went less than six games in the first round last year. In the finals, they also stomped on the next of the Florida Panthers not allowing them any hope to come back in that series.

    I expect the VGK to put a nail in the coffin of the St. Louis Blues season tonight.

  2. Vegas will definitely have their hands full but can pull off a win when and if the A team comes to play tonight. This will require a 60 minute engagement both physically and more importantly mentally. All guys must step up with no passengers standing around waiting to get involved. Here’s to a win recognizing it won’t be easy.

  3. Emmanuel

    This is one of the 3 biggest games in regular season history. The Blues Goal differential for the season is -8 but they have a winning record, methinks they are what they are…..a bubble team.

    As an aside Id rather finish 4th than 3rd, the Canucks are talented sissies.

  4. I was very surprised to see VGK as such a strong favorite tonight at -150, seems to be quite out of whack.

    If we do come in 4th we would play the winner of the other division as is my understanding, if thats the case Im definitely a stars fan for them to come in first, as my first choice would be the jets but they are pulling their fading act.

    • Vic

      Agree on the -150 odds. The oddsmakers must know lots of things we don’t.

      • JB

        Yea, and most local book still have the Knights in top three to win the cup! Hope they DO know things we don’t !

  5. Erik

    What are the lines we are expecting for VGK tonight? Especially since they were put in a blender after the poor 1st period vs CBJ

  6. im not sure they know more, but i sure hope they do!! lol

  7. NAM

    Vegas has picked it up on defense as of late, but their offense is still sleeping. They let CBJ hang around pretty much all game because they couldn’t score. Another sneaky goal by CBJ, in that stretch, and it would have been a different game. STL is much harder. My gut is vegas gets stomped tonight, BUT I have felt that way a few times this season and vegas ended up dominating it. EDM right after the break and TOR on the road were the last two times. They need their A game and no f-ing mercy. Critical game!

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