Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Pavel Buchnevich
Blues vs. Lightning Odds
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There isn’t much of a rivalry here, but TNT has chosen to put two teams with recent Stanley Cup wins into the spotlight for the second half of their Thanksgiving Showdown. The St. Louis Blues will pay a visit to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Both squads have had their ups and downs this season, but have also kept themselves in the playoff picture thus far.
Here’s the latest on the Blues and the Lightning, and your best bet for the game.
St. Louis Blues
As you’ve probably heard, the Blues have been one of the streakiest teams in the NHL this season. They started the year with three wins, then lost eight straight, then won seven in a row before dropping a 6-2 decision to the determined Buffalo Sabers on Wednesday.
Does this mean they’re about to drop into another downward spiral? Perhaps. Jordan Binnington has been carrying most of the load and had not given up more than two goals in his previous five starts before Wednesday’s loss. All told, he has a 2.98 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage for the year.
The Blues are going into a back-to-back set this weekend, playing in Tampa on Friday and then in Sunrise against the Panthers on Saturday.
Thomas Greiss will likely start one of those games, although it’s tough to say which one. Greiss’ adjustment to his new team has been a little rocky. He’s 1-3-0 and although his save percentage is a respectable .906, his goals-against is a bloated 3.76 and he’s listed at minus-1.1 goals saved above expected.
The Blues’ highs and lows have pretty much balanced each other out so far this year. They control 50.06% of expected goals at 5-on-5. They’re still at the low end of the league rankings in goals scored, goals allowed and on the penalty kill, but their power play is pretty solid at 23.5%.
Offensively, Pavel Buchnevich has been the most productive Blues player, with 13 points in 14 games. He’s followed by Robert Thomas and Brayden Schenn. From the back end, Justin Faulk chipped in 14 points in 19 games. That puts him on pace for a career-high, 60-point season.
On the injury front, Brandon Saad was scratched from Wednesday’s game against Buffalo with an undisclosed issue. He missed six games earlier in the season with an upper-body injury.
Tampa Bay Lightning
After three straight trips to the Stanley Cup Final, including two wins, it would be understandable if the Lightning fell back to earth at some point. So far this season, they’re hanging in with an 11-7-1 record that puts them fourth in the Atlantic.
The Lightning have also been somewhat streaky. They put together a 4-0-1 run over a 10-day stretch in late October, then lost a couple before winning another four in a row.
At 5-on-5, the Lightning are controlling a decent 52.34% of expected goals, which ranks 12th in the league. They’re in a similar zone with their overall offense and defense. Their power play is a little better and their penalty kill is a little worse.
Nikita Kucherov is playing at his top level, which always makes him dangerous. With 28 points in 19 games, he’s tied with Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen for sixth in NHL scoring. At 32, captain Steven Stamkos is also continuing his strong play and has 21 points.
One area where the Lightning aren’t as sharp this season is in net. After five-straight top-five finishes in the Vezina Trophy voting, Andrei Vasilevskiy is sitting with a 3.00 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage, both career lows.
However, the Lightning are in a relatively light segment of their schedule and playing at home. It would be surprising if Vasilevskiy doesn’t start against St. Louis on Friday.
Other than Anthony Cirelli, who hasn’t played this year following offseason shoulder surgery, the Lightning’s top stars are in the lineup. Young defenseman Cal Foote has missed the past five games with an upper-body injury and forward Ross Colton missed Monday’s game against Boston, also with an upper-body issue.
Blues vs. Lightning Pick
The Blues and the Lightning are both on similar trajectories — each tucked into the second wild-card spot in their conference as the all-important Thanksgiving playoff assessment is mad. Of course, both are probably more concerned about playing their best hockey in April, May and June, than making a big statement in late November.
It’s the first game of the season between the two sides and it’s been almost exactly a year since the last time they played. Last year, their games were two days apart, with the Blues winning 4-3 at Enterprise Center on Nov. 30, then the Lightning grabbing a 4-2 home-ice win on Dec. 2.
Better rested and playing at home, the Lightning do appear to be better positioned to win Friday’s game. But their -170 price, an implied probability of nearly 63%, seems high.
For a better payout, target the Over of 6.5 goals. With both teams being pretty sharp on the power play and possibly playing a bit sloppy after the holiday break, we could be in for a high-scoring affair.