The St. Louis Blues are no strangers to big bouts of losing followed by brilliant hockey, but they're running out of time ahead of Sunday's Game 3 against the Vancouver Canucks.
After going from worst to first and winning the Stanley Cup a year ago, suddenly St. Louis' championship defense is in serious jeopardy. The Blues have lost five straight dating back to the round robin, and Vancouver is cruising amid five consecutive wins.
In abe Insights' preview, you'll find analysis on the primary lines, the best odds across all the major sportsbooks, key stats and more pertinent information to aid your betting decisions for Blues-Canucks.
Date: Sunday, August 16
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Blues 56%; Canucks 47%
Spread: STL -1.5 (+220); VAN +1.5 (-230)
Moneyline: STL -125; VAN +115
Most shocking for the Blues amid a 0-2 deficit is how poorly Jordan Binnington has fared between the pipes. Binnington let in five goals on only 22 shots in Game 1's 5-2 defeat, and followed that up with 21 saves on 25 shots. Everyone on St. Louis' back end is playing flat, including its netminder.
Jacob Markstrom improved to 5-1 after posting 34 saves in Game 2. He's supposed to be the greater liability between the two goalies, yet thus far, Markstrom is rising to the occasion, keeping the Wild and Blues mostly in check with a .926 save percentage.
38 vs. 25: Part of the Canucks' success has been predicated on physicality — sometimes to a fault. They lead the NHL in minor penalty minutes during these playoffs, while St. Louis is well back in a tie for seventh.
32.1 vs. 14.3: An even bigger part of Vancouver's recent run is its league-leading postseason power play, indicated in the percentages provided here. The unit is converting nearly every third chance it gets with the man advantage — more than double the Blues' rate.
35.5 vs. 28.4: No NHL team gave up more shots per game after the All-Star break than the Canucks, whereas St. Louis averaged the fourth-fewest shots allowed. Vancouver has continued to fall behind here, getting outshot by the 'Notes 68-47 in two outings, or 34 versus 23.5 in per-game averages.
Canucks forward Bo Horvat scored 22 goals in 69 regular-season contests. He's already tallied four goals in this series, including the overtime winner in Game 2 to lift Vancouver to a 4-3 victory. Horvat has accounted for one of the four power play goals the Nucks have against St. Louis.
Even the Canucks' blue line is chipping in to help the attack, led by rookie Quinn Hughes. The prodigious 20-year-old has points in five straight playoff contests — only the sixth first-year defenseman to accomplish that feat in NHL history.
It's vital for St. Louis to step up its play in front of Binnington in order to avoid being pushed to the brink of elimination. Whether it's aiding the attack with more aggressive checking or hanging back and controlling the traffic in front of Binnington, something must change.
Binnington is 0-4 with a 4.27 GAA after being a driving force on 2019's championship club, including a regular season where he went 24-5-1 and had a 1.89 GAA total. This stretch of underwhelming play would've been hard to anticipate, but the timing couldn't be worse, as the Blues are collectively struggling to get on the same page.
Bettors are bound to bank on a Blues bounce-back, given their championship experience, superior shot rate and the fact that Binnington is simply due to perform, well, better. With that in mind, look for action to skew in the direction of St. Louis' spread and moneyline.
The goal total went over the current mark in each of the first two contests. From the shaky form Binnington has shown to Markstrom participating in his maiden playoff run, the betting public is likely to side with the Over based on the goalie situation alone.
Note: Odds current as of 10:20 a.m. ET on Sunday, August 16.
Back to top