The St. Louis Blues have fought off a scary 0-2 deficit and rallied to tie their best-of-seven series against the Vancouver Canucks at two, with the chance to pull ahead in Wednesday's Game 5.
Three straight round-robin losses preceded the Blues' initial two defeats at the hands of Vancouver. It looked like the reigning Stanley Cup winners might bow out early, but now St. Louis is in position to KO the Canucks with a couple more victories.
Read on for abe Insights' preview, highlighted by analysis of the primary betting lines, key stats to consider, the best odds available and more.
Date: Wednesday, August 19
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Canucks 44%; Blues 58%
Spread: VAN +1.5 (-210); STL -1.5 (+200)
Moneyline: VAN +125; STL -140
Blues coach Craig Berube made the tough decision to bench Cup-winning goalie Jordan Binnington in favor of Jake Allen after Game 2. That bold call paid huge dividends, as Allen has responded with 61 saves on 64 shots. Berube is likely to ride Allen's hot hand in net for Wednesday.
Unfortunately for the Canucks, they don't have the luxury of leaning on a reliable backup goaltender, so Jacob Markstrom will be back in action. Vancouver's aggressive tactics have backfired to a degree of late, as Markstrom has been under a siege of shots all series long.
38.5 vs. 27.8: The Canucks have yielded many more shots per contest in these last four contests than the Blues have. Although the power play helped Vancouver stay out in front initially, this shot disparity has really caught up with them in the past two losses.
33.3 vs. 25.0: Speaking of the man advantage, that first figure is the Nucks' highly proficient power play mark (6-for-18 attempts) against St. Louis. However, the 'Notes are a strong 4-for-16 in this series in their own right, including two in Game 4's 3-1 win.
.379 vs. .041: Data from MoneyPuck.com shows how Allen ranked seventh among goalies with at least 24 games played in save percentage above expected. Markstrom's total slotted in at 18th in this statistic, so Allen seems more adept at adjusting if the defense in front of him isn't up to par.
Vancouver's chippy nature knocked the Blues off their tune en route to a 2-0 series lead. Suddenly, it's St. Louis with all the momentum, thanks to a shored-up defensive effort and Allen's upgraded play between the pipes. Credit Allen, too, for staying ready after last season's demotion.
What's amazing is, despite not appearing but for 24 minutes of ice time in the prior postseason, Allen is second all-time in playoff GAA (since 1960) at 1.98 across 27 games and 22 starts. Talk about a legit backup to have at the sport's most important position.
Considering the Blues went from DFL in the NHL last January to Stanley Cup champions mere months later, it's not a total shock they recovered in time versus Vancouver, or that they had an uncommonly resilient goalie on standby.
Plus, it has to be demoralizing for the Canucks to lose Game 3 by a score of 3-2 — one overtime away from a prohibitive 3-0 edge. That fortitude from St. Louis is common-characteristic, championship DNA. It can't really be taught, only experienced. Even when Binnington began the playoffs 0-4 with a 4.27 GAA, no one flinched when Allen took over.
Hard to bet against the Blues to keep their roll going. On the other hand, the Nucks can focus on the positives of how stealing a "W" on Wednesday will push all the pressure back on St. Louis, on the prospective brink of first-round elimination and a colossally disappointing Stanley Cup defense if it went that way.
Taking into account the deadlocked series score and how dominant Vancouver has looked in spurts, oddsmakers have made the Blues a pretty big favorite. With a strong puck line payout and a solid return on a straight-up win, St. Louis' spread and moneyline seems destined to draw a greater amount of action from bettors.
The goal total has succumbed to the Law of Averages after the teams combined for seven in the first two games to hit the Over, but the majority of wagers ought to break back that way in Game 5. The Canucks should attack even harder on the forecheck to close the shot gap, and the Blues show no signs of slowing in their ability to generate quality chances.
Note: Odds current as of 12:50 p.m. ET on Wednesday, August 19.
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