The Vegas Golden Knights are now 5-1-1 against the St. Louis Blues this season, and tonight marks the final regular-season contest between the two clubs, both of which are playoff-bound now that the Blues have clinched the fourth spot in the West Division.
The Knights came away with a 4-3 win in overtime last night, but the Blues will look to respond in the second half of the two-game set. This could be a first-round preview, so both teams will look to send a message.
The Knights have been the most dominant team in the West Division against the Blues this season. At 5-on-5, the Golden Knights are first in almost every possession stat, including a 58.92 percent shot share and 62.16 percent expected goal share (after last night, the Knights are now second behind Colorado in high-danger share at 59.57 percent).
Vegas put up eight high-danger chances and 35 shots against Jordan Binnington last night, which was down considerably from the last time these teams played (April 7) when the Knights generated 19 high-danger chances and 51 shots. Binnington was forced to make 50 saves in that game but led his team to its only regulation win against Vegas this year.
Part of that is because St. Louis has struggled to contain the Knights’ offense; the Knights have scored four or more goals in six out of seven games this year.
Binnington, who finished last night’s game with 31 saves on 35 shots for an .886 save percentage, has a .910 save percentage against the Golden Knights this season. Prior to last night, he had saved 3.5 goals above expected against Vegas; he has without a doubt been St. Louis’ best player in the series.
But Ville Husso could get the nod tonight; Husso has lost both starts against Vegas this season, yielding nine goals and managing a combined .795 save percentage.
For the Golden Knights, all signs point towards Marc-Andre Fleury getting the start in the second-to-last home game of the regular season. Vegas is hoping Fleury can clean up some of the issues Robin Lehner had last night. Both goaltenders have had one or two relatively poor performances, but Fleury has otherwise been solid. He has a .914 save percentage against the Blues and an .833 save percentage on high-danger chances but has has saved fewer goals than expected (-0.73).
Through seven games, Mark Stone leads the Knights in points against the Blues this season with 11 (nine of which were primary); he added an assist last night on the game-changing goal from Alec Martinez, who notched his seventh point in six games against St. Louis. Max Pacioretty is second with eight points, but his status remains unknown. Jonathan Marchessault has stepped up in his absence; he extended his point streak to seven games with the game-winner in overtime last night, giving him seven points against the Blues this season. Twenty Golden Knights have at least one point in the season series.
After last night, David Perron and Jaden Schwartz have moved into a first-place tie with Vladimir Tarasenko, as all three have five points against Vegas this season; former Golden Knight Perron leads the team in goals with four. In total, 17 Blues players have scored at least one point.
The Colorado Avalanche beat Los Angeles last night, so they still trail the Knights by four points with one game in hand. The two points up for grabs tonight could be critical in deciding home-ice advantage and Vegas’ first-round matchup.
What to watch for
- After his overtime goal on Wednesday, Alex Pietrangelo, former Blues captain, has seemed like a different player. He played well last night and led the team in individual Corsi (8), but he could finally break through for his revenge game tonight. Pietrangelo has just two points in the series so far, both assists, but coming off arguably his best game as a Golden Knight on Wednesday against the Minnesota Wild and a strong performance last night, Pietrangelo could keep the momentum rolling in tonight’s follow-up. The Golden Knights have 24 points from defensemen in this series so far, and Martinez played a critical role in last night’s win. Not only did he score the game-changing goal at the end of the second period, but he logged 24:15 of ice time, which trailed only Shea Theodore (26:04). All three had strong efforts, and Nicolas Hague and Zach Whitecloud found the scoresheet, with Hague picking up two primary assists.
- The Golden Knights have gotten plenty of depth scoring against the Blues so far this season. Nicolas Roy and Keegan Kolesar have four points against St. Louis, and William Carrier has three. Roy scored the game-tying goal in the third period of last night’s tilt, and he has played quite well for a while. In fact, the goal was his 10th point in his last 15 games. Peyton Krebs looked comfortable at both center and wing, on the top line and also on the power play, and he continues to contribute to the lineup. St. Louis’ fourth line had a very strong game last night. Kyle Clifford had several point-blank chances, and the trio was the most effective line for the Blues with a 62.5 percent Corsi at 5-on-5. The Knights continue to roll 11 forwards, so it’s especially important for the bottom-six forwards to continue to be a presence.
- The Golden Knights have given up a few inopportune goals on special teams in the last few games, including last night’s shorthanded goal from Ryan O’Reilly. Not only was Vegas’ struggling power play not generating chances, but it actually erased the team’s lead and was completely avoidable. St. Louis did not score on its power play, and there’s not much Vegas could do on the 5-on-3 against Minnesota. But while the penalty kill has been virtually perfect, considering how loaded the Blues’ top unit is, Vegas needs to keep this game at 5-on-5.
How to watch
Time: 7 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet, ESPN+, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.7 FM/1340 AM