The San Jose Sharks will invade the Scottrade Center this Thursday night for a Game 1 matchup against the St. Louis Blues in this first round Western Conference Stanley Cup Playoff best-of-seven series. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. (ET) and it will be broadcast on CNBC.
NHL odds boards opened with the Blues as -151 favorites, and early action has extended that line to -157. As is the case with all of Thursday night's matchups, the total has been set at 5 points even. While many people my be tempted to look at the matchup's total here, I am lookng the other way with my NHL picks tonight.
The battle for the Pacific Division title was a four-team
race that came down to the final week of the regular season and while San Jose
did not end-up on top, it has to be happy about closing things out with a
four-game winning streak. The Sharks were actually 6-2 down the stretch to
finish with 93 points and an overall record of 43-29-10. The concern for this
game would be their 17-17-7 record on the road this year. San Jose was also
very costly to wager on this season with a -1532 return on the puck line and a
NHL-worst 28-54 record against the puck line.
Center Logan Couture, left winger Patrick Marleau, and right
winger Joe Pavelski each tallied over 30 goals and 30 assists to help lead a
San Jose attack that averaged 2.67 goals-per-game in the regular season.
Defensively, the Sharks were tied for eighth in the NHL in goals allowed with a
goals-against-average of 2.50. Antti Niemi started 68 games in goal and posted
a GAA of 2.42 and had a .915 save percentage.
St. Louis was mired in the middle of the pack in the Central
Division at the All-Star break but rode a second-half surge all the way to the
division title and the second seed in the West. It finished with 109 points and
an overall record of 49-22-11. One of the main reasons for the Blues’ success
was a 30-6-5 record on their home ice. The only chink in the armor was a 3-3-3
record in their last nine games, but overall they come into the playoffs in
excellent form. St. Louis basically broke even on the money line at +17 and was
a costly 35-47 against the puck line.
The Blues only had two players to cross the 20-goal plateau
this season with center David Backes leading the way with 24. The result was a
goals-per-game average of 2.51, which was ranked 21st in the NHL.
The primary reason why St. Louis is a legitimate threat to win this year’s
Stanley Cup is a defense that was ranked first in the league in goals allowed
with a GAA of just 1.89. It also has the luxury of having two quality
goaltenders on its roster in Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak. Of the two,
Elliott posted the better numbers with a 1.56 GAA and a save percentage of
San Jose is 2-6 in its last eight games as an underdog and
4-12 in its last 16 games on the road. The total has gone ‘over’ in five of its
last seven games as the NHL betting road underdog.
St. Louis is 12-3 in its last 15 games against the Pacific
Division but just 1-11 in its last 12 first-round playoff games. The total has
stayed ‘under’ in seven of its last 11 games against a team from the Pacific
The favorite in this series is 19-7 in the last 26 meetings
and the total has stayed ‘under’ in 10 of the last 14 games. The Blues swept
this year’s regular season series 4-0 and takes the first step towards sweeping
the Sharks in the playoffs with a solid victory in Game 1.
The Pick: St. Louis 4 San