The Time: 7:00 PM EST
The Broadcast: TV - MSG+
The Blues Come Flying In: Four more games to go! In what has been an uninspiring season, the Devils face off against the NHL’s hottest 2nd half team, the St. Louis Blues. This was a team, just months ago, that was sitting as one of the worst in the NHL, and looking unlikely to hit .500, let alone make the playoffs. Now, they sit 3rd in the Central, and are comfortable sitting in a playoff spot. Before falling to the Rangers 4-2 last game, the Blues were in the midst of a four game winning streak, including a 4-3 win over the NHL best Lightning and a 7-2 pounding of the Oilers. A large reason for this comeback is the prime of Ryan O’Reilly. Though always a quality player, O’Reilly has hit new strides this season. His 27 goals and 44 assists set a new career high in points for him, and his first season with the Blues has proven nothing but a success. Vladimir Tarasenko, while not at his previous career peak of 3 years ago, has 29 goals and 60 points. He recorded 10 goals and 12 assists in February, helping him win the month’s 3rd star and giving the Blues a record of 12-1-1 in the month (!). Meanwhile, players like Brayden Schenn and David Perron offer strong secondary scoring, while Tyler Bozak, Jaden Schwartz and the out-of-nowhere Oskar Sundvist all offer quality depth scoring. This Blues team looks poised to make a run in the playoffs, and time will only tell how far they can go.
Defensively, Alex Pietrangelo has cemented his status as an offensive star while Vince Dunn has emerged as one. Pietrangelo has 13 goals and 23 assists on the season, while Vince Dunn has emerged this season for 11 goals and 22 assists. Meanwhile, Colton Parayko is the 3rd great Blues defender, with 10 goals and 16 assists. This Blues team can score from anywhere.
The Blues new starting goaltender is Jordan Binnington, a 2011 3rd round pick of the Blues who has an amazing 21-4-1 record and a .930 save percentage. He’s come from nowhere and stolen the starting spot from a struggling Jake Allen, and is looking to emerge as a quality NHL option for the Blues in the future.
The Devils Come Limping In: Meanwhile, the New Jersey Devils reiterated their poor standing by getting shutout by Jonathan Bernier and the Red Wings to the score of 4-0. This now puts the Devils three points behind the Red Wings, and a bottom three team in the NHL. In a game where the Red Wings fielded a partial AHL team, with names of the past such as Dylan McIlrath, Matt Puempel and the debut of Chris Chelios’ 28 year old son Jake, the Devils found a way to get embarrassed 4-0. Every Devil besides Stefan Noesen and Kenny Agostino was on the ice for at least one goal, and the Devils are now safely lined up for a top three draft pick. At this point in the season, losses are probably a good thing for this team.
At this point, we know what this team is. Kyle Palmier, Blake Coleman and Nico Hischier are the only reliable scoring options (sorry Travis Zajac) while our defense is abysmal. Changes need to be made for the coming season, less another terrible season come again.
For the Devils, I don’t expect any changes. I’d think it looks like this:
Coleman - Zajac - Noesen
Agostino - Hischier - Palmieri
Wood - Zacha - Anderson
Stafford - Rooney - McLeod
Greene - Severson
Butcher - Santini
Mueller - Carrick
I think Schneider will start, keeping in line with the rotating goalies.
For the Blues, I’d guess it looks like this:
Schenn - O’Reilly - Tarasenko
Schwartz - Sundqvist - Perron
Maroon - Bozak - Thomas
Sanford - Barbashev - Steen
Dunn - Pietrangelo
Bouwmeester - Parayko
Gunnarsson - Bortuzzo
I’d guess Binnington starts.
Your Thoughts: Who will win? Will the Devils score this time? Do you guys want the Devils to win? Let me know in the comments below, and take care!