Tonight’s NHL Predictions features an interleague matchup geared for TNT between the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues.

Entering tonight, the St. Louis Blues persist in their pursuit of consistency, with losses in their last three games and six across their previous 10. This has relegated the club’s record to 13-13-1 on the season. The Blues offence has been particularly void in this stretch, with just eight goals since the start of December (in five games). A short visit to United Center in a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks saw the only gleam of positivity for the team in yet another shorthanded goal late.

Visiting the Blues tonight is a Red Wings team lacking regular personnel in plentiful and on the second half of a back-to-back on the road. Detroit’s overall form this season – a fair improvement from the Blues – has begun a slight decline within the past week, with their outlook somewhat darkened in consideration of an injury to top-line centre and captain Dylan Larkin. Detroit arrives in Missouri first in the Eastern Conference wild-card spots.

NHL Predictions: Detroit Red Wings vs. St. Louis Blues

Keys to Victory for St. Louis

Red Wings Offence Without Larkin

Throughout the first quarter of the regular season, the Red Wings offence has defined itself at a high efficiency, which is most nearly indicated by their goals for above-expected (GFAx) rank of first league-wide currently (MoneyPuck). Dylan Larkin is perhaps one of the central motors to this high-performing offence; his supportive play low in the defensive zone and speed exiting it empowers the Detroit rush attack often, creating a source for future offensive opportunities to expand from (particularly from the top six of the team). Larkin’s recent injury limits the width of the club’s offensive capabilities; for reference, the Red Wings produce an expected goals rate 12 percent below league average without Larkin on the ice (Hockey-Viz). 

Detroit’s carousel of centres sans the centre is largely void of the necessary aspects to replenish some of Larkin’s rush contributions (namely high-end play-driving). Still, the team is capable of maintaining some offensive pace between Alex DeBrincat and Lucas Raymond up front and defensive activators in Moritz Seider and Shayne Gostisbehere.

Inconsistent Blues Seek Form of Success

Conversely, the Blues have seen unanticipated struggles generating and producing offence this season, with a team-wide shooting percentage that is on pace to decline from second to 17th from last season to this season (Evolving-Hockey). Aside from the point-per-game Robert Thomas has, only one other skater (Pavel Buchnevich) has even achieved the 20-point mark for the team this season, which is a particular source of frustration considering the lofty expectations applied to the club’s offence relative to their admittedly unstable back-end. Offensive inadequacies are amplified by a nearly league-worst expected goals against per 60 mark (xGA/60) of 3.07, which have been somewhat masked by Jordan Binnington‘s stellar set of performances this season. 

Restrictive and passive neutral zone on all sides of the puck have culminated in a team consistently prone to mistakes and exposure in the open ice, with head coach Craig Berube noting that he felt “we have guys who wait around and decide what type of game it is” in reference to such team-wide passiveness.

Detroit Attacking Lanes and St. Louis Approach

St. Louis holds some natural advantage in this matchup as a team with rest, in comparison to a Red Wings team subject to the fatigue of playing games in consecutive days while travelling, compounding on their newfound reduction of rushing speed. For the Blues, acknowledgment, and adjustment to such will curate the puck back into their possession; from here, the Blues will see their best results in attacking a less-mobile Red Wings defensive core with the octane energy the club has displayed on occasion this season. Clotting this vessel will limit the overall quantity of opportunities the Blues are forced to defend Detroit’s ability to attack a decline from the wall, which by itself is incredibly favourable for the Red Wings, as the Blues tight but immobile defensive structure provides conditions ideal for plays off the wall to target the net with fruitful speed.  

Prediction

RotoWire currently plots Ville Husso and Jordan Binnington as the starting goaltenders for this game. A struggling Husso is only a further detriment to a team facing several key absences and the lack of rest in the past week, appearing as quite the contrast to a team seemingly only maintaining form in goaltending and with fair rest across the same timeframe. In the culmination of all outlined factors, this round of NHL Predictions projects the Blues to secure the defeat of the Red Wings in a fairly close affair.

Prediction: Blues win 4-3

Main Photo Credit: Brian Bradshaw Sevald-USA TODAY Sports

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