If you were able to stay up late last night to finish the whole game against the Canucks, then you were treated to yet another overtime. This one ended the same way that many of the OTs have, with the Blues winning, but they won in a way that I haven’t seen happen in a while:
Wow, an NHL team - and one of the better ones in the league - let that happen. Not a good way for the Canucks to wrap that one up, but it doesn’t matter to the Blues. A win is a win, they’re sitting atop the Western Conference with 23 points. They’re three points ahead of the Preds and five points ahead of the rapidly cooling Colorado Avalanche.
The rest of the Central Division appears to be a gongshow.
Still winning by constantly forcing overtime isn’t the best strategy - it’s dinging the team’s regulation wins column and it’s not helping their +2 goal differential. A clean and decisive win tonight against the Edmonton Oilers would be their sixth win in a row. So would an overtime win.
But with a team that features Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, you need to have a goal cushion. Draisaitl is leading the Oilers with 13 goals and 27 points, McDavid has 7 goals and 17 assists, and resident old man James Neal is having a bang-up season with 11 goals and 13 points. Factor in the other resident old man, goaltender Mike Smith, and you have a good feel for why the Oilers are atop the Pacific. Smith is having an excellent start to the year, with a 2.12 GAA and .931 save percentage.
Maybe that goal cushion is going to be harder for the Blues to come by than they hope.
Last year, the Blues were 2-0-1 against the Oilers. There’s no reason to expect anything different this year, but St. Louis’s penalty kill will have to be strong in this season series to ensure another good record. The Oilers are third in the league, converting 26.7% of the time. The Blues aren’t half bad either, coming in sixth overall with 23.5% effectiveness. Mark Savard has tightened the power play ship, and it shows. The PK, however, needs to be better - they’re 16th in the league with a 81.6% effectiveness. Limiting scoring chances on the PK may just be the thing that the Blues can do to stop the streak of overtime wins and just get back to clean wins instead.