Tip: Washington Capitals chase a wildcard spot as St. Louis comes to visit!
For those who have read my thoughts on Washington Capitals and St. Louis Blues, you know that these are two teams that I don't hold in high regard. However, largely thanks to Charlie Lindgren and experienced actions, the Capitals have somehow managed to maintain a position where at least the wildcard spots are within reach. The Blues are not counted out either, but when we summarize the season, I would be very surprised if either of these teams is in the playoffs, although I don't agree with the betting companies about tonight's valuation.
Alexander Ovechkin Might Be Back
The historically prolific Ovechkin is no longer the "X-factor" he used to be. At least not if we look at the first half of the season. The Russian has scored 8 goals and 19 assists so far, not bad, but the benchmark for Ovechkin is of course different than for the average NHL forward. Despite this, he contributes a lot of experience on the ice and still has a shot that, when he connects, is hard to match. After missing three straight games, he trained fully with the team yesterday and is listed today as a “game-time decision”. Otherwise, the team is in quite good shape, though Sonny Milano and Rasmus Sandin continue to be absent.
It's hard not to write a few lines about one of the season's great goaltending giants in the NHL, Charlie Lindgren. The 30-year-old American is having the best season of his life with a save percentage of 92.9 and “Goals Saved Above Expected” of 15.7 (third best in the league), it's hard not to be anything but extremely impressed. He is currently the single most important player in the Capitals and is the reason why we can even talk about the Capitals as a team in the hunt for wildcard spots. I see no reason why he wouldn't guard the net tonight.
Let's Talk Numbers
I love to dive deep into statistics and underlying stats. Here we also find one of the reasons why I find it hard to see these teams as playoff teams. Looking at the combined xGF%, it quickly becomes clear that both Capitals and Blues allow more defensively than they manage to create offensively. It's certainly not an exact science but often gives a hint that teams might struggle in the long run. Both teams have had their difficulties in creating plenty of offensive chances as the xG figures suggest. The actual figures also speak clearly, the Capitals have scored the least goals in the Eastern Conference and St. Louis Blues have scored the fourth least in the Western Conference. Instead, especially the Capitals have stabilized their defense somewhat and with Lindgren in goal, they don't let much in. Therefore, it's also not so strange that the goal line is a 5.5-line, something we don't see too often in NHL context, it's expected to be a fairly low-scoring and tight match.
Betting Tips and Conclusion
Sunday 01:00, NHL
In a match between two combatants where a low-scoring game is expected, I still think the advantage leans towards the Capitals. If they also get back superstar Alexander Ovechkin, it can hardly be a disadvantage. On home ice, the Capitals have also played their best matches and collected 28 of their 48 points. Caps are also starting to get their newcomer Max Pacioretty going, who is a top scorer when he is healthy. St. Louis Blues have looked better since the coaching change but I'm not convinced that the change was for the better in the long run. Overall, I lean towards the home team, who with Lindgren in goal and hopefully Ovechkin back on the ice should solve the task in front of them!
Washington Capitals draw no bet @ -105 at bet365!
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