The St. Louis Blues clinched the final playoff spot in the West Division on Friday, picking up one point in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. The two teams face off for the final time this regular-season on Saturday. With the Golden Knights sitting in the top seed in the West, while the Blues are in fourth, there is a good chance they will meet again in the first round of the playoffs later this month. Now that St. Louis has its postseason ticket booked, it’s time to start preparing for another run at the Stanley Cup. To get there, they would need to take down Vegas (or a team capable of beating them). Saturday’s game presents a great challenge for the Blues as they start shifting their mindsets to playoff-mode against a potential playoff opponent.
The Golden Knights, who are hosting on Saturday, have an incredible home record of 20-4-2 this season. The Blues have an opportunity to gain some extra confidence heading into the playoffs if they can close out their regular-season series against Vegas with a win. St. Louis has the third-best road record (14-8-4) in the West, only behind Vegas and the Colorado Avalanche. The Blues can’t finish any higher or lower than fourth in their division, so their remaining four games should be used to build momentum for a run at a second Stanley Cup championship in three years.
Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron and Jaden Schwartz tallied the goals for St. Louis on Friday. Over the past few weeks, the Blues’ offense has really come alive, ultimately leading the team to the top of a once tightly-contested playoff race with the Arizona Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks. Mike Hoffman has been another key contributor lately, making a name for himself as St. Louis’ power play sniper. The Blues have a dangerous group of forwards, and heading into the postseason, there is no better team to test their firepower against than the Golden Knights.
Ville Husso and Marc-Andre Fleury are expected to start in net for St. Louis and Vegas, respectively. Husso has been sub-par with a .855 save percentage (SV%) through 13 starts and 15 games played this season. Fleury, on the other hand, is one of the league’s top goaltenders right now, recording a .926 SV% across 34 starts. Without any pressure to clinch a playoff spot, Husso has an opportunity to gain some much-needed confidence in the crease if he and the Blues can take down Fleury and the Golden Knights.
The puck drops at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday at 9:00 p.m. CT.
As per NHL.com, the Blues’ projected lineup against the Golden Knights is as follows:
Brayden Schenn – Ryan O’Reilly – David Perron
Jaden Schwartz – Tyler Bozak – Zach Sanford
Mike Hoffman – Robert Thomas – Jordan Kyrou
Kyle Clifford – Ivan Barbashev – Mackenzie MacEachern
Marco Scandella – Justin Faulk
Niko Mikkola – Colton Parayko
Jake Walman – Robert Bortuzzo
Scratched: Steven Santini
Injured: Vladimir Tarasenko (lower body), Torey Krug (upper body), Vince Dunn (upper body), Sammy Blais (upper body)