Sharks vs. Blues NHL Pick – January 20, 2021

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Last night we had a pick that looked fantastic through two periods, only to take a tough beat.

We had the Avalanche -1.5 on the puckline versus the Kings, and with Colorado holding a 3-0 lead after two, we were looking pretty. However, the Kings got within two near the midway mark of the third and then within one at the 14:22 mark, sinking our pick and dealing us a one-u nit loss.

That’s a tough pill to swallow to be sure, but we’ll take it and move onto tonight’s five-game slate where we have the Sharks vs. Blues in a West division contest from St. Louis!

  • Season Record: 5-6
  • Units: -1.09

Sharks vs. Blues Betting Odds

  • Sharks (+160)
  • Blues (-180)
  • Sharks +1.5 (-155)
  • Blues -1.5 (+135)
  • Over 6 (+100)
  • Under 6 (-120)

Sharks vs. Blues NHL Pick Breakdown

Sharks

Offense

It’s been a somewhat surprising start to the season for the Sharks on offense as they’ve averaged 3.33 goals per game through three contests so far, but much of that damage has come from the top-six.

Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture and Evander Kane are off to hot starts, but the Sharks have just one of their 10 goals on the season from a member of the bottom-six in Ryan Donato. Furthermore they have just five goals over their last two games after hanging five on the Arizona Coyotes to open their season last Thursday.

Much of the damage has also come on the power play. San Jose’s 45.5% clip on the power play — second-best in the NHL — has accounted for five of their 10 goals on the season. It’s obviously extremely early, but the Sharks’ peripheral figures suggest better 5v5 offensive output moving forward, but there’s little doubt they’ll need more depth scoring if they are to make any noise in that top-heavy West division.

Of course, the Sharks are going to get offensive contributions from the back end as well as Brent Burns has three points in as many games and Erik Karlsson will produce as the season moves along with just one assist to his credit at this point.

Defense

The offense is pretty much the only reason why the Sharks have a win under their belt to this point as the defense has been extremely poor, as expected.

Of course, there’s been an early-season offensive outburst across the leagues as defenses and goaltenders work out the kinks from a short camp and lack of exhibition games, but nonetheless the Sharks are still tied for 27th in overall defense while allowing 4.33 goals per game to this point. They also haven’t exactly faced high-powered offenses either with two games against the Coyotes to start the season, but also allowed five against these Blues their last time out on Monday night.

The Sharks ranked 27th on defense last season and I’m not sure they’re in for much positive regression. Burns and Karlsson, as good as they are offensively, are defensive liabilities. The team is also leaning on youngsters such as Mario Ferraro and Nikolai Knyzhov in the early going, both 23 years of age or under. It’s a group that should continue to be exposed, plain and simple.

Keep in mind the Sharks ranked 27th on defense last despite despite boasting the NHL’s best penalty kill. Their advanced metrics from last season at 5v5 weren’t as bad as you may think given the plethora of 5v5 goals allowed, but they were thoroughly a below average even-strength defense a season ago, something I expect to continue this time around.

Goaltending

A big reason why the Sharks ranked as one of the worst defenses in hockey last season was goaltending.

Martin Jones against struggled, working to a career-worst 3.00 GAA and tied a career-low with an .896 Sv% across 41 games. The team acquired Devan Dubnyk coming off a horrific season with the Wild as well, but in doing so the Sharks have the No. 43 and No. 45 ranked goaltenders from last season among the 45 that played at least 30 games. That’s… not likely to work.

Obviously, general manager Doug Wilson is betting on a bounce back seasons from his veteran duo, but that certainly hasn’t been the case in the early going. Jones owns a 4.34 GAA and .869 Sv% in two starts while Dubnyk allowed those five goals on Monday in his lone start of the season.

They’ll go back to Jones for this one tonight. The 31-year-old has put forth quality work against the Blues in his career, posting a 2.11 GAA and .916 Sv% in 10 starts, but has gone just 5-5-0 in the process, including a 5-2 defeat in his lone meeting with them a season ago.

We’ll see if they can find their form as the season moves along, but it’s another rough start for Sharks goaltending after they ranked 30th with an .895 Sv% last season.

Blues

Offense

From a personnel standpoint, the Blues certainly made an effort to score more goals this season.

The loss of Alex Pietrangelo on the back end hurts at both ends of the ice, but Armstrong signed Torey Krug and Mike Hoffman in free agency as well. Both are excellent on the power play and among the top producers at their positions over the last several seasons.

Over the last four seasons, Krug ranks sixth among defensemen with 212 points. Known for his goal-scoring, Hoffman’s 169 goals over the last six seasons ranks him 17th in the league and 16th over the last two seasons with 65. He’s scored more than Jack Eichel, Brad Marchand and Artemi Panarin over the last two seasons.

The Blues were already deadly on the power play when they ranked third a season ago, and while they’re 0 for 9 to begin this season in three games, I would expect that group to get going as we move forward.

Despite the high-octane man advantage last season, the Blues tied the Oilers for 14th in overall offense. At 5v5, they were easily a bottom-half team in expected goals for/60, scoring chances/60 and high-danger chances/60, as per Natural Stat Trick. With a deeper offense this time around, I would expect positive regression from the Blues’ offense at even-strength this season.

Defense

There’s been some turnover on a Blues back end that ranked ranked fifth last season.

Gone is Pietrangelo on the open market, but also the steady presence of veteran Jay Bouwmeester who was forced into retirement after suffering a cardiac episode in a game at Anaheim last season.

Of course, Krug joins that blueline, but the remaining five blueliners did play for the Blues last season while Marco Scandella will be more heavily leaned on after a mid-season trade from the Habs last season.

That said, the early-season results haven’t been great. The Blues are the team tied with the Sharks for 27th while allowing 4.33 goals per game in the early going. However, if you look into the sample size, eight of their 13 goals allowed came in their 8-0 blowout loss to the Avalanche on Saturday. They allowed four to the Sharks on Monday but also held the high-powered Avs to just one goal in their season-opener.

The Blues are a good example of a team that should regress positively. They’ve long been among the best defensive clubs in the league and Craig Berube has instilled a structure that works. Some will point to the Pietrangelo departure when it comes to their early-season woes, but here’s a group I believe will improve significantly as the season moves along.

Goaltending

More than anyone else, the Blues need to get Jordan Binnington going.

They traded backup Jake Allen to the Montreal Canadiens largely due to his contract as he was coming off a fine 2019-20 season, but behind Binnington is now Ville Husso, the team’s fourth-round pick from 2014. Husso posted a solid 2.56 GAA and .909 Sv% at the AHL level last season, but struggled mightily in the minors two seasons back and was shelled for four goals on just 14 shots in relief of Binnington in that 8-0 loss to the Avs.

So, it would appear the pressure is on Binnington to be much better. After a fine season-opening effort in which he turned aside 26 of 27 shots, Binnington has been torched for an .840 Sv% over his last two starts, allowing eight goals in that time.

It certainly looks as if Binnington is going to be one of the few goaltenders in the league that will see true No. 1 duties this season, and if the Blues are to hang with the Avalanche and Golden Knights in the West division, he’ll need to be much better moving forward.

Sharks vs. Blues NHL Pick

By all means, the Blues should be a far superior team than San Jose when it’s all said and done. They’re currently third with +350 odds to win the west with the Sharks listed at +2000, ahead of only the Kings (+2200). That should give you an indication of where the oddsmakers expect each team to finish.

It was much closer than that on Monday, however, with the Sharks hanging tough despite allowing five goals. For the second time in three games they impressed against what should be a tough defensive team. That said, a lack of secondary scoring is going to limit the ceiling on this offense.

The Blues are far deeper. The newly-signed Hoffman is all the way down on the third line and second power play unit. On most teams, he’s easily a top-six player and even a top-line player, but Berube has spread the wealth up front, giving the Blues three dynamic scoring lines in the process.

While it might be difficult to meet their lofty bar on the power play from last season, I believe this offense is a top-10 group at the end of the day. Keep in mind they’ll get Vladimir Tarasenko back at some point, but for now I think this is sneakily one of the deeper offenses in the league right now.

Binnington’s work has been suspect for sure, but none more than Jones in the Sharks’ net.

Add it up and I’m going to roll with the Blues on the 3-way moneyline at -135 odds and look for them to win this one in regulation time.

The Bet
BLUES -0.5 IN REGULATION
-135
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Brenton Kemp / Author

Brenton is a lifelong sports fan who resides in Ontario, Canada. Brenton is a fan of most all sports but specializes in hockey, baseball, football, basketball, and golf. He’s a fierce researcher with a strong appetite to deliver accurate and relevant facts that in turn have led to past success with picks and DFS advice across the board. Brenton’s biggest goal is to deliver readers with the picks and advice that can build their bankroll. He takes great pride in his success and loves nothing more than to share that success for the benefit of everyone involved.