Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images. Pictured: Boston Bruins celebrate a goal.
Blues vs. Bruins Odds
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These two teams could not have gotten off to more divergent starts to the season. The Bruins suffered a 2-1 loss to Toronto on Saturday, but they’re still near the top of the league with a 10-2-0 record. Meanwhile, the Blues have lost six straight games and are 3-6-0.
Those records provide an easy answer for why the Bruins are such heavy favorites, but are the Blues really that bad and could they bring their slump to an end Tuesday night?
It’s amazing how many perceptions can change over an early season slump. Heading into the season, the Blues wouldn’t have been classified as being far behind the Bruins. St. Louis had a 49-22-11 record last season, which was marginally better than Boston’s, and made it to the second round of the playoffs. St. Louis watched David Perron leave and sign with Detroit over the summer and, while that certainly hurt the Blues’ offense, it shouldn’t have been a deathblow.
St. Louis ranked third in the league in offense last season with 3.77 goals per game, and it was the Blues’ depth that was the key to their success. They had 11 different players with at least 40 points and nine who scored a minimum of 20 goals. Perron was part of both categories, but he ranked eighth on the Blues in scoring, so he was far from the key link. All the same, St. Louis has gone from third to last this season with just 2.33 goals per game.
Injuries have been part of the problem. Brandon Saad (upper body) hasn’t played yet this season and Pavel Buchnevich, who had 76 points in 73 games, missed five of the Blues’ first nine contests. When you combine those absences with the loss of Perron, you can begin to see why the Blues have gotten off to a slow start.
Those absences have been made worse by some early season slumps. Jordan Kyrou broke out in 2021-22 with 27 goals and 75 points, but he has three goals and no assists through nine games. Ivan Barbashev also set career-highs last season with 26 goals and 60 points, but he’s been limited this season to a goal and three points in nine contests. Ryan O’Reilly has been the worst off, going from 58 points in 2021-22 to just one point in his first nine games of 2022-23.
The good news is that Barbashev is healthy and Saad is likely to return Monday night, so for the first time since the season started, the Blues could have their full forward core healthy.
However, there is one other significant offseason departure I’ve yet to mention: goaltender Ville Husso. He manned the net along with Jordan Binnington last season, which was important because Binnington is inconsistent. Binnington has certainly struggled lately, allowing 15 goals over his past three starts, dropping him to a 3-4-0 record, 3.40 GAA and .879 save percentage in seven games. Backup goaltender Thomas Greiss might prove to be better, but he’s only made two starts this season.
St. Louis’ offense is likely being underestimated at this point, but their goaltending is a legitimate X-Factor and that’s in stark contrast to Boston.
Power of the Bruins
Linus Ullmark has been one of the best goaltenders in the league this season. Even in his loss to Toronto on Saturday, he put forward a strong performance, stopping 26 of 28 shots. He has an 8-1-0 record, 2.16 GAA and .929 save percentage in 10 games (nine starts) this season.
Backup goaltender Jeremy Swayman struggled early and is now out with a lower-body injury, but as long as Ullmark is playing like this, the Bruins will be fine.
Boston was a standout team defensively last season, but what’s really driven their early success has been their offense. While the Blues sit at the bottom of the league in terms of goals per game, Boston ranks first at 4.17.
David Pastrnak has been at the heart of Boston’s offense, providing eight goals and 19 points in 12 games. However, it’s also about the depth.
As noted above, scoring depth was St. Louis’ bread-and-butter last season, but while the Blues have four players who have reached the five-point mark in 2022-23, Boston has 12. It has to be noted that the Bruins have played in three more games, so it’s not a fair comparison, but still, the size of the gap is staggering.
It also helps that Brad Marchand has been superb since he came back from his hip injury. The Blues have been forced to deal with injured forwards, but the Bruins certainly had health issues too and have adapted far better. Getting Marchand back helps Boston a lot, but the Bruins were even firing on all cylinders without him.
Of course, the Bruins’ early pace isn’t completely sustainable. They’re going to have some cold spells over the course of the season that will make them look mortal. But that doesn’t alter the fact that they’re a top-tier team with the talent to finish near or at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Blues vs. Bruins Pick
The Bruins are legit and if there’s any discrepancy, it’s that St. Louis’ slump has led to the Blues being underestimated. The Blues still have a strong core. Their goaltending might end up holding them back to some extent this season, but that forward group should heat up. With the way the Bruins are playing right now though, they’re a tough team to get going against and the fact that St. Louis is on the road certainly won’t do the Blues any favors.
The Bruins seem like a good bet given how shaky St. Louis’ goaltending has been. That, combined with the strength of Boston’s offense, has me feeling comfortable recommending Boston on the puck line. The moneyline payout isn’t particularly enticing, but taking Boston on the puck line offers a good potential return.
Pick: Boston Bruins puck line +135 (play down to +120)