Top NHL Teams Collide as the Detroit Red Wings host the St. Louis Blues

Two of NHL Hockey’s most exciting teams square off tonight at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan as the Detroit Red Wings (32-15-1, 65 points) and the St. Louis Blues (29-12-6, 64 points) battle for the most points in the NHL while also hoping to retain their recent unbeaten form. With St. Louis entering tonight’s road match-up riding 4 straight victories and posting an 8-0-1 record in 2012, they’ll certainly make for a tough challenge for the Red Wings, who have themselves won 6 in a row overall and seek a franchise-record 16 straight wins on home ice this evening. For betting on hockey at one of the top online sportsbooks today, look no further than this fantastic match-up to be one of your best betting options on the ice for the entire week to come.

While the St. Louis Blues have struggled a bit lately against Detroit at the Joe, dropping 2 games there last month alone as part of a 3-game losing skid to close out 2011, they’ve found a resurgence in 2012 on the back of outstanding defensive hockey that could serve them well in tonight’s rematch. The Blues come into tonight’s match-up with the league’s top scoring defense, allowing just 1.9 goals per game, and have gotten tremendous shutdown efforts from starting net-minder Jaroslav Halak (14-7, 2.00 goals against average, %.920 save percentage), and back-up Brian Elliott (15-5, 1.68 GAA, %.937 save percentage). With 9 shutouts between the two of them, this is without a doubt the stingiest 1-2 goalie tandem in the whole NHL, and the fact that both goalies are playing at such a high level has meant that each and every night St. Louis can be fresh in net, and confident that with either Halak or Elliot between the pipes any game is within reach regardless of the opposition. However, against Detroit, both goalies have some stepping up to do, with Halak posting a 2-3-1 record with an awful 4.35 goals against average, and Elliot has given up 3 goals in each of his last two starts against the Red Wings (2-3-0, 2.45 GAA lifetime against Detroit). With Halak confirmed as the starter tonight based on his outstanding recent form of 7 straight wins and 3 shutouts in 5 games, this is the perfect time for him to step up against the Red Wings and start chipping away at his worst GAA against any opponent in the NHL.

On offense, St. Louis hasn’t excelled in any particular area, ranking 17th in the league with 2.6 goals/game, and also rank low on the power play at 26th in the league (13.8 percent conversion). Opposite Detroit, who is relatively weak on the penalty kill at 81.3 percent (22nd in the NHL), St. Louis needs to generate more scoring chances with the man advantage, meaning that Blues’ leading scorer David Backes (16 goals, 21 assists, 5 power play goals) will have to step up and provide the push for 5 on 4 hockey favoring St. Louis, as will Jason Arnott (12 goals, 12 assists, 4 power play goals). Also, St. Louis needs to have better shot selection against a veteran Detroit defense, as their 25th-ranked shooting percentage will attest to. Without a lot of puck movement and good open looks, St. Louis may find itself becoming frustrated once again, as they were in the last meeting in Detroit, a 3-0 loss which saw the Blues equal on shots (31 to 31) with the Red Wings, but failing to score on the power play (0-3) and unable to come back after letting in 3 goals in the 2nd period.

On the Detroit side of things, hockey can’t get too much better, unless you start splitting a few hairs over their somewhat lackluster defense this season. Ranking 5th in goal scoring (3.1/game), 5th in total goals, 5th in assists and 5th in total points, the Red Wings have a very well balanced offense that is able to provide plenty of goal support for goalie Jimmy Howard, who continues to get sharper leading up to the NHL All-Star break. On area of concern down the road may be how much Howard has had to shoulder the goalie load this season (29-10-1, playing in 40 of the team’s 48 games this year), as back-up Ty Conklin hasn’t been anything to write home about (3-5, 3.09 GAA), but for now, Detroit seems content to let Howard keep rolling as long as he keeps winning. While Howard has been outstanding in net against St. Louis, posting a 1.76 GAA and %.944 save percentage in 4 games against the Blues, his 2-2 record certainly points to the fact that St. Louis’ defense has been keeping them in hockey games against Detroit, and once again Howard will have to stand on his head at home to rack up win #7 in a row, and grab the franchise record for most home wins.

For the Red Wings to pull through with a victory at home tonight, they are going to need to find a way to put up goals against Jaroslav Halak and the top-rated Blues defense, but perhaps just as important to their cause will be preventing St. Louis from getting lots of shots at Jimmy Howard. St. Louis knows they likely can’t expect to win with just 1 or 2 goals tonight, and with a lot of pressure on their power play to produce with the man advantage, Detroit’s own penalty killing unit will have to step up and blank the Blues once again to secure a win. Getting solid efforts from defensemen Ian White (+26 rating, 6 goals, 18 assists), Nicklas Lidstrom (+23, 10 goals, 16 assists) and Jonathan Ericsson (+15, leads the team with 39 penalty minutes) will go a long way towards hampering the Blues’ ability to generate offense, and if the Red Wings can avoid the penalty box and keep the game at 5-on-5 hockey, they’ll certainly have the upper hand tonight with the better scoring offense on the ice. No doubt we can expect some kind productivity out of Johan Franzen (+25, 18 goals, 22 assists, 9 power play goals) and points leader Pavel Datsyuk (51 points, 13 goals, 38 assists), but against a shutdown defense Detroit needs to see some contributions from less-than-usual suspects, like big man Todd Bertuzzi who has played well this season (10 goals, 14 assists, +22, 15:38 minutes ice time), Jiri Hudler (13 goals, 17 assists, 14:54 minutes) and defenseman Nicklas Kronwall, who is the only Red Wings skater averaging more than 20 minutes a game with a negative +/- rating (-1).

Betting Lines for Detroit Red Wings vs. St. Louis Blues at Betonline Sportsbook

Betonline Sportsbook is the best online sportsbook of choice for Monday’s wagers on NHL Hockey, and for tonight’s game, the Detroit Red Wings take home ice with -145 odds to win on the money line, with St. Louis as the underdog at +132 odds. In a game featuring two very hot goaltenders, it’s little to no surprise to see the over/under total points pegged at 5 goals, as in the 4 match-ups between these two teams this year, only one contest made it to 5 total goals. Also, with the game featuring two very different but equally good teams in play, the pick against the spread may be a tricky one; Detroit gets +200 odds to cover 1 1/2 goals, while St. Louis has -240 odds to stay within 1 1/2 goals. Unless this game is within 1 goal at the end of regulation and one team or the other knocks in an empty netter while the opposite side presses with 6 men, there’s a very high likelihood this game will end with 1 goal being the differential.

Our Pick to Win:

Though the Red Wings have had a lot of success against Jaroslav Halak when he’s in goal, the fact that St. Louis has been generating a lot of shots lately, and that Halak has been outstanding during his 7-game winning streak certainly could bode well for underdog pickers siding with the Blues. However, with so much on the line history-wise for Detroit this evening, you can also bet that all the Red Wings will be skating at their highest level, looking to make their mark in the storied Red Wings history books with a 16th straight home victory. There’s no doubt this should be a gritty game where goals are going to be very hard to come by, but with Detroit much better on the scoring attack than St. Louis, I’ll have to side with the Red Wings to pick up the win in a close one at the Joe this evening. In a tight, low-scoring finish, Detroit edges out the Blues 2-1, making a good day for under total points pickers, and for hockey fans looking for an exciting game to watch and wager on at Betonline Sportsbook.

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