This will be the last week of the regular season for most of the teams in the NHL. Some of the Canadian teams and some of the US teams with recent COVID stoppages will be forced to play into the middle or latter parts of next week, but the season mostly comes to an end this weekend.
The push for the playoffs doesn’t feature a ton of drama, as it will be more about postseason seeding for a lot of teams. That is the case for the two teams playing in St. Paul tonight, as the Vegas Golden Knights and Minnesota Wild meet at 8 p.m. ET in the seventh game between the two teams this season.
Per the fine folks at BetUS Sportsbook, Vegas is the -125 road favorite with a total of 5.5 on the game. Minnesota has won four of the six meetings this season, but two games have gone to overtime and another was decided by one goal, so these have been competitive contests.
Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights had a 10-game winning streak snapped late last week with a 3-0 loss to Arizona, but picked themselves right back up and won 3-2 the following night to get back to their winning ways. Vegas is 36-12-2 with the two-headed monster in net of Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury and is a team poised for postseason success yet again.
Fleury has played the bulk of the games with a 22-10 record, a 2.08 GAA, and a .927 SV%. He has pitched five shutouts on the season as well. Lehner has been equal to the task with a 12-2-2 record, a 2.03 GAA, and a .923 SV%. No starter has been announced as of yet, but head coach Peter DeBoer has largely rotated his top two guys when healthy and it would be Lehner’s turn in that rotation.
Vegas’s balanced scoring attack and ability to roll four lines have been big positives for the team this season. Mark Stone is knocking on the door of 20 goals and his next one will give him that benchmark in the shortened season. Max Pacioretty leads the team with 24 tallies. Alex Tuch is next with 17 tucks and he, too, has a shot at getting to 20.
Plus/minus isn’t a super predictive or descriptive stat, but just about every player on the roster is on the plus side and in a big way, which showcases how well Vegas has played at 5-v-5. Vegas is second in 5-v-5 scoring with 119 goals, trailing only the Capitals. They are +33 in 5-v-5 scoring.
Only the Carolina Hurricanes, who have played one extra game, have more points than Vegas with 74.
The Wild have 68 points to go with a 32-14-4 record, but have gone 8-1-1 in their last 10 in hopes of overtaking Colorado for second place in the West Division. Seeding is critically important in this division. The winner will get the fourth seed, which looks to be the St. Louis Blues, who are 15 points behind Minnesota entering play tonight. The #2 seed will get home ice advantage in the first round. That would be a big deal for Colorado, who is 20-4-2 at home in the thin air. Minnesota is 18-5-1 at home, so the Wild would love to start on home ice as well.
Minnesota had a seven-game winning streak snapped last week by the Blues with consecutive one-goal losses on Wednesday and Thursday. They got one back with an overtime win of their own on Saturday.
Like the Golden Knights, the Wild have mostly rotated their netminders in and out. No announcement has been made yet for tonight, but it seems likely that Cam Talbot gets the call. Talbot has started two or three games in a row, while backup Kaapo Kahkonen has gotten steady work. Kahkonen was the starter in Saturday’s win over the Blues, so we’ll likely see Talbot tonight.
Either option has been solid, but Talbot has been the better one with a 17-7-4 record, a 2.48 GAA, and a .920 SV%. Kirill “The Thrill” Kaprizov has shined this season for the Wild with 23 goals and 20 assists in his 50 games and some hardware may be coming the 23-year-old rookie’s way at season’s end.
Minnesota’s prowess at 5-v-5 is also a big part of their success with a +20 goal differential in that split. They’ve scored eight fewer goals than Vegas and have allowed five more goals and also grade as something of a regression candidate at 5-v-5, where they’ve been outshot on the season. To their credit, they have created the better scoring opportunities at 5-v-5.
Golden Knights vs. Wild Free Pick
Minnesota has mostly matched up well with Vegas this season and certainly better than most teams have. Both teams are playing really well right now also, but this is a pretty cheap price on Vegas all things considered. They’re on the road for their last real road trip of the season and they’re making that push for the #1 seed to be able to face the Blues. Winning this division is huge and that’s what they’re looking to do.
We should see Vegas come through in what will likely be another tight, low-scoring game between the two teams.
Pick: Vegas Golden Knights