Backup goalies grab spotlight for Blues-Caps
With nine games remaining, Washington needs one point to secure its first Presidents’ Trophy since 2009-10. Just don’t expect Barry Trotz to pull out all the stops tonight.
The Capitals’ head coach will likely rest star goaltender Braden Holtby in favor of backup Philipp Grubauer when the Blues roll into town for a 7 p.m. ET puck drop. Even so, online sports book Bovada.lv gives the host team odds of -150 to register win No. 54.
St. Louis, with a money line of +130 to thwart Washington’s celebration, trots out a different look in net as well. Brian Elliott, who’s made 71 saves while logging three consecutive shutouts, yields to the 25-year-old Jake Allen here.
Allen (24-14-3) needs an impressive showing if he harbors any aspirations of seeing pucks come playoff time. He owns a 5.15 goals-against average over his last three starts, getting yanked once, and has never faced the Caps as a pro.
Washington ranks second in the NHL with 3.12 tallies per contest, but could be missing a key contributor for the second straight evening. T.J. Oshie (23 goals, 22 assists) missed Friday’s 1-0 overtime victory at New Jersey on account of the flu. The right wing spent his first seven seasons with the Note before getting dealt to the nation’s capital last summer.
The forward St. Louis acquired in that deal, Troy Brouwer, is heating up just in time for his preferred stage. A noted postseason performer, Brouwer boasts six points since March 14. He’s teamed with center Paul Stastny to give Ken Hitchcock a much-needed second scoring unit behind the Vladimir Tarasenko-Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera combination.
Can the Blues’ offensive threats keep soaring vs. Grubauer (8-6-1 with a 2.19 GAA), though? They’re now tied with the Stars for first place in the West and are averaging 3.64 goals during a 9-2-0 stretch. The momentum won’t completely wear off in spite of drawing the league’s toughest foe.
SATURDAY NHL FREE PICK: ST. LOUIS +1.5