In the Crease – Week 16

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Pulling Away
The defending champion St. Louis Blues started off slowly last season, and it wasn't until mid-February when head coach Mike Yeo was terminated in favor of Craig Berube. That's when the Blues picked themselves up from last place and they rolled into the playoffs and to the Stanley Cup. This season, there are no struggles. Heading into Tuesday's action they are 30-10-7 with 67 points, and they have won four straight games while holding a plus-27 goal differential, second in the Western Conference behind only the Colorado Avalanche (+28). In addition, they're 11 points ahead of the second-place Dallas Stars, although the latter does have two games in hand.

St. Louis has been particularly tough at Enterprise Center, as they're 17-4-3 at home this season, although they're not too shabby on the road, either, going 13-6-4. They're tied for third in the NHL in wins on the road, and they're winning percentage is also among the best away from home. They'll put that home record to the test this week when they welcome the Philadelphia Flyers to town on Wednesday before heading out of town for five games Jan. 18 in Colorado, Jan. 27 at Vancouver after the All-Star break, Jan. 28 in Calgary, Jan. 31 in Edmonton and Feb. 1 in Winnipeg, before heading home for a Justin Faulk reunion against the Carolina Hurricanes.

 Looking Ahead

Tuesday, Jan. 14

New Jersey at Toronto: The Devils have been showing signs of life lately, going 6-2-2 across the past 10 outings while pulling a 5-1 upset at Washington to cash as +250 underdogs, and a 3-1 win at home against Tampa Bay Jan. 12 as +180 'dogs. The latter snapped a franchise-high tying 10-game winning streak by the Lightning. The Maple Leafs, on the other hand, are coming off an embarrassing 8-4 road loss against the Florida Panthers, as Frederik Andersen was curb-stomped, and Michael Hutchinson wasn't much better in relief. The Devils are a solid 5-2 in the past seven against the Atlantic Division, and 5-2 in their past seven against the Eastern Conference, too. The Maple Leafs are still 9-4 in their past 13 games overall despite that four-goal pounding from the Panthers, and they're 5-1 in the past six against teams with a winning percentage of .400 or under. The Devils have lost four in a row in this series, and five of the past six in Toronto. The favorite is 20-7 in the past 27 meetings overall.

Dallas at Colorado: The Stars and Avalanche will tangle at Pepsi Center in Denver in an important Central Division battle. The Stars streak in with six victories in the past seven overall, including wins in four straight inside the division. The Stars have won five of the past seven on the road, and they're 5-1 in the past six against Western Conference foes. The Avalanche have won just twice in the past eight, as they're sinking like a stone in the standings. They're also a dismal 1-4 in the past five inside the Central. However, the Stars have managed just four victories in the past 16 trips to the Mile High City, and the favorite is 5-2 in the past seven in this series. The under has cashed in five straight, too.

Wednesday, Jan. 15

Philadelphia at St. Louis: The Flyers took down the Bruins in Monday's shootout, as polarizing forward Brad Marchand overskated the puck in the shootout and missed the puck to give Philadelphia a win. You read about the Blues above, as they're running away with the Central Division and red-hot lately. The Blues have rolled to four straight wins, outscoring their opponents by a count of 17-6 with three wins behind Jordan Binnington. The Flyers poted six goals in that win against the B's on Monday, and that was their most since they hung a seven-spot on the Blue Jackets back on Oct. 26. The Flyers are just 2-7-1 in their past 10 games on the road since the beginning of December, too.

Thursday, Jan. 16

Vegas at Ottawa: The Golden Knights and Senators meet up in Canada's capital city, and Vegas looks to remain perfect at the venue. They've won both of their previous visits since coming into existence before the 2017-18 season. Vegas has won both of their previous stops in Ottawa, outscoring the Sens 5-3 last season, and 5-4 in their first season. The Knights won 3-2 in a shootout back on Oct. 17 against the Senators on the Strip. What was interesting about that meeting was that the game went 'under', the first time in five all-time meetings that the 'over' didn't hit. This game will feature Mark Stone returning to his old stomping grounds.

Arizona at Vancouver: The Coyotes and Canucks will meet for the first of four meetings. Heading into the season, not many prognosticators were feeling these two teams, but entering play on Tuesday the Coyotes were tied with the Calgary Flames for first place in the Pacific Division with 55 points, while the Canucks are just one point back (54) with two games in hand. The Canucks are a rather mediocre 11-12-1 on the road, but they're an outstanding 14-5-3 at home. On the flip side, the Coyotes are just 11-10-2 at home, but they're a tremendous 14-8-3 away from home. These are the two best teams in the Pacific in terms of goal differential, too, as the Coyotes are plus-11 and the Canucks are plus-12. 

Friday, Jan. 17

Anaheim at Carolina: The Hurricanes got a little bit of their own medicine on Monday in Washington, as rookie Ilya Samsonov shut them out by a 2-0 score. The Hurricanes will be returning home after a two-game mini trip which also includes Columbus on Thursday night. The Hurricanes blanked the Arizona Coyotes 3-0 last Saturday, and 2-0 against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday, so goaltenders Petr Mrazek and James Reimer haven't allowed a goal in Raleigh since Jan. 7, a 5-4 overtime victory by Reimer over the Fly Guys. In fact, both goalies have three shutouts this season, the first time in Whalers/Hurricanes history that the team has two goaltenders with three or more shutouts each in the same season, and it's only mid-January. The Ducks will hope to tap into the success they had against the Canes back on Oct. 18 when they doubled up Carolina by a 4-2 score on The Pond.

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