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We all expected the Blues to come into this season and be Cup contenders. So far, they haven’t even come close to what our summer expectations were. They sit in 12th place in the Western Conference.
Photo: Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports
I’m here to tell you why the Blues WILL make the playoffs this season.
Not only will they make the playoffs, they will be competitive in the pursuit for the Stanley Cup. You might be asking, “Why?” or “How?” and I completely understand your skepticism. Here is why you should believe in the St. Louis Blues in the second half of this season:
The Western Conference at the beginning of the year looked completely stacked, just like last year. As the season has progressed, the once formidable conference has looked more and more top-heavy than ever before. Excluding the top 5 teams in the conference, only 2 teams, Dallas and Colorado, have hit 50 points so far this season, and they are 5 more games than halfway through the season. This season is much less competitive than last in terms of the pace teams are setting in the West, meaning the Blues could string together some wins and find themselves in the playoffs rather quickly. Another interesting factor you’ll want to consider is that if the Blues do sneak into the playoff hunt, they will likely be in the 7 or 8 spot, giving them a chance to play through the Pacific Division instead of the Central. I believe they would be better off playing through the Pacific Division in a pursuit for the Cup and avoiding the more experienced, dangerous teams like Winnipeg and Nashville in the process.
The Blues currently sit at a record of 20-20-4, but the good news for the Blues is the only other teams that have played as few games as they have (44) are in the Eastern Conference.
Since December 31st, the Blues have looked like a different team. The Blues outshot the Rangers 31-8 in the second two periods of their game on New Year’s Eve, but Henrik Lundqvist stole the game. Since the New Year, the Blues’ two losses have been almost solely on Jake Allen. Allen gave up 4 goals on 16 shots against the Islanders and then allowed an abysmal momentum killing goal to Tyler Seguin in the Stars game. Jake Allen rebounded last night against the defending Cup champion Capitals and put up a solid performance. Besides those two games, the Blues have given up only 5 goals in their 5 wins, while scoring 19.
Now let’s look ahead. The Blues play 5 more games in the month of January. 4 of the 5 games are on the road, and 2 of 5 are against playoff teams. Shockingly, they have performed better against playoff teams than non playoff teams, and have a decent road record. The Blues are 13-12-1 against playoff teams this season and 8-7-2 on the road this year.
Things look to be turning for the better for the Blues, and this big road trip will be a make or break moment for their season. They can make a run, and I’ll tell you why: because they aren’t that far behind. Taking a look at the standings, the Blues sit in 12th place in the West.
Here’s where they actually stand:
3rd in the Central- Dallas (6 points back, 2 games in hand, 3-3-1 in their last 7)
1st Wild Card- Colorado (6 points back, 2 games in hand, 2-7-2 in their last 11)
2nd Wild Card- Minnesota (3 points back, 1 game in hand, 5-8-1 in their last 14)
9th-Edmonton (3 points back, 2 games in hand, 4-9 in their last 13)
10th- Anaheim (3 points back, 2 games in hand, 0-7-4 in their last 11)
11th- Vancouver (3 points back, 3 games in hand, 1-3-1 in their last 5)
12th- Blues (5-2 in their last 7)
The Blues are trending up more than any of the 6 teams within their striking distance. Anaheim is in an absolute collapse right now and just traded Andrew Cogliano to the Stars. The Avalanche are fading quickly, and other teams in the West are struggling to keep their heads above water. It is almost like they are trying to give away a playoff spot to the Blues. The Blues are trending in the right direction with solid individual performances in the month of January from Jordan Binnington (3-0, 0.67 GAA, .974 SV%, NHL 2nd star of the week), David Perron (3 goals, 5 assists, +4), Vladimir Tarasenko (4 goals, 3 assists, +3),and Ryan O’Reilly (1 goal, 8 assists, +7).
Now it is time for the Blues to seize that opportunity and take the playoff spot we all thought they’d have coming into this year. They will seize it. They are too talented not to.