After watching the Blues dismantle their divisional foes, the Dallas Stars, 6-1 on Saturday night, there is more to be thankful for this Thanksgiving in St Louis then maybe any in the city’s illustrious past.
The Blues are off to their best start in franchise history. Alex Steen has played possessed hockey, and the goaltending duo have trade rumor sites rumbling with headlines like ‘Blues Look to Move a Goalie because, C’mon, it’s an Embarrassment of Riches’. While that last part may be a bit embellished, there is no doubt that the Blues are currently among the elite of the NHL.
At this point, many of you may be more focused on the surging Rams, the crumbling Chiefs or who’s responsible for bringing the stuffing and yams on Thursday. The fact is the next three games for the Blues are the most critical stretch of the year.
You’re probably thinking to yourself, but Tom, we have 60 games left to play…the only critical thing about this week is how many discounted microwaves and Beat’s headphones I can score on Friday morning. To that I would say to you A. stop using a microwave and B. you should read a Toronto Star article that showed the likelihood of teams making the playoffs based on their standing on US Thanksgiving.
According to the article’s analytics, since 1993, 77.5% of teams holding a playoff spot on Thanksgiving have gone on to advance to the post season. That gives your club less than a 25% chance to make the playoffs- only 25% of the way into the season- if you’ve fallen out of the top eight spots.
That number was staggering to me.
We all get so intrenched in the late season playoffs races, but the reality is that these clubs are just playing out their destiny that was manifested long before the dog days of January and February even began.
Considering that overwhelming statistic, the Blues need to show what type of team they really are in this next three-game stretch against conference rivals the Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche & San Jose Sharks. In an ultra-competitive Western Conference this year, the Blues need to ensure they are picking up points against the teams that are currently looking up to them in the standings.
As of Sunday, the Blues are in the 3rd spot in the West with 35 points. San Jose sits behind them in 4th also with 35 points. The Avalanche and Wild hold on to the 5th and 6th spots, respectively, with 34 points. This conference is good. And the revamped Central division is turning out to the be the most impressive in the league. At the bottom of the playoff bracket in the West are the Phoenix Coyotes in the 8th spot, with 32 points. Don’t laugh, but Glendale’s finest are a team to be taken seriously considering their 9-1-2 record at home this season.
Needless to say, the way the Blues end the month of November could be oddly indicative of the way their season ends.
Monday nights’ game against Minnesota will provide the Blues a chance to start widening the gap between them and their new division rivals. It will be the first of five match ups between the two Central clubs this season, and the Blues look to their dominating first line to slow down a Wild team that has the best record of any NHL team in the month of November (9-1-1). This will also be the final home game of the month before St Louis heads west to face the surprising, Patrick Roy physco-intensity ridden Avalanche team on Wednesday night before finishing up the month with a Black Friday matinée in San Jose.
As a universal optimist, I know that anything is possible. These next three games are not going to be the end-all-be-all outcome of an 82-game marathon season. But I will tell you if the Blues are able to get 5 or 6 points before December begins against other playoff contenders, they will give themselves a historical, statistical advantage to secure their spot in the ever-competitive Western Conference playoffs.
Catch the Blues in action all season long by picking your St. Louis Blues tickets now!