Pundits around the NHL have taken to the St. Louis Blues as the Stanley Cup favorites. The Blues were among the sexy picks to win the whole thing prior to the start of the season, and their current Presidents’ Trophy-pace has turned a lot of doubters into believers.
Ken Campbell of The Hockey News isn’t one of them.
In his recent op-ed column entitled “Why I (Still) Think the Blues won’t win the Stanley Cup”, Campbell explains that he was against the notion that the Blues would be champions when THN did their yearly predictions at the start of the season, and then goes on to say that he’s sticking to his guns on that thought.
Campbell’s knock against the Blues before the start of the campaign was lack of goal scoring. He writes:
When we as a group at THN picked the Blues to win the Stanley Cup before the season, I was against the choice because I thought the Blues couldn’t score enough. Since they’re currently in third in goals for this season behind Chicago and Anaheim, they’ve put that notion to rest.
He’s got a new bone to pick with St. Louis though: the fact that they can’t seem to beat any California team.
Campbell thinks that the Blues could waltz through the first two rounds of the playoffs before being “toast” in the Western Conference Final. He then goes on to break down a completely hypothetical “if the playoffs started today” scenario that would see St. Louis need to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks before taking on a California squad in the Conference Final.
The logical shortcoming of creating a makeshift playoff bracket 18 games (give or take) prior to the start of the playoffs aside, Campbell does make some strong points about the Blues and their struggles on the West coast. According to him, St. Louis sports a 1-8-o record against teams in California and 7-10-3 record against teams in the Pacific in general.
There are a few things that Campbell seems to be forgetting about while drawing up his analysis, however. Namely that Ryan Miller wasn’t a Blue when St. Louis accumulated that record. It’d be foolish to think that changing out goalies could radically change St. Louis’ record out West, but Campbell doesn’t even mention that the addition could be a bit of an X-factor.
The reason that the Blues targeted Miller was because of his track record in big games. By Campbell’s line of thinking, St. Louis didn’t get any better at the deadline. That’s rubbish. More so than any other team in the league, the Blues cupped up.
The problem with Campbell’s analysis isn’t that he has the Blues losing. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and these prediction pieces are tough to nail anyway. The issue is that he doesn’t even bother to consider that Miller could have made a difference in those contests out West.
Jaroslav Halak wore thin on the fans in St. Louis because he always seemed to crumble in big games against top-end opponents. Again, this is why St. Louis acquired Miller. To go out and write that St. Louis would be “toast” against the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings or San Jose Sharks without taking an elite goalie into consideration seems short-sighted. Leaving out a piece of evidence only because it doesn’t support your theory doesn’t make it any more true.
In this instance, ignoring Miller makes Campbell’s shot fall short of the mark. The idea that the regular season doesn’t matter once the playoffs begin is a popular one for a reason. That’s because it’s true. What teams do during the regular season only matters because it got them to the dance.
The slate is clean once the postseason begins, but someone might want to let Campbell know that the Blues made a few slight roster tweaks since the last time they faced off with a Pacific Division opponent.