The St. Louis Blues have an extremely difficult stretch to start the 2017-18 season. Making matters worse are all the injuries. If the Blues can’t overcome it all, they might be sunk.
The St. Louis Blues injury problems are well documented at this point. Their lineup combinations give plenty of fans pause, or worse, as the team gets ready to start the year against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Making matters worse is the fact that the Blues have a very tough stretch of games to begin the season. The combination of tough games and injury issues might prove deadly for St. Louis.
Those that have read this space long enough know that it is not usually a place for hot-takes. Even when an opinion is far to one side or the other, I try to make reasonable decisions and arguments.
That said, the stretch facing the Blues to start 2017-18 might end up defining their season. I use the word defining because it should not completely make or break them. It could come close though.
The Blues start the year on the road against the defending Stanley Cup champion, the Pittsburgh Penguins. After that, they come home to face a revamped Dallas Stars team that knows everything about the Blues players since Ken Hitchcock is now their head coach.
Once we get all the openers over with, the Blues have to take a quick trip to New York. The Islanders missed the playoffs last season, but only by a point. They have a slightly different roster than the team that won six straight to end 2016-17, but they will be formidable to start the year.
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The Blue Shirts, otherwise known as the Rangers, flamed out in the second round of the 2017 playoffs but they’re going to be tough too. They finished last season with 102 points and had to rely on a wild card spot just to get in the post season. They will be looking to keep home ice dominance as well after pasting the Blues 5-0 in Madison Square Garden.
St. Louis does get a breather mid-week against the Florida Panthers. The Panthers missed the playoffs last year and are retooling their team after a disappointing followup to their 2015-16 campaign. As disappointing as the Panthers were, they still split the sesason series with the Blues last year.
St. Louis ramps it back up after that. They stay in the sunshine state to face a hungry Tampa Bay Lightning team that should have a healthy Steven Stamkos. After that, it’s a few days off to prepare for a home game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Minus the Panthers game, that’s a tough stretch in and of itself. That does not take into account that the Dallas and Chicago games are the only home games during those seven.
That is tough enough if the Blues were healthy. Of course, we all know they are not. They are missing key pieces that would play on the top two lines or power play units.
So, the Blues have to gut it out and find a way to get through that stretch with a good handful of wins. If they do not, we may be looking at a repeat of the battle that was 2016-17 for St. Louis.
As mentioned, it would not break the Blues. We saw last year that you can have a bad stretch as late as January or even parts of February and recover.
It would not do well for the team’s confidence to start out the season with only one or two wins though. They have to build some toughness and character and come out of this opening seven games with a good four wins or more.
You do that and you are set up for a good start to the season with guys like Alex Steen and Jay Bouwmeester coming back. You also build confidence to finish off October strong as the entire month is not easy.
The Blues do have potential breaks with games against Las Vegas, Colorado and Carolina. However, they also finish off the month with Los Angeles, Calgary and Columbus.
The schedule is not going to be kind. The Blues have to not be kind. They need to come out and grit out some wins to start the year so the entire season does not end up being an uphill climb.
If the Blues end up doing well to start the year, we might look back at how those wins defined the year. If they fail to do so, we might look back and rue those missed points.