The St. Louis Blues hold their postseason fate in their own hands. Though they still have teams to jump over, their playoff percentages are on the rise.
The St. Louis Blues still hold their own fate in their hands, despite needing some help along the way. Though we said they were not out of it a few weeks ago, they had some tenuous moments.
When the Blues lost to San Jose, it seemed as though they were on the brink. They would not be mathematically eliminated if they lost to the Los Angeles Kings or Anaheim Ducks on that road trip, but they would have essentially been done.
Instead, the Blues have now won five of six games. You can chalk up three wins in a row for this Blues team and all three required overtime to get the two points.
Should we be worried they are expending extra energy? At this juncture, no. There are fans out there that would just as soon see them miss the playoffs and get into the draft lottery.
As a smaller market team, even one round of the postseason can be the difference between making money and losing it. So, while you might get a higher pick by missing, you’d be missing out on money that can be put back into free agency if you do not play a playoff game.
The good thing is that the schedule favors the Blues. By no means does St. Louis have an easy stretch. However, compared to the teams they are going against in the standings, there is a good reason to think they can force their way in.
First, let’s look at the Blues remaining nine games. St. Louis will play a back-to-back at home with Vancouver and then on the road to Columbus.
Vancouver has long been eliminated from playoff contention and are in full Edmonton-mode, stockpiling young talent. Columbus is all but a playoff lock in the Eastern Conference, but are very similar to the Blues. In fact, they have a worse power play percentage.
After that, St. Louis faces San Jose. The Blues already played the Sharks hard, even though they lost. Adding to the intrigue of that game, the Blues will have two days of rest on either side of the Sharks contest. No need to hold anything back.
The Blues close out March with another back to back. This time they’ll be in Vegas and then in Arizona. Vegas is still great, but less hot and Arizona is tough against the Blues, but not many other teams.
St. Louis will finish out the season with four in April. They’ll be home to the Capitals and Blackhawks and then finish on the road in Chicago and then Denver against the Avalanche.
Again, those are not easy games. Vegas, San Jose, Columbus and Washington are all playoff teams. Chicago will be more than willing to play spoiler and Colorado could be attempting to keep themselves in the playoffs and the Blues out by that final game. Still, the Blues have everything right in front of them. If you win six of those nine, you should get in.
The schedules are a little different if you look at the other teams in the race. Minnesota, while comfortably in the third divisional spot right now, might have the bumpiest road coming up.
Minnesota has Nashville (H), Boston (H), Nashville (R) and a home and home with Dallas in March. They then close out April with Edmonton (H), Anaheim (R), L.A. (R), San Jose (R).
Every team they play is either in the playoffs or in serious contention except Edmonton. That final three games on the road in California was no favor by the schedule makers either.
The Avalanche have been one of the hottest teams at the bottom of the playoff line, going 6-1-3 in their last 10 and having nine games to play. They’re going to see a healthy dose of west coast teams though, playing a heavy style and wearing on you.
Colorado finishes March with L.A. (H), a home and away with Vegas, then games with Philadelphia (H) and Chicago (H). Then April sees them on the road with Anaheim, L.A. and San Jose before returning home for that pivotal game against St. Louis.
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The Ducks are currently jockeying back and forth with Los Angeles for that final Pacific Division spot. They only have eight games left though, giving St. Louis a slight edge there. The Ducks have one of the easier schedules remaining, however.
They must sail the treacherous waters of Canada first, playing Winnipeg (R), Edmonton (R) and Vancouver (R) before returning home with a huge clash against the Kings to end March.
The Ducks finish their season with Colorado (H), Minnesota (H), Dallas (H) and Arizona (R). Not exactly murderer’s row, but there are some stumbling blocks. Best case scenario is whoever has fewer points loses in that L.A. game and it does not go to overtime.
The Kings are similar to the Ducks in that their schedule is not incredibly hard, but not easy enough to say they should be a lock.
L.A. ends March with Colorado (R), Edmonton (R), Calgary (H), Arizona (H) and Anaheim (R). April is a bit tougher with Colorado, Minnesota and Dallas all at the Staples Center.
Again, that’s not the toughest schedule ever, especially in March. However, they have fewer games left, which gives some other teams a chance to make up ground.
Along with Minnesota, Dallas probably has the toughest road ahead. There are lots of games either out west or against current playoff teams.
The Stars have only eight games remaining, compared to the Blues nine. They end March with Boston (H), Vancouver (H), Philadelphia (H), Minnesota (R) and Minnesota (H).
Then April finishes out west. The Stars see San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles in the span of five days. If Dallas gets in, they will have earned it.
Springboarding off that last comment, really any of the teams that make up the seventh and eighth spots in the Western Conference will have earned it down the stretch.
The main thing is that the Blues still hold the chips if they keep up their current pace. Nobody expects them to win out or even only lose one or two.
If you win six games, you’ll likely find yourself securing a playoff berth given the position St. Louis has put itself in. Also, given Minnesota’s rough schedule, it is not impossible to get yourself back into a divisional spot since only five points separate the two.
The team still has a lot to do to make us think they can beat a team like Nashville, should that be their opening round opponent. However, if they play like they have the last six games, they will definitely be a team the top seeds will not look forward to facing.