The St. Louis Blues have done a 180 degree turnaround over the last couple weeks. Now, they are a sudden threat to the top teams, should they get into the playoffs.
If you had asked almost any St. Louis Blues fan a month ago if the Blues were a threat to anyone, they may have just laughed at you and walked away. The truth was that there was a growing number of fans settling into the idea that the Blues had a shot at the lottery as opposed to the playoffs.
Things change when you win seven of eight games and five in a row. Beyond just the wins, the brand of hockey the Blues are playing is entertaining and gritty. That is just the sort of mentality you have to have to succeed in the playoffs.
Of course, the Blues are guaranteed nothing. They still have quite the hill to climb just to make it into the playoffs.
That said, they are playing the kind of hockey that will have teams thinking twice about whether they would want to play St. Louis in the first round. Nobody would every admit it, but if the playoffs began today and the Blues were in, the Blues would actually pose a threat to either of the top seeds.
The doubters can think what they want. There is a point, however, when you are holding onto the past more than giving facts when it comes to the Blues.
I recently got into a debate about the legitimacy of NBC’s studio commentator’s points about the Blues missing the playoffs. My point was not so much that St. Louis was guaranteed anything. It was more a matter of pointing out the oddity of an entire segment praising the Blues only to turn around and all but say the Blues would not make the playoffs because they were not good enough to sustain their current run.
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The person arguing against me repeatedly made the point that the Blues are not threats to anyone and NBC was right to think they’d miss based on their track record. That is true if you look at how they were playing up util March 8. Since then, they’ve been one of the hottest teams in the entire NHL.
Another argument against St. Louis posing a threat is their strength of schedule. Yes, the Blues have faced a few non-playoff teams, but of their seven wins in eight games, four were against teams in or fighting for a playoff spot. That might actually be more impressive because you’re beating teams that are just as desperate.
Additionally, the Blues are getting exactly what you need in the playoffs. They are scoring timely goals and getting balanced scoring. St. Louis has had a resurgence of scoring by their blueliners and it is not just the top line scoring for the forwards.
St. Louis is getting solid defensive play. While the physicality has ebbed and flowed, the defensive work has been steady. The Blues are blocking shots at a huge clip.
Most importantly, the Blues are getting good to great goaltending. Jake Allen has been a real difference maker, coming up with huge saves. We forget that he already stole a series the Blues were not expected to win against Minnesota last season. Even if Allen falters, Carter Hutton is now healthy. He has played well enough this season to alter a series for the Blues as well.
Another difference is how people define a threat. As much as I love the Blues, I would not put monty on them to beat a team like Nashville. Nashville is the better team and deeper team.
If you guarntee me that St. Louis would play the way we’ve seen over the last nine games, then of course they are a threat. We’ve seen lower seeded teams go all the way to win a championship in the NHL in the last 10 years.
This is not the NBA, where almost everything goes according to the seeds.
The Blues are not guaranteed anything with so many teams jumbled up. If they make the postseason, they will have earned it. If you earn it, there is no reason they could not steal a series. So, they are a threat to any team, as long as they can sustain their current form.