The St. Louis Blues may not yet know that they are in the NHL playoffs for sure. They do pretty much know who their opponents would be if they do make it though.
The St. Louis Blues may not have clinched a playoff spot yet. Unfortunately, a very bad couple months to start the year may force them to sweat it out until the very last game of the regular season.
One thing they do know, though, is who they will be playing in the playoffs, should they make it. Well, they have it narrowed down to three teams.
Being up front, mathematically, there are more than three teams that have the any potential to be the Blues playoff opponent. However, that would include so many scenarios that are just not going to happen, it’s not even worth discussing. Barring an act of biblical proportions, there are three teams that could be the first round opponent for the Blues.
The first two potential opponents are the current division leaders. Again, it is not impossible for it to change, but likely those would be either the Nashville Predators or Vegas Golden Knights.
The third potential opponent would be the Winnipeg Jets. As usual, each opponent would bring their own set of problems and reasons you would want to see them first.
Might as well start off with the toughest right off the bat. That statement goes for this article and for the Blues as well.
The Predators have not clinched anything, but they currently look like they are going to finish with the best record in the Western Conference. Both Vegas and Winnipeg have a chance to catch them, but the Predators would need to drop points over their remaining games.
As far as the Blues go, this would be the least desired opponent. St. Louis has faced Nashville four times in the regular season and lost all four.
They did force one game into overtime. That was the disheartening game where the Blues had a three goal lead and saw it evaporate like water in the desert sun.
The games have been close, but even when the Blues were at their best, they lost. The scores have been 2-0, 2-1, 4-3 and 4-0 throughout the season.
The negative to playing Nashville is playing a division rival that has owned you three of the last four seasons. The positive is you could shock the world and get rid of the toughest opponent first.
Absolutely nobody, including many fans in St. Louis, would give the Blues a shot in that series. With nothing to lose, you can play loose and free and go right for the upset.
The Vegas Golden Knights have shocked the hockey world by sustaining an unbelievable start. While the league planned this out as far as Vegas having a good inaugural season, nobody expected this.
They have clinched a playoff spot, have their first 100 point season in franchise history and have been one of the league’s best scoring teams throughout the season.
The interesting thing is, while they have top notch talent, the players on their roster were mostly second and third line players. They are all very good players, but nobody expected the kind of results they have been getting. You could argue it is not sustainable, but there is little reason to think the scoring will dry up right at the end.
As of writing, Vegas might be the most desirable opponent even though they are a division leader. This is not a knock on the Golden Knights, but the Blues have played the best against them compared to the others.
St. Louis still has one regular season game against Vegas. Through two games, there has been a split.
More from Analysis
- St. Louis Blues and Cardinals Similar In All The Wrong Ways
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 82 At Dallas
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 81 Vs Dallas
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 80 At Minnesota
- St. Louis Blues Pros/Cons From 2022-23 Game 79 Vs NY Rangers
The Blues lost 4-3, in overtime, back in October. When they were in the midst of their losing ways, St. Louis won 2-1 in January.
The negative to playing Vegas is you’re going into a hornet’s nest. Their home arena has already proven to be one of the best in the league. Put a playoff atmosphere in there, along with a motivated, talented team and you have a tough opponent to beat.
The positive to playing them first is their playoff inexperience. Almost the entire roster has playoff experience of some sort, individually. As a franchise, they’ve never been though all that. They’ve never dealt with all the extra media and amount of people asking for tickets, etc.
All those extra things can be distractions and the Blues could take advantage.
Last, but definitely not least are the Winnipeg Jets. They are the least likely opponent, simply because it would take more things to happen for it to happen.
The easiest way to play Winnipeg is for the Blues to keep winning and the Minnesota Wild to lose enough for the Blues to jump back into third in the division. The Blues have crept close enough for that to be a possibility.
Another way that could happen is if Winnipeg jumps over Nashville. The Jets are currently five points back, so it is possible, but not likely.
Playing the Jets in the playoffs would be a craps shoot. The Blues have played them quite evenly, in terms of wins and losses.
The teams split their season series, with each team winning a game at home and on the road. 2-2-0 was the final record.
Winnipeg has dominated St. Louis in their wins, winning 4-0 in both games. St. Louis has been impressive in their wins as well, shutting out the Jets 2-0 in December and then winning 5-2 in February.
Playing up north with a hungry fan base looming over you is not the most desirable thing for the first round of the playoffs. However, you’re likely to have to go through the Jets eventually, so like Nashville, just get it done with.
On the positive side, these teams often play playoff caliber games already, so it’s not that big a jump.
Another positive is the Blues success against the Jets. Unlike Nashville, they have proven they can outplay the Jets.
Additionally, Winnipeg is riding the least proven goaltender. Connor Hellebuyck has had a great season, but if you compare his resume to those of Pekka Rinne or Marc-Andre Fleury, you’d take the other two. When goaltending can steal a series, that can be a factor.
All of this is a moot point if the Blues don’t do their part. They’ve ridden a season long winning streak just to get back into the wild card mix.
Even with their success, they have guaranteed themselves nothing. A slip here at the end of the season could easily knock them back out of the postseason.
The positive is they are playing playoff-style elimination hockey right now. They have themselves in the playoff mindset already.
The negative is potential burnout before you even get in.
If you had to pick a team, most fans would roll the dice with Vegas, pun intended. They have the least experience and the weakest defense.
Winnipeg is tough since they are realizing their potential. The Blues play well against them though.
Nashville is the least desirable since they have the Blues number right now. They could easily get cocky and underestimate St. Louis, but having fallen short in the final last year, that seems unlikely to go out in the first round this year.
The Blues must focus on just getting in, that is true. However, with only three teams to seriously consider, they can also look to a little scouting as well. Not where you wanted to be, but not a bad position to be in either.