The St. Louis Blues are making a habit of seeing teams for the final time. It makes sense since it is the final week of the regular season. They’ll have to be on their toes in the desert as they use up one of their games in hand.
The St. Louis Blues take on the Arizona Coyotes for the final time in 2017-18 tonight. Unlike yesterday’s game, this one truly is the final game against Arizona, since they have long been eliminated from playoff contention.
That is no reason to overlook them however, as they have been one of the league’s best teams over the past few weeks. Their record does not automatically reflect that, but even in their losses, they have been a tough opponent.
St. Louis will need to bounce back quickly. They are shorthanded again, with the loss of Jordan Schmaltz to injury in Vegas. The Blues also went into overtime, even if only 22 seconds, against the Golden Knights. It was an all important point to keep St. Louis above the playoff line, but any extra energy spent this time of year is energy taken out of the body for the playoffs.
That is the lot the Blues find themselves in since they are not in the playoffs yet. They have five games remaining and, unless they win out, it may come down to the final regular season game before everything is decided in that race.
So, they enter Arizona as they have entered almost every game over the last two weeks. St. Louis must have the mentality that they cannot lose or the playoffs are lost. That might not be the case, mathematically, but when you’re above the line, you don’t want to fall below.
Know Thy Foe
Arizona is currently in the basement of the Western Conference. They are only five points above Buffalo for the worst record in the NHL.
As previously stated, they have not been playing like that though. The Coyotes are 27-40-11 overall, but 5-5-0 in their last 10.
Again, .500 does not sound great, but they’ve beaten playoff teams. Arizona has taken down the likes of Tampa and Vegas in their last few games. They also have a win over L.A. not long ago, though they fell to the Kings 4-2 in their last meeting on the 29th.
The defensive lapses were to be expected from a young team that lost their best goaltender in the offseason. The surprising thing is the lack of goals from a team with a good amount of young, offensive talent. You’d have expected more than 195 goals, but the Coyotes have struggled in that department.
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They are 25th in the league in scoring and 30th in goals allowed. Definitely not a recipe for winning.
Arizona has split with the Blues so far this season, but really had the better of play in both. They defeated the Blues 5-2 in January and lost, in a shootout, back in November.
As far as any potential injury for Schmaltz goes, Mike Yeo said the Blues would re-evaluate him today. That said, it seems unlikely that something could keep him out 2/3 of a game and then have him return tonight.
The Blues options seem limited. They have recently signed college product, Mitch Reinke on the active roster. They could also recall Chris Butler or perhaps Jake Walman, if healthy and ready.
St. Louis has dominated this series, despite their lack of luck this season. Prior to their loss in January, the last time they lost to Arizona was an OT loss in November of 2013. The last time the Blues lost a season series to the Coytoes was 2011.
The Blues currently sit in the final wild card spot. They are tied on points with Colorado, but have a game in hand. The Blues trail Anaheim by a point, but have a game in hand and also the tiebreaker, should the Blues get only a point tonight.
St. Louis is now 8-1-1 in their last 10. Though they have played great, it makes you wonder where they would be in the standings if they could have just played .500 hockey instead of going through that terrible losing spell.
Potential Lineup: Check back this afternoon.
Where To Watch
Fox Sports Midwest, Fox Sports Arizona-Plus
Fox Sports Go, NHL.tv (subscriber fee)
KMOX, KMOX.com, Blues app
Some bad turnovers and sloppy defensive play kept me from being right yesterday. At least the Blues got that point, though.
Today, things are a little murky, both outside with the weather and inside. I still think the Blues are the better team, but this game has slip-up written all over it.
I hate sitting on the fence, but it could go two ways. If the Blues win, I say it is 4-2 with a nice bounce-back effort defensively.
If the game goes south, I see another 5-2 or 5-3 type game, simply because the defenders looked gassed at the end of the Vegas game.
As someone on my Facebook said, playoff caliber teams find a way to win these types of games. Let’s see if the Blues are just that.