St. Louis Blues: Washington Capitals Should Give St. Louis Hope

ST. LOUIS, MO - April 02: Washington Capitals defenseman Dimitry Orlov (9) and St. Louis Blues right wing Dmitrij Jaskin (23) compete for the puck during a NHL game between the Washington Capitals and the St. Louis Blues on April 02, 2018, at Scottrade Certer, St. Louis, MO. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).
ST. LOUIS, MO - April 02: Washington Capitals defenseman Dimitry Orlov (9) and St. Louis Blues right wing Dmitrij Jaskin (23) compete for the puck during a NHL game between the Washington Capitals and the St. Louis Blues on April 02, 2018, at Scottrade Certer, St. Louis, MO. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images). /

The St. Louis Blues are a team trying to decide which direction they need to go in. However, the Washington Capitals might give the team hope that the window is still open.

Any time the St. Louis Blues miss out on the playoffs, fans always think the worst. The negative Nelly’s are out in full force right now saying they’ll never see a winner, or this team will never win with Jake Allen or they’re so many years away, etc.

I won’t even address the goaltending issue right now. I’m so sick of that, even though it will be a point brought up later in this article.

Regardless of all that baggage, Blues fans should take heart. They share a lot in common with the Washington Capitals and the Caps are finally going to the Stanley Cup Final.

This was not the year

The Capitals have been buried under expectation for almost a decade. Alex Ovechkin has been under pressure to take his team to the Stanley Cup Final ever since Sidney Crosby did it 10 years ago.

For various reasons, it has never happened. This was not expected to be the year for Washington. Like the Blues, they were supposed to be a team in transition.

The Capitals had gone all-in last season, trading pieces away to acquire Kevin Shattenkirk. That did not have the intended effect in the playoffs and Shattenkirk went north to New York.

Marcus Johansson was gone. Justin Williams was gone. Nate Schmidt was gone. The Capitals still had good players, but they were not as deep and switching to a slightly younger group.

However, they took the team message to heart. They came together as a group and just kept plugging away and got the job done.

The teams are quite comparable

There is an obvious difference between the top Blues scorers and the top Capitals scorers in 2017-18. The Caps had guys scoring in the 80’s. The Blues best was 70 points and then down from there.

Still, the numbers are not as far off as you would think. If you look at the 2016-17 Capitals, who were expected to do more, they had Nick Backstrom with 86 points, but then Ovechkin had 69.

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The 2017-18 Blues had Vladimir Tarasenko with 69 points in a down season. Jaden Schwartz still had 59 points while missing 20 games. Alex Pietrangelo set new career highs for goals and points and fans were still upset with his offensive production at times.

The Blues need to get more out of their best players, but other than one or two top-end guys, the teams’ productions are similar.

St. Louis’ ninth best scorer had 31 points this last season. Washington’s had 29. The Blues fifth scorer had 46 points and Washington’s had 47.

The Blues had 16 scorers in double-digit points and the Caps had 19. St. Louis’s single digit scorers were closer to double digits than Washington’s as well. There were a couple guys that were either injured or young that should get up to double digits here soon.

The point is, that is if the Blues can add some scoring to this team, they are not as different from Washington as you’d think.

The goaltending

Everywhere you look there are fools saying the Blues will never win with Allen in net. You want to know the reason I don’t trust those people? Because people said Chicago would not win with Corey Crawford. They said the Capitals would never go to the final with Braden Holtby. There were fans in Pittsburgh wanting Marc-Andre Fleury out several times before it actually happened. No offense to any one person, but I don’t trust the average fan’s knowledge of what is and is not a good goaltender.

That out of the way, let’s look at the current Eastern Conference champion goaltender Holtby. He finished the regular season with a .907 save percentage and 2.99 goals against. Allen’s stats: .906 and 2.75.

Holtby had more quality starts (30 to 27), but he also had more ‘Really Bad Starts’ – nine compared to eight.

Holby’s playoff numbers are not that different either. Over their career’s, Holtby has a .930 save percentage and 2.01 goals against. Allen is .922 and 2.10. It should be said that Holtby has many more playoff games under his belt, but the numbers are still not that far off.

The interesting thing is perception as well. If you asked any Caps fan, or even a casual fan, they would have said there was no way the Caps make the final because of goaltending. Holby was leaking soft goals like he was getting paid for it.

Instead of whining or hanging their heads, the defense picked up, the offense took care of business and Holtby calmed down. In the process, he stole a few games for the Capitals along the way.

Allen has proven he can steal games, single-handedly beating the Minnesota Wild in 2017. You give him the same team effort the Capitals have shown in this playoff run and he pulls it together like Holtby has.

Choking dogs

One of my favorite phrases used to describe the Washington Capitals is PTI host Tony Kornheiser’s. He always referred to the Capitals as choking dogs, and it was right.

Washington had so many playoff ghosts, just within the last 10-15 years, they made the Blues look fine. Washington could never get past Pittsburgh. They were 3-10 in their last 13 game 7’s.

Most of those number’s came under Ovechkin’s leadership. They had lost the majority of those game 7’s under Ovi.

Some of the early 90’s Caps teams were good, but they also had problems. It was not until the late 90’s that Washington finally broke into the finals, only to get decimated by the Detroit Red Wings.

In this run, the Capitals have gotten over each one of their ghosts. They fell behind and then came back to beat Columbus. The Caps finally defeated the Penguins. They won a game 7 to reach the final.

St. Louis has their own demons to exercise. They have done so in recent years, but at a slower pace. They finally got past the first round and also beat Chicago. 2016-17 almost seemed like their year to be like Washington, but they wasted too much energy by not finishing off the first two rounds.

Even so, the history of being chokers is there for both teams. If Washington can finally get over their hump, then the Blues could be next.

Final Thought

Even considering myself one of the rare optimistic people out there, I’m a realist too. This current incarnation of the Blues has plenty of problems.

You cannot compare them to the Capitals without the realization that their top players blow our own out of the water. All it could take is the addition of one player to even that out, however.

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Look how much production the Blues top line got just with the addition of Brayden Schenn. Imagine what could happen if you add another scorer.

The Blues do have to make a decent amount of changes, whether through personnel or coaching. The big idea, though, is that this team is not as far away as we like to think in our darkest moments.

No, they are not on the doorstep, ready to smash in the door. However, they are not at the back of the line either. Looking at how this team compares to the current team coming from the east shows that.