The St. Louis Blues have fought and clawed their way into the playoff picture. Now, the question has to be asked who is better to face and where is it better to finish.
Back in late December and early January, St. Louis Blues fans would have been happy just to even dream of the playoffs, let alone the prospect of home ice advantage. It is crazy how professional sports work to where things can change so drastically.
The team has fought, scratched and clawed their way into the heart of the Western Conference playoff picture. Now, we can actually debate where it is best for this current team to finish. So, we have gone from just give us anything to being somewhat picky. The benefit of being fans.
Herm Edwards might not have come up with the phrase, but he made it popular – you play to win the game. If that is your mentality, you try to finish as high in the standings as possible and let the chips fall as they may.
I would not argue with this standpoint. The Blues, themselves, should not be worried about where they finish in the standings and should be attempting to win every single game.
They have gone through late-February and early-March with a playoff mentality. Continuing to win and keep that up, treating every game like it could be the last one is a good way to keep your mind prepared for the mental grind that is the playoffs.
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However, as fans, we are not on the team. We do not need to worry about that. So, I pose the question again, whether it is better to finish as high as you can.
Logic says yes. There are stats that suggest no.
The Blues, for most of 2018-19 have played much better on the road than they have at home. For a long time, St. Louis was close to .500 in their own building, suggesting it would be better not to finish with a record that would give you home ice.
The Blues have recently shot that out of the water lately. Their home/road split is almost identical with six games remaining in the 2018-19 schedule.
St. Louis now has 20 wins both at home and away. They have 15 regulation losses and two overtime losses at home. They have 12 regulation losses on the road, but six extra losses in overtime away from the Enterprise Center.
So, that would suggest if the game goes to overtime, the Blues would be better off being at home. If it stays in regulation, they would be slightly better off on the road.
Then, you have the opponent aspect to it all. In the general sense, the Blues have played much better against teams above them in the standings than below. I have joked in the past it would be best to finish in that eighth spot just so you know all the teams you face are technically better. Of course, that sets you up for an extremely long and grueling road.
In reality, the Blues are likeliest to play Nashville, one way or the other. The Blues go into their last six games only two points behind the Predators with one game in hand. It is entirely possible to finish above them.
If you play Nashville, finishing higher might be better. Since 2014-15, the Blues have only won three games in Nashville. So, they might be better off having as many home games as possible.
St. Louis has also won all three games against the Predators this season, further cementing the idea that it could be better to face them on your own ice. The only slight counter to that is the Blues played the Preds very well in the last game at Bridgestone Arena. Their lone loss was a 4-1 defeat that came early in the season when they were playing horribly as a team.
If you play Winnipeg, it is a slightly different story. The Blues lost all their home games to the Jets and won a tight, 1-0 victory in Winnipeg. St. Louis went 1-3 against the Jets overall.
Take all that with a grain of salt. Every game against the Jets came before Christmastime, when the Blues were at their worst and the Jets at their best.
After that, it all becomes very muddy. If you suddenly find yourself on top of the Central Division, it all depends on who is in the seventh spot.
The Blues have gone 1-2 against Arizona, with the one win coming in the desert. St. Louis is undefeated against Colorado, so the location has not mattered (I would not prefer the altitude during the playoffs though).
St. Louis is 1-3 against Dallas with the lone win coming away from home. The Blues are also 1-3 against the Minnesota Wild, with the lone win coming on the road. So, finishing in the top spot might not benefit the Blues since they have not done too well at home against those teams battling it out for those final spots.
Ultimately, this is all a personal debate and most of it comes down to the eye test. The records have evened out, but it still feels like the Blues are a better road team this season.
However, nobody would turn down the top spot in the division just because they were afraid of a couple losses. We will just have to see how it all turns out.