The St. Louis Blues only have a handful of games remaining in the 2018-19 season. While it may not be in the cards, the team still has a shot at a division crown.
The St. Louis Blues had every intention of being in the division race when the season began. However, the way things went for much of 2018-19, most of us would have laughed at that thought.
We all have varying degrees of optimism when it comes to the Blues. Anyone that tells you they believed the entire time, without any shred of doubt regarding how this team would finish is lying, though.
The Blues were literally in last place on January 2. They were not just in last place in the division or the conference, but they were dead last in the entire NHL.
Making the playoffs rarely happens in that instance. Nobody wins their division when you are that low that late.
St. Louis is still somewhat unlikely to make the full climb, but the summit is within grasp. The only thing currently standing in their way is four of their own games and interesting matchups for the climbers ahead of them. In the end, that might be what this race boils down to.
On paper, the Nashville Predators have the easiest route the rest of the way. The one thing hampering their divisional title bid is they are going to play one fewer game over the next week.
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The Predators start things off with an April 2 game against the Sabres. After a strong start to the season, Buffalo fell apart and are 31-37-10 with a minus-49 goal difference.
After that, we jump into the interesting part. St. Louis, Winnipeg and Nashville will all play the following two teams.
Nashville will finish off the year with games against Vancouver and Chicago on April 4 and 6. Both of those are home games where the Preds are 23-14-2.
So, on paper, the Predators have the easiest route. If they won the division, it would be the first time this decade that any team has won the division two years in a row. But, only having six potential points on their plate could hinder them.
The Winnipeg Jets have an interesting finish to the season. They face some troublesome games, but they are also sputtering to the finish line regardless.
Entering April, the Jets have lost three in a row and are 5-5-0 in their last 10 games. While they have not had the exact same struggles as the Blues, softer teams can still smell blood in the water.
The Jets will play back-to-back games to start the month. They will be on the road in Chicago on April 1 and then play Minnesota on April 2.
Chicago is technically still alive, though on life support. Still, they boast the star powre to take down any team on any given night. It’s more about how they play and if they can keep the goals out.
Minnesota has not been mathematically eliminated yet either. The Wild have been spotty down the stretch, but they still have a lot to play for.
After that, the Jets stay on the road and have no more home games until the playoffs. They end the year against Colorado on April 4 and Arizona on April 6. All those games are against teams desperate and still playing for the postseason.
The interesting thing is that, when healthy and clicking, Winnipeg is probably the best team in the division. Despite that, in theory, they could finish in third if the Blues and Predators took care of their business.
St. Louis Blues
Last, but not least, we come to our boys in blue. The Blues, like Nashville, have four games in April.
The troublesome part for St. Louis is their opponents’ records. None of the games are against teams currently in the playoffs and all of the opponents have records below the Blues. St. Louis has not played well against those kinds of teams this year or down the stretch.
The Blues play Colorado at the Enterprise Center on April 1. St. Louis is 3-0-0 against Colorado this season, but sweeping a team is difficult in today’s day and age.
The Blues then travel to Chicago to face the Blackhawks on April 3. St. Louis is 1-3-0 against Chicago this year, but all three games came before Thanksgiving. This is an entirely different team now.
St. Louis ends the year with two home games. They play Philadelphia on April 4 and Vancouver on April 6.
The Blues beat the Flyers 3-0 on January 7. They are 0-2-0 against Vancouver and got blown out by a total of 11-2 in those two games. Again, those games were before Christmas, so who knows what carryover there will be.
The bottom line is that the Blues can still take the divisional crown. Whether that would be a good thing or not could depend on who their opponent would be.
The likeliest teams to make that eighth spot are Colorado, Arizona or Minnesota. Oddly, Arizona is the only team I might not want the Blues to face in that scenario.
Still, who knows if this will even happen. The Blues need to win their game in hand to catch up to Nashville and then have to match them after that since the Blues have the tie-breaker.
Regardless, what a swing this has been. Only a month ago, I would have been happy just making the playoffs and now we are seriously discussing possibly making it to the top of the Central.