The St. Louis Blues know they will be playing in the first round of the NHL playoffs no matter what. Results elsewhere show they can’t take anything for granted.
The St. Louis Blues have a date with a team in the first round of the NHL playoffs. That much is certain.
Given the layout and the reseeding of teams after the play-in round, we still do not know who that opponent is. St. Louis has put itself in a spot where they won’t know until their game with Dallas is over, regardless of what happens in the play-in series.
The play of the Blues has not given fans a ton of hope for what lies ahead in the opening round of the actual playoffs. Results of the play-in series don’t make things any better.
One could argue that you never really know what might happen in any series. Eighth seeds have upset top seeds quite a few times in recent memory.
You still have a general idea of whether you want to play a certain team or not. 82 games gives you a general feeling about an opponent that would only be disrupted if your team played very badly or the other played out of their minds.
The play-in rounds have shaken that all up.
Going into the pandemic, teams like Montreal, Chicago or Arizona had next to no chance of making the postseason. None were mathematically eliminated, but they likely needed help or to win out.
Suddenly, teams that were not going to make the playoffs and likely had no business being included are winning series. Some are winning in a fashion that makes it hard to believe they only won because it was best-of-five. They likely would have won in a best-of-seven too.
Montreal took down the Pittsburgh Penguins with playoff-style hockey. They were physical and got great goaltending.
Arizona got much of the same as they defeated the Nashville Predators. Arizona just looked more sure of themselves despite the lack of playoff experience comparatively.
Then, the hated Chicago Blackhawks took down the heavily favored Edmonton Oilers too. As a Blues fan, that one stings more because the Blackhawks had literally given up on their season and started selling at the trade deadline. Now, they are in the actual playoffs.
The problem all the top seeds face is these are literal teams to be reckoned with now. Even though they did not deserve to make the playoffs, they are all here now and they will be tough outs for anyone.
This is especially true for the Blues, and some of the other teams like the Blues, who have not seemed to treat the round-robin with much seriousness.
Going into the tournament, most teams would have been licking their chops at the opportunity to play a 12 or 11 seed. Given how they have won and the teams they beat, especially in the case of Chicago and Montreal, those feelings have likely disappeared.
For the Blues, you could make the case you would not mind facing Chicago based on the rivalry aspect and also having a far better defense than Edmonton could throw out there. That matchup would not happen until the second round at the earliest because Chicago will face whoever is the top seed in the Western Conference and that will not be the Blues.
No matter who the Blues face, they will need to be on their toes and get their game together. These play-in games have proven that even sloppier teams can get their act together and be a serious threat.