St. Louis Blues Playoff Preview
Games Played: 71 games played
Standings: Central Division Champions, 1st Place Western Conference
The St. Louis Blues finished another strong regular season performance by winning the Central Division and having the most points (and highest point percentage) in the Western Conference. Even with the abbreviated nature of the season, the Blues played remarkably consistently throughout the entire season – basically staying in first place from start to finish, all without arguably their best player, Vladimir Tarasenko, who missed all but 10 games. The Blues finished the season on a 10-2 run, and were playing some of their best hockey when the world met the set of unfortunate circumstances we are in today.
While these are trying times for everyone the world over, the return of hockey (hopefully) brings about some glimmer of joy. I do not know if I have confidence that this can be executed safely and effectively, but I am going to hope, and press on as if everything will go off without a hitch.
With that, the Blues’ first place record, their 10-2 run to end the season, and their status as the reigning Stanley Cup champions means nothing as we embark on a new season. My concern entering the season was, like any other Stanley Cup champion, they played more hockey than most teams last year, and the grind might have been too much. They cannot use that as an excuse anymore. The extended layoff has surely helped the team rest and heal up – most notably allowing Tarasenko to return to the lineup.
Though formal training camps did not start until July 13, the Blues had been practicing, but were forced to cancel practice when several members caught COVID-19 during a bar visit in Clayton. I truly hope they are able to muster enough will-power to at least abide by the NHL’s rules while they are in their hub city. The focus, on top of safety, should be on hockey, and they should not feel compelled to visit bars anyway.
Since the Blues finished with one of the top four seeds in the Conference, they will play the Dallas Stars, Vegas Golden Knights, and Colorado Avalanche in a round robin tournament to determine the final seeding. While the Blues have publicly stated that they must treat these games like the playoffs, I have a hard time believing that they will – and that shouldn’t necessarily be the goal. As has been shown not only last year, but in many of the previous years, seeding ultimately does not truly matter. The Blues have not played a game sine March, and if they go full out these first few games, they run the risk of injury or exhaustion. Regardless of where the Blues finish in terms of seeding, they will have to beat the best teams, so hopefully they treat these games as conditioning.
This year, more than any other year, it’s hard to really make a prediction. We don’t know how the layoff impacted the Blues. We don’t know how confinement to one city impacts everyone. We don’t even know if there will have to be more stoppages.
What we do know is this: the Blues have shown they know what to do to win and have the ability to do so. If they’ve done it before, they can do it again. The only question left to ask is, do they want it?
I guess they do. Now we will find out.
Thanks for reading.