(Photo credit: Associated Press)
What is at stake for the St. Louis Blues this week?
Following a 3-2 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday, the Blues find themselves in a stretch of inactivity as they do not play their next game until Thursday, March 8th at the San Jose Sharks. So, what does that mean for the team and their position in the Western Conference playoff picture? I will take a look at how the playoff picture could change over the next four days before the Blues play their next game as well as look back at their missed opportunities to compile points this past week.
The Wild, Wings, and Stars
During this past week, there was a sense around the club that they needed to play their best hockey over the next three games against the Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings, and Dallas Stars in order to accrue points before they went on a four day break. Well, they got off to a rough start by being embarrassed in Minnesota 8-3, but rebounded nicely and grinded out a 2-1 home victory against Detroit. Because of this nice rebound, fans felt if they could go get two points in Dallas in regulation then the team was set up nicely for this break. That all looked like it was going to pan out perfectly when Jaden Schwartz put the team up 2-1 with seven minutes to go in regulation, but the Blues played on their heels the rest of the game and gave up the tying goal and ended up losing in overtime. Yes, the team got a point, but when you blow a lead like that the one point feels like a pretty brutal consolation prize.
The Current Wild Card Picture
While the Blues are only one point back of the Anaheim Ducks for the second wild card spot in the playoffs, both the Ducks and the Wild have one game in hand on the Blues and the Avalanche have two games in hand on them. Luckily, the Blues are still two points ahead of the Calgary Flames and have the same number of games played going into their break. Let’s take a look how each team’s upcoming schedule could affect the Blues before they play again.
The Dallas Stars were not pictured in the above Wild Card standings because they currently hold the third spot in the Central Division standings due to a tiebreaker, but it is important to note that they have the same amount of points (79) and games played (65) as the Wild. Currently, the Stars hold a four point lead over the Blues with one game in hand. Over the next four days, the Stars will play the one game in hand that they have on the Blues tomorrow at home against the Ottawa Senators who have been one of the more disappointing teams in the league this season. If they can defeat the lesser Ottawa Senators, they will hold a six point lead on the Blues for the third spot in the Central division with the same amount of games played.
With a four point lead on the Blues and one game in hand already, the Minnesota Wild have two games against non-playoff teams in the upcoming four days. The first game comes at home against the Detroit Red Wings tonight and the second of the two games comes at home against the Carolina Hurricanes. Minnesota holds one of the best home records in the league this season and drawing two non-playoff teams on their schedule at this point in the season could allow them to gain substantial ground on the idle Blues. By the time the Blues play again, the Wild could be up on the Blues by eight points having one more game played than the Blues.
Currently, the Ducks hold a one point lead on the St. Louis Blues and have one game in hand. The Ducks will play their game in hand tonight at home against the struggling Chicago Blackhawks and then will play again on Tuesday night at home against the Washington Capitals. While the Capitals could provide some issues for the Ducks, the Ducks still play a Blackhawks team that look like they are trying to best position themselves in the Rasmus Dahlin sweepstakes. By Thursday, the Ducks could have a five point lead on the Blues while having played one more game played than the Blues.
As the standings sit right now, the Blues and Avalanche are tied at 75 points, but the catch is that the Avalanche hold two games in hand on the Blues. The first of those two games in hand will be played tonight at home against the Nashville Predators which could provide a real challenge for the club, but the Avalanche are also one of the best home teams in the league so they could easily get two points against Nashville given their home track record. The second of the two games in hand is a road game against the Chicago Blackhawks. Like I outlined in the previous passage, the Blackhawks are playing like they want the first overall pick, but the Blackhawks playing at home might give Blues fans hope for them to defeat the Avalanche. Also, this might be the first time in a very long time that Blues fans will be pulling for the Blackhawks to get two points against any team.
As a Blues fan, you can be the least bit worried about the Calgary Flames of all the contending wild card teams over the next four days because they currently are two points back of the Blues with the same amount of games played. The Flames will play twice this week, both on the road, against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres. Both games are road games which has to give Blues fans hope and one of those games is against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions who look to be gearing up for another deep run at a three peat. At worst, the Flames will be four points ahead of the Blues by the time Thursday comes, but the Blues will have two games in hand on the Flames which gives them a shot to get back even.
Sit Back and Relax, Blues Fans
The Blues definitely find themselves in a sticky situation in the wild card picture as I just outlined. On one hand, the Blues could find themselves even further out of the playoff picture by the time the puck drops on the Sharks-Blues tilt. On another hand, a couple surprise victories here or there could allow the other teams to play their games in hand on the Blues, but not gain any ground on the Blues or extend their lead on the Blues. So, as a Blues fan, you know the potential scenarios that the Blues could find themselves in come Thursday’s game. In the meantime, sit down, grab a beer, and enjoy rooting for the lesser teams in the NHL this season; it will pay off for the Blues in the end.