By: Sammy Stava
After a one-year hiatus, the St. Louis Blues have returned to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 2019 postseason. It’s the team’s seventh playoff berth in the last eight seasons after just one playoff appearance in the last six seasons from 2006-2011.
Finishing the regular season with a record of 45-28-9 and 99 points, the Blues earned third place in the Central Division and are set to play the Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference first round.
With the major offseason acquisitions of David Perron, Tyler Bozak, Pat Maroon, and Ryan O’Reilly, it seemed like making the playoffs this season wasn’t going to be in much jeopardy for this team. That was hardly the case, because after starting the season 7-9-3, head coach Mike Yeo was fired on November 19th after a 2-0 home loss to the Los Angeles Kings. On January 3rd, it wasn’t getting any better as the Blues found themselves in last place in the entire NHL with a record of 15-18-4. What happened after that? The Blues became just the seventh team in the NHL expansion era to make the playoffs after being on last place in the NHL sometime after New Year’s Day, joining the Minnesota North Stars (1976-77), Edmonton Oilers (1979-80), Toronto Maple Leafs (1982-83 and 1987-88), Los Angeles Kings (1987-88), and the Ottawa Senators (1996-97). A franchise record 11-game winning streak from January 23rd to February 19th turned this season around.February 25th was the NHL Trade Deadline and the Blues had a record of 33-23-6 and 72 points, sitting at third place in the Central Division. Other than acquiring Michael Del Zotto, the Blues stood pat on deadline day. That appeared to be the right decision by the front office, as the Blues went 12-5-3 afterwards.
All interim head coach Craig Berbue has done is put his name in the Jack Adams Coach of the Year conversation by going 38-19-6. Center Ryan O’Reilly could be up for Selke Trophy consideration by finishing with a career-high 28 goals and 77 points, and won the most face-offs in the entire NHL. Rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington made a strong case for the Calder Trophy by going 24-5-1 with a .927 save-percentage and 1.89 goals against average. Binnington set the franchise record with most wins in a single-season by a rookie goaltender. Vladimir Tarasenko had his fifth straight 30 goal season (only Alexander Ovechkin has more). David Perron had a 17-game personal point streak at one stretch. The Blues also set a franchise record with 13 players scoring 10 or more goals in one season.
Making the playoffs after missing last season is very important for this franchise, and it is so impressive for this team after all that they’ve been through this season. Now that a postseason berth has been clinched, the Blues have their sights on bigger and better things, and with Doug Armstrong creating a new window for this core group, they’ve positioned themselves well for playoff success, and that’s ultimately what this franchise is always going to be judged on.
The Blues have the potential to make a deep Stanley Cup run. They’ve got a deep roster that can score on all four lines, the goaltender situation is fluid, they’ve got plenty of momentum, and they’re relatively healthy at the moment. They’ve shown the ability that they can beat the elite teams, and the Western Conference isn’t as loaded than it was in previous years. After what was lacking earlier in the season, their team chemistry is off the charts right now.
Do the Blues actually have what it takes to prove it? We’ll find out soon enough. Here’s the first-round schedule:
Game 1: Wednesday at Winnipeg – 7:00 p.m. CT
Game 2: Friday at Winnipeg – 8:30 p.m. CT
Game 3: Sunday in St. Louis – 6:30 p.m. CT
Game 4: Tuesday, April 16th in St. Louis – 8:30 p.m. CT
Game 5 (if necessary): Thursday, April 18th at Winnipeg – Time TBD
Game 6 (if necessary): Saturday, April 20th in St. Louis – Time TBD
Game 7 (if necessary): Monday, April 22nd at Winnipeg – Time TBD