The St. Louis Blues are back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and this could be the best chance the team has ever had to win the Cup.
This team currently has 106 points (as of 5:30 pm), and is sitting in second place in the Western Conference.
That point total is second only to the 1999-2000 team that put up 114 points. One may argue that the 2000 playoffs was the Blues best shot, winning the President’s Trophy and having pieces such as Pierre Turgeon, Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger and Pavol Demitra.
But, this team has factors that the 1999-2000 team did not have.
The Blues defensive numbers speak for themselves.
The team leads the NHL with 1.86 goals allowed per game. Their two goaltenders broke the franchise record for most shutouts in a season with 15.
Brian Elliot set the record for the most shutout minutes with 186:33 and looks to continue that tonight against the Red Wings. Elliot has a 1.48 GAA and a .948 save percentage, both leading the league.
Halak is not far behind with a 1.97 GAA and .925 save percentage. With either one of them in net, the Blues goaltenders will give any team fits.
But it doesn’t stop there. The Blues' blue line is also playing at their best.
Alex Pietrangelo has become arguably the most dominant and most underrated defenseman in the NHL. He is an offensive talent but also has some of the best hockey sense in the league.
Kevin Shattenkirk, seen as an afterthought in the Colorado trade last season, has become lethal from the blue line, having a near career year with nine goals and 33 assists for 42 points. And he is the team's second best plus/minus ration with a plus-23.
Kent Huskins provides the experience needed to corral the defensemen and keep them focused throughout the season.
Most teams that eclipse the 100-point mark do so thanks to one or two guys that can really put the puck in the net. Pittsburgh has Evgeni Malkin. The New York Rangers have Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards.
The Blues? No one, and that is what will make them lethal in the postseason.
David Backes leads the offense with 54 points, followed shortly by T.J. Oshie (52 points) and Alex Pietrangelo (50 points).
The player with the most goals is Backes with only 24. The team does not have a 40, 50 or even 60-goal scorer.
But what they do have are eight players who have eclipsed the 10-goal mark, and three more sitting on nine.
Having that many people that can put the puck in the net will force the defense of their opponents to be the best they can be. And they will have to be.
Defenses can’t just guard one guy, because if they do, another player will make them pay. Teams will have to play the best team defense they can in order to beat the Blues.
Clinching the Central Division and solidifying the least a No. 2 seed was absolutely huge for the Blues.
They are guaranteed to have home-ice in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and if Vancouver loses, they will for the entire Western Conference play.
The Blues have been 30-5-4 in the Scottrade Center, which is the best home mark in the NHL.
Even when Detroit went on the unreal 23-game home winning streak, the Blues kept pace and never relinquished the top spot.
The St. Louis fans have been waiting for the Blues to be back in the playoffs since 2009, and haven’t seen a team this good since before the lockout.
I would put money down that the Blues have the best playoff atmosphere. Fans will make Scottrade the hardest place to the play in the playoffs, and I would not expect the Blues to lose more than four games at home this postseason.
Last season, the Blues should have made the playoffs, but were bit by the injury bug hard.
This offseason they loaded up on experience and depth, and it paid off when the injury bug came back.
Alex Steen, Andy McDonald, Kris Russel, Matt D’Agostini and Kent Huskins all missed significant time with various injuries, the majority being concussion like symptoms. The Blues found a way to win while they were gone, and now all of them are coming back.
Andy McDonald was on fire when he came back, matching his point total with games played until a shoulder injury made him miss a few more games.
Alex Steen was still one of the teams leading scorers when he came back from his concussion and picked up right where he left off.
The players coming back caused the Blues to stumble a little, but that’s because the teams is trying to figure out where to put them.
The Blues’ depth will play a significant role in this postseason.
This St. Louis Blues’ resemblance to the 2011 Boston Bruins is uncanny.
Both teams have a stagnant power play but a fantastic penalty kill. The Blues were two power plays away from breaking the most consecutive penalty kills.
Both teams have top-down scoring.
Both teams had goaltenders that keep virtually everything out of the net. They would wear down their opponents until they made a mistake, and would take full advantage of those mistakes.
The Bruins won the cup because of grinding, hard-working hockey that capitalized on the opposition’s mistakes. That is the exact mindset of the St. Louis Blues. Don’t be surprised to see David Backes hoisting the cup come June.