St. Louis Blues Fight for the Playoffs

Michael WagenknechtContributor IFebruary 12, 2009

The St. Louis Blues, dead last in the Western Conference, continue to defy elimination by posting points in nine of their last 11 games. This streak has left them eight points out of a playoff spot, but that number can change quickly, as they still have many games left against teams ahead of them. The Blues will continue their climb this week with four very high profile games.


Thursday, Feb. 12 at Nashville

The Blues are 3-0 this season against Nashville and look to improve even more on their 2-7-3 record at the Sommet Center. The last time the Blues visited Nashville, goalie Chris Mason turned aside 47 shots and then both shootout attempts in a 1-0 victory.

With Mason now firmly entrenched as the No. 1 goaltender, he will have to duplicate that performance in order for the Blues to continue their point streak. Mason allowed five goals against Vancouver on Tuesday night. It was the first time in 10 games that he had given up more than three.

BJ Crombeen (three goals and an assist), Keith Tkachuk (two goals and an assist), and Brad Boyes (two goals and two assists) look to continue their domination of Nashville goalies. David Perron leads the team with three assists against Nashville this year.

The Predators are led by Ryan Suter (a goal and two assists) and JP Dumont (a goal and assist). Pekka Rinna will look to rebound from a 5-3 loss against Detroit that broke his string of three straight victories.


Friday, Feb. 13 vs. Chicago

Another team the Blues are dominating this season are their rivals from the north. The Blues are 3-0-1 against Chicago this season, including a 2-0 victory to end the first half of the season.

With the return of Andy McDonald, the Blues get back their top scorer against Chicago. In three games versus Chicago this season, McDonald has three goals. Brad Boyes has also been hot against the Hawks with three assists.

Chicago has won four of the last five and will wrap up a six-game road trip here in St. Louis. Dave Bolland, who is fighting for Rookie of the Year, has led the way against St. Louis with two goals and two assists. Nikolai Khabibulin has been on fire lately and has posted victories in four of his last five games.

This will be the last time these teams meet until April Fool's Day. By that time the Blues will be fighting for a position, but will it be for a playoff seed or the No. 1 pick in the draft?


Monday, Feb. 16 vs. New York Rangers

This game holds special meaning for me as it falls on my birthday. It will be the first time the Blues have played the Rangers in St. Louis since 2005-06. In that game the Rangers won in overtime when a shot by Martin Rucinsky hit off the glass behind Patrick Lalime and bounced in off the goalie's back.

Jay McKee spent many years in Buffalo and played numerous games versus the Rangers. In 28 career games, McKee has two goals and seven assists with a plus-11 rating. Keith Tkachuk has always played well against New York, and he has notched nine goals and six assists in his 18 games versus the Rangers.

The Rangers are in a bit of a free-fall, losing four of five, and have dropped to fifth in the Eastern Conference. Former Columbus Blue Jacket Nikolai Zherdev leads the team with 43 points after being a bust in Columbus' system.

After sitting out with the flu and watching his team get pasted 10-2 by Dallas, Henrik Lundqvist has returned some stability back to the net. Lundqvist is 25-16-4 this season and has a stellar 2.55 GAA.


Wednesday, Feb. 18 at Columbus

The week wraps up with the third matchup in a month against the Blue Jackets. The Blues have won both games this season against Columbus pretty handily. In their last game in Columbus, the Blues won 4-2 and for the second time beat rookie phenom Steve Mason.

Special teams for the Blues have played a huge part in both the wins, with the Blues netting four power-play goals as well as a short handed goal. In turn, they have held Columbus to 1-10 on the power play. 

Brad Boyes leads the team with two goals and two assists against Columbus, with Carlo Colaiacovo's three assists trailing close behind. Jay McClemant has also chipped in a pair of goals in two games, and David Perron has tallied two assists.

Rick Nash has been held relatively in check, only recording two assists, but he has had multiple post hits. The man who needs to be closely marked in this game is Frederik Modin, who has lit the lamp once and notched two assists to lead the Blue Jackets in points against the Blues.

This week will be a real testament to this team's desire to be in the playoffs. If Andy McDonald can continue to produce points now that he has returned and Chris Mason can live up to the No. 1 job, then this team should pick up no less than six points.

With the trade deadline approaching, this is the time to put it into high gear and fight for every puck like it's the last game of the Finals.


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