The St. Louis Blues have been on an absolute tear these last couple of weeks. Just 11 days ago, the Blues were sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference and were on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. Now they're sitting in sixth place, two points out of fourth, and are arguably the hottest team in the NHL.
It's great for Blues fans to see the team finally rally and make a push to legitimize its season. But what may be even better for the club and its fans is the eerie similarities between this year's team and the 2012 Los Angeles Kings.
For starters, both goaltenders got hot around the same time.
Jonathan Quick was having an average year in 2012 before the trade deadline. He hadn't had a great winning streak or a great losing streak. But that all changed after the deadline, when he went 10-4-2 to help the Kings skate into the playoffs with no wiggle room at all.
Elliott was awful in the first part of the season, having the league's worst save percentage and one of the worst GAA. He was third on the depth chart behind Jaroslav Halak and rookie Jake Allen. Then he was sent down to Peoria for conditioning.
Elliott won both of his games in Peoria, the second coming by way of a shutout. He was then called back up, and then Halak went down with a groin injury. Since Elliott came into relief, he has gone 5-0-0, four of those wins coming against playoff teams. Elliot has pitched three consecutive shutouts and is looking to break the consecutive shutout minutes played, a record he set just last season.
In 2012, the Kings also made some big deals at the deadline. They sent defensive prospect Jack Johnson to Columbus for Jeff Carter in an effort to boost the offense, and boy did it work. The Kings were on fire going into the playoffs and stayed hot throughout. Teams had no answer to stop the puck from ending up in the back of the net, and it was because the front office addressed the team's weakest points and made it stronger.
This season, the Blues' weakest point was defense. There was nobody blocking shots in front of Halak or Elliott and the team was having trouble moving bodies out of the dirty areas. The defensive zone was just a mess.
The front office made some big moves, trading picks and prospects the Blues could dispose of to get defensemen Jordan Leopold and Jay Bouwmeester. Both players have already made an impact.
Both players provide a left-side partner for the Blues' biggest defensmen; Bouwmeester for Alex Pietrangelo and Leopold for Kevin Shattenkirk. These additions have not only increased play in the defensive zone, but both provide an added offensive aspect to the game. The Blues have always been criticized for their lack of scoring, so adding d-men who can score was a great move by the front office.
Finally, both teams got hot at the perfect time.
The Kings were nowhere near the best team throughout the season, but they were playing incredibly during the playoffs, which led them to Lord Stanley's Cup.
Right now the Blues are playing the best hockey in the league, and there's still room for improvement. Halak is out with an injury, and is easily a capable backup for Elliott in case he ever slows down. Valdimir Tarasenko is healthy again, and the Blues are waiting for T.J. Oshie to come back from injury. St. Louis is getting healthy at the right time and will be a complete team going into the playoffs.
They have the goaltending, they have the defense and they have the offense. Special teams are also taking care of business. This Blues team may not be the best in franchise history, but they could be the hottest. And the hottest team is the one that brings home the Cup.