Jaroslav Halak and defensemen Alex Pietrangelo celebrate after a win.
The St. Louis Blues currently hold the third longest streak in the National Hockey League for consecutive postseason appearances with 25, a streak that saw the Blues punch their tickets annually from 1979 through 2004. Since being eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2004, the franchise has made the playoffs once and was eliminated quickly by the Canucks in 2009, a series that saw Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo stand on his head en route to a sweep over the Blues. Going into tonight's game, as of Wednesday the Blues have 51 points and are five spots out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. After coming up short last season, many things must happen in order for the Blues to play in the postseason once again.
The first thing St. Louis has to do in the second half is to get healthy, and once they are healthy they must stay that way. This injury-plagued team has suffered horrendously throughout the entire season to key players: first, fan-favorite T.J. Oshie went down with a broken ankle; then, David Perron suffered a cheap shot from San Jose’s Joe Thornton and ended up with a concussion; finally, speedster Andy McDonald also suffered a concussion in the first half of this season. Out of the three team stars, T.J. Oshie is the only player who has recovered from his respective injury. The Blues have also lost key defenders this season in Roman Polak and Carlo Colaiacovo. Once everyone has recovered, this team needs to stay healthy in order to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Secondly, goaltender Jaroslav Halak has to play like he did in the first couple weeks of October. For the first 10 games of the season Halak dominated, winning eight games and recording three shutouts. In these 10 battles, he allowed a stellar 1.5 goals per game. Since then Halak has taken a steep downfall, recording just one shutout and allowing a paltry 2.9 goals per game. For a team that already struggles to produce offensively, it is necessary that Halak return to his early season form, and keep the puck out of the net in order for the Blues to make the playoffs.
Finally, the goal scorers on this club must arise from their slumber and produce. The Blues don’t have a superstar like the Penguins have in Sidney Crosby, or like the Lightning have in Steven Stamkos. These two franchise players can put the team on their backs at any given moment, and both of their clubs are headed to the playoffs partially because of them. Veteran Brad Boyes must become the type of player that leads this team to the postseason. He netted 43 shots during the 2007-2008 season. The following year he scored 33, and so far this year he has only 15 goals. He must score another 20-25 goals in the second half for this team to ensure making the playoffs.
These three important points have to happen for the Blues to make the postseason, and in doing so hopefully begin another set of consecutive Aprils and beyond.