There is no doubt that the Western Conference reigns supreme over the Eastern Conference in the NHL. The Western Conference has better teams, tighter divisions, and greater playoff races.
Following the top eight teams, there are five teams in the Western Conference that are eyeing one of the final spots to play in the postseason. One of the five teams cannot only make a serious playoff push, but can make the playoffs and potentially go very far.
As of February 26, the St.Louis Blues have 65 points and sit five points out of a playoff spot.
Following a 5-0 blowout win in Edmonton, the Blues have a series of 5 games that will make or break the season. On Sunday, St. Louis plays in Calgary, and on Tuesday, the Flames and Blues meet again at the Scottrade Center. Then the Blues play against Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals in Washington. Following that, the Blues play the Islanders in the Big Apple, then host the Blues Jackets.
In just a little more than a week, we will all know if the Blues are real contenders or just pretenders. Here are three reasons why they are not only contenders, but can possibly make a lot of noise in this season's playoffs.
1. The Blues are a Second Half Team
It's obvious that the Blues play a lot better in the second half each season. In the last three seasons, the Blues record after a break is ridiculously better than their record prior to a break. Before the 2009 All-Star Game in Montreal, the Blues' first half record was 19-23-4. After the All-Star break, St. Louis went 22-8-6 and ended up making the playoffs. There was no All-Star break in the 2009-2010 season because of the Winter Olympics, but before the Olympics, the Blues were 28-25-9. After the Olympic break the Blues went 12-7-1 and ended up just short of making the playoffs. Before this year's All-Star Game in Carolina, St. Louis was 22-20-7 and had one of the best starts to the season in the NHL. Since the All-Star break, the Blues are 6-4-2 and are in the midst of a playoff run. Including this season and the previous two seasons, the Blues have collected points in 49 of 68 games. After mid-season breaks, St. Louis has collected 89 out of a possible 136 points. The Blues have a history of playing better in the second half, and they intend to continue the great late season play that they have became famous for over the past couple years.
2. Jaroslav Halak Shines in the Playoffs
Everyone remembers what Halak accomplished in the playoffs last year. He carried the eighth-seed Montreal Canadiens to places no one expected them to go. In the first round, Montreal were underdogs to the one-seed Washington Capitals. Halak ousted the Washington Capitals in seven games. Then he carried the Canadiens past the defending champs in the Eastern Semifinals when he beat Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in another seven games. The magic ran out when David fell to Goliath in five games at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers. His amazing postseason play was one of the main reasons the St. Louis Blues signed him in the offseason. After an incredible start to the season, Halak showed signs of struggle. While he is currently out with a wrist injury, Blues fans all over expect that the "Halakness Monster" will return to last season's playoff form and carry the Blues to the playoffs. Once he leads St. Louis to the postseason, we all know what he does when he gets there.
3. Same Team, New Faces
Everyone knows about the blockbuster deal that the Blues pulled off. The two new players wearing the blue note on their jersey have shined for St. Louis. In five games with the Blues, Chris Stewart has scored six goals and recorded one assist. The other new Blue, Kevin Shattenkirk assisted a goal three times for the Blues and is playing very solid defense. If the new players for St. Louis continue the pace that they are now playing, especially Chris Stewart, the Blues have an even stronger chance of pushing for the playoffs and playing in the postseason.
The St. Louis Blues have made serious playoff runs before. With the history of their second half play, their superstar goalie, and the new players on the team making a big difference, there is no reason why St. Louis will not surprise everyone and make the playoffs.