It should have come as a shock to no one that the St. Louis Blues beat the Minnesota Wild in a shootout Sunday night. Because if the Wild had managed to beat the Blues in regulation, it would have accomplished a unique first for this season.
So far in 2013-14, the Blues are 18-0-1 against teams in the Central Division, with their only loss dating back to a 4-3 shootout defeat to the Winnipeg Jets Oct. 18. That augurs very well for the Blues going into the playoffs, particularly since the first two rounds will likely be played exclusively against Central Division opponents. Starting with their game against the Dallas Stars Tuesday night, the Blues have 10 more games against division opponents this season.
Now that bad news. If the regular season is any indication, the Blues will almost certainly be toast in the Western Conference final. As outstanding as the Blues have been this season, they have just a 1-8-0 record against the three teams from California. When we as a group at THN picked the Blues to win the Stanley Cup before the season, I was against the choice because I thought the Blues couldn’t score enough. Since they’re currently in third in goals for this season behind Chicago and Anaheim, they’ve put that notion to rest.
I still don’t think the Blues are going to win the Stanley Cup this season, though, but it’s because they can’t seem to beat California teams. Their only win this season against them was a 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings, the team against which they stack up most favorably statistically. Each team has scored nine goals in the three games they’ve played, with each team blowing the other out once and the Kings winning 3-2 in December.
By contrast, the Blues have been manhandled by the San Jose Sharks, losing all three games and being outscored 14-6. Against the Anaheim Ducks, they’ve lost all three by a combined score of 9-4. (It must have something to do with teams that play within 50 miles of the Pacific Ocean. The Blues are 0-2-1 against the Vancouver Canucks and of the 14 games they’ve lost in regulation this season, 10 have been to the Kings, Sharks, Ducks and Canucks.) In fact, the Blues 7-10-3 record against teams in the Pacific Division is not only the worst in the Central Division, it's the only one that is sub. 500 in that division.
If the playoffs started today, the Blues would open the first round against the Dallas Stars, with Chicago going against Colorado, Anaheim taking on Minnesota and Los Angles facing San Jose. As a side note, it’s virtually guaranteed that one of the teams from California will be eliminated in the first round, since the No. 2 and 3 seeds in the Pacific will end up facing one another. To anyone who likes to see hockey at its best, that is a real shame.
Beating the Stars might not be such a daunting task for the Blues, but in order to win the Stanley Cup, the Blues will then face the possibility of having to defeat the defending Stanley Cup champion – if the Blackhawks can topple the Avs in the first round – then likely have to beat one of the California teams in the Western Conference final before going against the best team in the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup final.
The Blues won the President’s Trophy in 1999-2000 and proceeded to lose in the first round of the playoffs to San Jose. Since then, they’ve lost to Vancouver twice in the first round and to Los Angeles in the first and second rounds. (They have beaten the Sharks twice in the first round, last spring and in 2001 when they went to the Western Conference final.)
The Blues will not have to worry about ancient history in this year’s playoffs because it will have no bearing on what happens in 2014. After all, they’ll have enough recent history to worry about if their playoff journey takes them to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.