This team is toying with us. But being Blues fans, we should be used to this by now. They've only been doing this for over 40 years.
After three straight losses (to three very good teams) and being on the brink of un-officially eliminated from playoff contention, the Blues have rattled off two nice victories, the latest of which being a solid 4-0 victory at home against the new look Toronto Maple Leafs last night. The Blues penalty killers...well...killed last night. They shut down Toronto's power play and scored two short handed goals in the process. Well done fellas...well done. No way they could have lost to Toronto at home and still expect people to think they can make the playoffs.
Which brings us to bubble bullet point number one.
The Playoff Race
With the victory against Toronto, the Blues sit in 12th place, but "teasingly", only four points behind Calgary for the 8th and final playoff spot.
On Saturday, the last day of games before the olympic break, Calgary, Detroit, Anaheim, and Dallas along with St. Louis, are all in action. St. Louis trails all of these teams in the standings. If the Blues get some help on Saturday night and IF the Blues beat Washington (ginormous if), the Blues could only be 2 pts. out of a playoff spot.
So what does this mean? It means it's scoreboard watching time from here on out if the Blues keep winning.
The Blues have been in this position half a dozen times over the past month. They have had chances to pull to within two or three points of a playoff spot...and they have choked on every chance prior to the one they have coming up on Saturday vs. Washington.
It's put up or shut up time for the Blues. If they beat Washington, that sends a message to ownership that they can make the playoffs. If they lose to Washington, the worst case scenerio is they are 6 pts.out and Paul Kariya or Keith Tkachuk (and/or others) may have played their last game in a Blues uniform. Either way, management has a two week long olympic break to think it over. Which brings me to bubble bullet point number two.
The Trade Deadline
The trade deadline is March 3rd...but because of the olympic break, a trade freeze has been put into effect. No trades are allowed until March 1st. Management has a tough decision to make if the Blues beat Washington. They'd be either two, three or four points out of a playoff spot...so are they buyers, sellers or do they stand pat?
They won't be buyers under any circumstances. So don't get your hopes up for a big time scorer coming our way at the trade deadline. They haven't played well enough to warrant being buyers. They'll either trade a guy or two away, or do nothing. I bet that no matter what happens on Saturday, someone will be traded off of the Blues roster on or before the trade deadline.
Fans are begging and pleading for JD and company to trade Eric "way-worse-than-Pronger-ever-was-and-more-like-Jeff-Finley" Brewer. Some also want to see Kariya and his underperforming $6 million/year ass gone too. One Blues fan was quoted as saying about the Kariya free agent signing, "That was the worst Blues free agent signing, ever." And it's hard to argue that statement.
Carlo Colaiacovo has also been mentioned in trade rumors. Carlo has been good this year, which leads you to hope the Blues do not trade him unless the return is pretty good. I can't imagine us getting anything other than a 2nd round pick or a mid-level prospect for him, and if that's the case, the Blues would probably be better off keeping him. The fans of St. Louis can't handle another Bryce-Salvador-for-Cam-Jannsen type trade.
The NHL trade deadline day is always a blast, no matter where your team is in the standings. And as always, the LGB forums will be jumping that day, discussing all of the trades and rumors...so, if you can, hang around the site during the day on March 3rd. It's always a good time.
You can say a lot of things about the St. Louis Blues this season. You can say they suck at home, or you can say they can't hold a 3rd period lead to save their lives, or you can say the offense is borderline pathetic on most nights, or you can say our captain is a screw up that does anything but lead by example on the ice, or you can say our supposed go-to-goal scorer can't hit the broad side of Union Station.
But the one thing you can't say this season, is that the Blues can't beat those pansies from Detroit. It has actually been quite the opposite. The Blues this season have beaten some Red Wing ass...and I think I speak for all Blues fans (and most fans around the NHL) when I say it feels great to have gone 4-0-1 and taken 9 of the possible 10 pts. against the long time nemesis of the Blues so far.
The only Red Wing victory against the Blues came in an overtime win on November 28th in which Detroit needed a last minute goal to force overtime.
Blues fans have been frustrated beyond belief this year. This Blues team was supposed to be a playoff team after their outstanding 2nd half run to take 6th place in the Western Conference last season. But this year, the Blues have struggled to stay out of the basement in the West and currently sit six points out of a playoff spot...which is not where they want to be and it's not where Blues fans expected them to be. Sure, they're a good winning streak away from knocking on the 8th place door, but they haven't shown they can go on a run like that...but whatever.
On a bright note though, is the Blues play against Detroit. Yeah, they blew a 3-1 lead late in the 3rd last night, but so what...they won the game. In hockey, the end justifies the means...especially against those things from Detroit. What's hilarious though is Detroit's play this season. The Red Wings and their fans expected to challenge for the Western Conference crown once again (zzzzzzzz...snore...zzzzzzzz), but the Wings currently find themselves two points out of the playoffs in 9th place...just four points ahead of the Blues, whom everyone will admit, has pretty much sucked this year.
It's been a long ass time since the Blues have finished ahead of the Wings in the standings. The 1999-2000 season was the last time that happened...that's 10 years ago. If the Blues manage to miss the playoffs this year, it would be huge for Blues fans if their team could manage to finish ahead of the team that has been a thorn in thier side for the better part of two decades.
Blues fans haven't had much to cheer about this year, but their play against Detroit has been solid and is worth celebrating. And quite frankly, if the Wings miss the playoffs, I will laugh my ass off.
Sure, it's only three games in a row. But the St. Louis Blues are playing some of their best hockey of the season and they are being rewarded for it in the win column.
Tonight's victory over Minnesota was a pretty big one. Minnesota was playing some very good hockey and came into the game having won four in a row against some very good teams: Calgary, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Vancouver. Vancouver? Ok, three good teams.
The Blues dominated time of possession and shots on net, but could only sneak one by Wild netminder Josh Harding, who played very well...but that's all the Blues would need as Mason was nails once again, stopping all 19 shots that came his way.
The early message from Davis Payne seems to be getting across to Blues players as their play has been much more physical and spirited since Payne has taken over as coach. The defense has been jumping into the play more, which gives the offense more options. At the same time though, there is always someone covering for a pinching defenseman.
So far, so good.
The note are now 3-2-1 under Payne and aside from the last two periods in Payne's first game behind the bench, the Blues have, for the most part, played excellent hockey...and if not for horrible no-call vs. Anaheim, they may have forced OT and gotten a win in that game.
Most notably for the Blues, the last two wins have come at home, where the Blues had trouble winning under Murray when they sported one of the worst home records in the NHL. But that looks to be turning around with two straight victories at home while playing good hockey under a new coach.
It also helps that Paul Kariya is back in the lineup. And while Kariya isn't lighting it up on the scoreboard, he's been active on the ice and adds important depth. Is he worth what he is making? Hell no. But salary aside, he plays an important role on this team and other teams have to pay attention to him.
If the Blues can manage a win vs. the Rangers on Thursday, they can conceviably pull to within 5 pts.of 8th place...which sounds great considering they were 11 pts. out not too long ago.
Baby steps. We'll get there.