Congrats to the St. Louis Blues, who clinched a spot in the NHL playoffs. Yet again. The consistency of this franchise as a regular postseason presence is remarkable. And that should never be taken for granted.
This is the Blues’ 53rd season on the ice, and this will be their 44th postseason. Among the 12 teams that have been in existence since the Blues came into the NHL for the 1967-68 expansion year, only Boston, with 46, has reached the playoffs more times than St. Louis.
The Blues have appeared in 400 postseason games since joining the league; over that time only Boston, Montreal, Philadelphia and Chicago have played more.
Including the upcoming 2021 playoffs, the Blues have made the postseason nine times in the last 10 seasons. That’s tied with Washington for the second-most playoff trips by a team in the last 10 seasons. Only Pittsburgh has qualified more times (10 for 10) since the start of the 2011-2012 season.
The Blues have been a bewildering bunch this season.
Maddening and frustrating. I could think of many other words.
The Blues were at their strongest mentally at a time of physical weakness. They kept grinding and salvaging points when all of the injuries threatened to break them. But then, as wounded players returned to strengthen the team physically the Blues became mentally weak.
The Blues lost their competitive identity, their team personality.
Could they get it back?
With a chance to declare themselves — one way or another — the Blues’ pride kicked in. The light bulb was screwed in. They saw the light. They remembered who they were, and how they needed to play. On the ledge, looking down at a lost season, the Blues finally stabilized. They made a run. They made it to the tournament.
It looks like the Blues will take on Vegas in the first round. The Golden Knights haven’t closed the deal but can so Monday night at home with a victory over Colorado in regulation or overtime.
If it’s Vegas, do the Blues have a chance? Well, every team has a chance, at least in theory. But I can’t be Harry the Homer here. What I can do, however, is offer an honest opinion: Vegas is a terrible matchup for St. Louis. I wouldn’t give the Blues much of a chance to prevail.
All things considered, the Blues’ 2-4-2 ledger against Vegas might look OK on the surface. But from the Vegas standpoint, the Golden Knights had a points-collected percentage of .813 vs. St. Louis this season. That’s a better percentage than Vegas had against all other teams in the West including also-rans Los Angeles, Arizona, San Jose and Anaheim.
Vegas outscored the Blues 34-18 at all strengths, 28-14 at even strength, and 25-13 at five-on-five. The Golden Knights also controlled the share of scoring chances and high-danger shots by a wide margin.
The Blues are a proud group with a contingent of key veterans who helped the franchise win its first Stanley Cup in 2019. But Vegas has too much speed and firepower. Too much talent. And this is no finesse team; the Golden Knights can play nasty.
Against all opponents this season Vegas has scored 60.4 percent of the goals at all strengths and 60% of the goals at even strength.
Vegas is atomic.
The Blues are dangerous in their own way. But they haven’t really put their game back together. Not all the way. And they flub too many leads. The underdog role fits the Blues. It will sharpen their edge.
The Blues are also dealing with injuries again.
Maybe the scars will toughen them.
“I think that our team, obviously injuries have been a big thing this year,” Berube said, after the Blues clinched at Vegas Friday. “We still have a number of guys that are out with injuries. Our team’s battled through a lot of injuries this year. I don’t know where we rank in the league with injuries but we’ve had a lot of guys out with a significant amount of time and we had guys step in and do a good job and play and contribute and win games.
“I’m proud of our guys. They competed hard all year in my opinion. I know we went through a couple tough stretches, but we rebounded from them, I thought, both times, especially the second time. We went on that losing streak, seven games I think (note: 0-6-1) and then we’ve gotten points in the last eight or nine games. Our guys rebounded really well and did a good job.”
I’m looking forward to the first round. Do the Blues have a surprise in them?
Now that I’ve written this, watch Vegas blow Monday’s game to Colorado and give the Avs a gateway to first place in the West. If so, we’ll shift the focus and talk about Colorado. Plenty of time for that. It’s all about making adjustments, right?
Thanks for reading …
Please check out Bernie’s sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen live online and download the Bernie Show podcast at 590thefan.com … the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.