As all eyes shift to Edmonton and Toronto for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, who poses the biggest threat to St. Louis Blues Playoff run and Stanley Cup defence?
In an incredulous run over one year ago in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the entire world of hockey saw the might of the St. Louis Blues. Their relentless work ethic propelled them to unforeseen heights. Hit-by-hit, save-by-save, and goal-by-goal, they clawed their way to the greatest trophy in sports. The same attitude carried over to the 2019-2020 NHL regular season. Albeit losing prime scorer Vladimir Tarasenko in early October, the Blues sat atop the West for most of the season. While experiencing their ups and downs, the team finished with a record of 42-19-10, winning them the Central Division title.
Teams to Note in the Looming St Louis Blues Playoffs
The Stanley Cup
But any hockey fan will tell you that regular-season accolades mean next-to-nothing. Every player wants that elusive 35-pound flashy silver cup with the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Gordie Howe engraved in it. And only a grueling two-and-a-half-month stretch of playoff hockey can get you there. No matter how many times you’ve won it, how many times you’ve kissed it, or how many times you’ve drank out of it, it gets sweeter every single time. After getting a taste of a championship once, the Blues will be even hungrier for an elusive celebration. The only problem: the 23 other teams that look to put their name in history. Some will be easier to push aside than others.
After more than four months without a competitive hockey game, the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs will almost resemble a new season. Last year saw its fair share of upsets as all four top seeds were knocked out in the first round. The 2020 Playoffs will almost certainly have a familiar fate. Picking your poison may not be the wisest thing to do, but it’s certainly entertaining.
First Round: Nashville Predators/Arizona Coyotes
Thes seventh-seeded Nashville Predators and 11-seeded Arizona Coyotes meet in the “Best-of-Five Play-in Round” before the official playoffs begin. A lack of star power on either team makes this an under-the-radar series. Both teams, especially Arizona, play a defensive-minded game, not giving the other team many chances. Of the lower seeds, Arizona has given the Blues the most scares in the regular season, going 2-1-0 against St. Louis. Both wins ended respective seven-game win streaks for the Blues. However, the Blues showed in their 1-0 win against the Coyotes on February 20th that they could beat them at their own game. Overall, the Coyotes simply don’t seem to boast the offensive firepower to beat the Blues in a post-season series.
The Nashville Predators – St. Louis Blues rivalry has been abalze ever since the two met in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the 2018-2019 season, everyone saw the Blues turn around their season in an 11 game win streak. Wins five and six came in a fearsome series against the Preds. But in 2019-2020, the story has been very different. The Predators have dominated both series, going 4-0 against the Blues. While poor puck luck is a factor to blame, Nashville’s success against St. Louis cannot be denied. Out of all the teams in the league, the Nashville Predators have been the most triumphant against the Blues in the regular season. Out of all potential first-round opponents, the team in ugly, bright yellow jerseys may have the greatest odds to pull an upset against St. Louis. However, it’s important to note that they’ve struggled with goaltending, scoring depth, and coaching issues. If the boys in Blue put in their best effort and exploit these issues, the Preds will fall to the defending champions.
Second Round and Conference Finals:
Vegas Golden Knights
Should St. Louis have the good fortune to move on to the second or third round, there will be teams waiting to pounce. One team that sure pounced on the Blues lackadaisical play in the winter months was the Vegas Golden Knights. Unlike Nashville or Arizona, Vegas plays an explosive brand of hockey, exchanging numerous chances with the other team. With two great goaltenders, Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner, the team isn’t afraid to gamble odd-man rushes. In 2019-2020, St. Louis got lured into this style and posted a record of 1-0-2 against the Knights. Both overtime losses were high-scoring affairs in which the Blues had leads. In a potential playoff series, Craig Berube and his coaching staff’s job would be essential. They’d have to ensure the Blues resist the Golden Knights’ style of play and rather enforce a defensive, dump and chase game that the Blues are notorious for. Resisting temptations to match Vegas’ speed and style will be crucial in a seven-game series.
It’s always best to save the best for last. All season long, the Colorado Avalanche have tried snagging that top spot in the West from St. Louis. They’ve come close sometimes and were only two points back with a game in hand at the time of the pause. With Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, and Nathan MacKinnon forming arguably the best first line in the NHL and a really deep offensive core, Colorado’s offence is one that all teams fear. In addition, an underrated young blue line led by the likes of Cale Makar and Samuel Girard can certainly compete with the best defensive units in the league. The Avalanche’s young, elite talent will certainly shine in the playoffs as it did in the regular season.
Much like the Blues, injuries kept Colorado from experiencing its full potential. From the very start of this season, both teams seem to be on a collision course to meet sometime in the playoffs. Splitting the season series two games apiece, both teams will look to become the true emperor of the West. Simply put, Colorado is going to be the team-to-beat in the upcoming St Louis Blues playoff run.
Winning a championship is difficult. Winning back-to-back: 10 times harder. But the St. Louis Blues are halfway there. The same blue-collar magic that has gotten them to this point will carry them all the way to an elusive celebration that will be 10 times sweeter. This is sure to be a very exciting St Louis Blues playoffs run.