As we sit right now, the Blues are six points out of a playoff spot and have a game at hand on 8th place Colorado. Had the Blues split the series with Colorado (they were swept with all four games lost in regulation), they would have 87 points and be sitting in 8th place. The margin for error has become so small that it’s not only going to take yet another late season miracle run like last years’ dash to 6th place, but also a collapse by any or all of Colorado, Calgary, and/or Detroit. That’s hard to fathom considering that all three teams have been in playoff mode for over a month now.
Last years’ miraculous run to the 6th spot is all but a memory in the rearview mirror. Although it was great to watch the team make the playoffs, in the long run, it hurt the franchise. Expectations were raised beyond where they should be, which is where they are; a young promising team with a very bright future. It hurt because it made the difference between adding a top ten pick to the talent pipeline versus a mid-round pick in Rundblad. Although not detrimental, we can look back at the Florida team that surged to the cup finals their first season and did not have the benefit of stockpiling high first round picks or the Wild of 03 whom made it all the way to the conference finals before finally getting beat by the upstart Ducks led by Conn Smythe winner JS Giguere. Had the Blues not finished on such a strong note (pun intended) last year, nobody would be clamoring for change in Blues nation. Since they did finish so strong, that only raised the expectations. As mentioned in last week’s blog, expectations breed disaster for young teams. The weight of this team should not be resting on the shoulders of Oshie, Berglund, Johnson, Steen, Colaiacovo, Backes, and co. It should be on Kariya, Tkachuk, Boyes, Brewer, and Sydor. But when your veterans are the worst players on your roster, that’s reflected in the sporadic play that has plagued this team since arriving back from Stockholm in October.
With wins over Detroit, Washington, Chicago, New Jersey, and San Jose, there’s proof that this team can put their collective foots on the gas when needed. But when you look at the late game collapses against Nashville, Anaheim, and Edmonton, you’re reminded of the fact that this is indeed still a team in transition and there is room to grow. Considering that there are only two 20 goal scorers, a lot of room to grow.
I often wonder why teams don’t throw the puck towards the opposing bench during a line change. What a great way to draw a penalty since it’s so hard for any player to resist handling the puck when it’s at your feet. The Florida Panthers drew a penalty against the Sabres tonight in the first period by doing this and lead to a power play. Although it’s not clear gamesmanship, it’s not illegal and it gives a chance to win.
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Written by Patrick McLellan