Looking ahead to the NHL post season, it becomes difficult to avoid prematurely designating one of the many perennial playoff contenders as Stanley Cup Champions. Although playoff juggernauts such as the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins will undoubtedly make their fair share of noise in the post season, there is one franchise in particular that looks poised to shut down these beloved organizations. While the St. Louis Blues have transformed into an intriguing Western Conference competitor in the last few years, they have yet to excel as legitimate postseason contenders. However, despite the Blues unfortunate missteps in the playoffs, they have still been able persevere through their transgressions to display their true potential as a Stanley Cup caliber team. As the only team that has fifty wins in the Western Conference (an accomplishment they haven’t achieved since the 1999-2000 NHL Season), the Blues have already valiantly proven that they can win consistently which will be vital to their postseason success when they have to confront their intimidating opponents in the playoffs.
While there are several teams in the Western Conference that are versatile in terms of their offensive and defensive attributes, the Blues have made a name for themselves because of their uncanny ability to defeat opponents in a multitude of ways. Although most teams have preferred methods of dominating, the Blues seem to enjoy the challenge of crushing their opponents with either a suppressive defense or a relentlessly charged offense that can easily put up several goals against defensively sound opponents such as Minnesota (allow only 2.4 goals per game, 6th in NHL) and Montreal (allow only 2.4 goals per game as well). Simply put, the Blues are arguably the most dynamic team in hockey because of their jack-of-all-trades skill set that allows them to win even when one aspect of their game plan falls apart.
Of course, any offensively efficient team such as the Blues (3.1 goals per game, 4th in NHL) almost always as a proficient shooter that leads the charge game in and game out. For the Blues, left winger Alexander Steen has been a sensational offensive threat that can dish out the puck just effectively as he can sling it towards the net (33 goals and 27 assists on the season). Although Steen has always been an avid puck distributor throughout his career, this year was first time that Steen finally emerged as a confidently gifted shooter as his 33 goals this season have already eclipsed his previous high of 24 during the 2009-2010 regular season.
Although the Blues offensive dominance this season is immensely impressive, they also have a physically oppressive defense that is likewise just as effective on the ice (allow 2.2 goals per game, 3rd in NHL). While goalie Brian Elliot has had his moments of head scratching lapses, he has finally come into his own this season as a fairly reliable game changer as he has only relinquished five losses throughout this season (a career low). Despite the fact that Elliot isn’t nearly as impenetrable for the Blues as he was two years ago when his save percentage was 94%, he has at least overcome his underwhelming percentage of last year, which was 90.7% (he has since risen this statistic to 92.1% this year). Thanks to the versatility of the Blues as both a well-orchestrated offense and vigilant defensive machine, Elliot has developed a new degree of confidence in his saving abilities that was blatantly absent last year especially during the postseason. Out of all of the teams in the NHL, the Blues concern themselves the least with individual accolades and are more diligent in terms of their mindset to win every game by any means necessary. As a result, the Blues have earned all of their top five-team rankings in terms of goals per game (4th), goals against per game (3rd), power play percentage (4th) and power play killing percentage (2nd).
In the end, the tenacious St. Louis Blues have once again bounced back from last years failures and have risen through the ranks of the unforgiving Western Conference as one of the most all around efficient teams in the NHL. Although this team has yet to prove that they can go far when it comes to post season play, they have continued to fine-tune their mistakes while retaining their unprecedented abilities when it comes to playing balanced hockey. If the Blues can develop their mental fortitude during the home stretch of the regular season, they will be by far the most dangerous franchise during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.