Currently, the St. Louis Blues sit from the outside looking in, trailing the Arizona Coyotes by one point for the final spot in the West Division for the 2021 NHL Playoffs. The Blues had a solid start to the season but have come to a screeching halt with a subpar 3-6-1 record in their last 10 games, including a current three-game losing streak. They’re going to be desperate for a win down the stretch of the season, and with only 12 games remaining on their schedule, there is no room for error.
While the team as a whole has had struggles with consistency, there are three key players on the roster that will be crucial in their playoff hopes. These players could be the deciding factor between making a run for the Stanley Cup or spending their summer on the couch watching another team hoist it.
After bursting onto the scene in 2019, Jordan Binnington took the hockey world by storm with his phenomenal play and unique personality. He was an integral part of the Blues’ 2019 Stanley Cup Championship run. But since that season, his play has started to worsen.
Binnington signed a six-year extension with the Blues this season valued at $6 million per year, but he has not played up to the expectations of his contract. With career lows in GAA (2.72) and save percentage (90.8), it’s clear that the Richmond Hill-native has struggled this season. Binnington has had issues with his positioning fundamentals this season, a repeat offender for leaving his crease from awkward angles, allowing for pucks to trickle past him as a result.
Another issue with Binnington’s efforts this season comes from his mental game. A spitfire on the ice, his fiery play style was what catapulted his career two seasons ago, but he has lost his cool several times, which has cost his team dearly. These mental blunders hit their peak for Binnington after a heated outburst while being pulled against the San Jose Sharks in a late February bout.
While this has been far from his best season, we have seen flashes of his past self throughout the season, but not at a rate that has translated into the win column. For the Blues to have a fighting chance to make the playoffs and compete in the post-season, this will rest heavily on the shoulders of Binnington. If he can find a way to clear his mind and stay focused on the mission at hand for the final 12 games of the season, this could just be the push that the Blues so desperately need to capture their third straight playoff berth.
After being signed late in the offseason by the Blues, Mike Hoffman was poised to be a catalyst for change within the Blues’ game plan. With tremendous puck skills and a history of finding the back of the net, he was looked at as a major factor in the Blues’ chances of making another run at the Stanley Cup.
Unfortunately, Hoffman’s tenure with the Blues has not gone according to plan. With 27 points in 40 total appearances, he’s been decent thus far but has not reached the potential that Blues fans had for him coming into this season. The veteran forward has had issues on the defensive side of the puck, and his offensive output has not been enough to make up for this.
Hoffman’s play had him leading some of the NHL’s top trade rumours at the deadline, but in the end, he stayed put. Now that he remains with the team for the rest of the season, this is the time where he needs to start heating up.
With seven points in as many games in the month of April, Hoffman has been trending upwards but still has not looked completely comfortable within the Blues’ lineup. If he can get back on the saddle and lead the Blues’ stagnant offence out of mediocrity and into legitimate threats within the offensive zone, this could be the difference between becoming playoff contenders or becoming title contenders.
After a slow start to the season, Vince Dunn has been on an absolute tear in the home stretch of the 2020-21 NHL season. Dunn, who had eight points in his first 21 games, has now had eight points in his last six. This stellar point streak is coming at the perfect time for a Blues squad that’s had trouble generating high volume scoring chances this season.
The Blues have established themselves as a strong defensive team, and by having a player like Dunn leading the charge as a defenceman in the offensive zone, he could be an x-factor for their team moving forward. The young defenceman has shot some life into the Blues’ lineup and has shown no signs of slowing down from his incredible six-game point streak.
The Blues will likely rely on Dunn to keep up his fantastic efforts to close out their regular season schedule with a winning record and give them a much-needed push towards the playoffs.
Originally from Owen Sound, Ontario, Matt Eichhorn has spent the past 4 years studying the field of Sport Media at Ryerson University. Eichhorn is a life-long hockey fan with experience working in a variety of media roles around the game. Currently, Eichhorn covers the St. Louis Blues for The Hockey Writers.