The St. Louis Blues are looking to reach new heights this postseason on the wings of one of the deepest teams in their storied history, but can they finally overcome their past transgressions in the playoffs to make it to the big dance this year?
The Blues are a much different team than those in years past, and at least fans can all breathe a sigh of relief as they know this year’s team isn’t eligible to repeat the past 2 playoff mishaps (2 round-1 series separated by 1 NHL season that ended eerily similar in multiple regards) that saw heading to the golf course too early, while they were expected to make a deeper run. However, the team is still set to repeat history this season against the Minnesota Wild, as they currently sit tied 1-1 in the 7-game postseason battle.
Repeating History Isn’t Always Bad
Though it is very early in the series to be making these comparisons, this year’s Blues squad has already managed to give us enough similarities to make things interesting. The best part is this: the 2011-12 first round series against the San Jose Sharks is what this year’s team is starting to mimic, and that was the team’s last series victory in the playoffs. The only downside to this scenario would be if the Blues continued to mimic that year into the second round, where they were swept by the eventual Stanley Cup winners, the LA Kings. However, that shouldn’t be the case for this year’s powerful St. Louis team.
The Similarities Between Playoffs
Again, there have only been 2 games played in this year’s series so far, but that doesn’t mean the comparisons don’t exist just yet. It means they are still a little early to call out, but are still intriguing none-the-less. In game-1 of the 2011-12 series against the Sharks, the Blues managed to claw their way back into the game in the 3rd period, but actually allowed a late goal to send it into overtime, where the Sharks eventually won it in the 2nd extra frame. The Blues did score 2 3rd period goals and managed only 7 shots in the 1st period though, the same totals they had in game-1 of the Sharks series in 2012. The Note also managed to win the majority of the face-offs in that game-1 loss to San Jose, just as they did in game-1 against the Wild on Thursday night, although it was by a higher margin than in 2012 (58% on Thursday versus 51.7% in 2012).
Moving along to game-2 of each respective series sees more similarities emerge. The Blues were able to dispose of the Sharks 3-0 in that game-2, but were actually outplayed for the second half of the game, very similar to Saturday’s affair that saw the Blues weather late surges from Minnesota before netting a couple late goals themselves to secure their 4-1 victory (obviously, both evened the series at 1). Though neither team engaged in a brawl to end the game on Saturday in this year’s playoffs (DON’T OPEN THE POLAK DOOR), the Blues did end the game with 3 giveaways, won by 3 goals, and had the same shot incremental in both this year’s game 2 and the 2012 version (that saw the most shots taken in the 2nd period, and the least shots taken in the 3rd) all areas of the games that shadow each other.
This may seem like a bit of a stretch, but this early in the series there are already a lot of similarities, capped off by this beauty (get ready haters): Patrik Berglund has 2 points through the first 2 games of this year’s series against the Wild, the same point total he had in 2012.
Why This Matters
Well in short, it doesn’t really matter all that much, even last year’s contests against the Blackhawks that had so many crazy likenesses to the previous season’s LA Kings series really were just random events that happened to repeat 2 years in a row (Jackman’s game winners late/in OT, Steen’s GWG in game-2, and the list goes on). However, for those history buffs and skeptical/superstitious fans out there you’ll be able to rest easy because after that game-1 loss in 2012 the Blues were able to dispose of the Sharks in 4 straight, winning the series in just 5 games. If the Blues can come out flying tonight against the Wild, and can manage to make smart line changes, quick passes, and keep their feet moving to play a heavy-hitting, positional, and transitional game where they get traffic in front they will walk away with a game victory and a series lead that continues to mimic the team’s efforts against San Jose.
If they don’t manage to win game-3 in Minnesota on Monday, they will need to be sure and win game-4 to set themselves up for a series victory without being on the brink of elimination for the rest of the series. Winning at least 1 in Minnesota will also help the Blues confidence while playing on the road for the rest of the playoffs, a great sign of things to come. As many players and fans have stated throughout this season, this year’s team is different, and they seem primed and ready to make a deep playoff run, even in the incredibly difficult Western Conference.
Like what you’ve just read? Follow me on Twitter: Follow @pep30
Mike has covered the St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning in depth for The Hockey Writers since 2013. He is also a contributing writer for KSDK News Channel 5, the St. Louis area NBC affiliate, and has been a credentialed media member of the Blues since 2014. Follow him on Twitter @pep30.