The schedule in March for the St. Louis Blues certainly ramps up from what it was in February. They did their job with a 6-1-1 record in February, most of which were against non-playoff teams as of right now.
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The Blues will play some of the best teams in the Eastern Conference in the month of March, as well as a couple of familiar foes. It will be a big month that will determine the course for the rest of the season as the trade deadline is on March 21.
New York Rangers – March 2 & 10
On the national stage of TNT, the Blues will take on one of the best teams in the league in the New York Rangers. They’ll face a dynamic roster with speed and the league’s best goaltender in Igor Shesterkin. On top of that, they’ll play in one of the most famous arenas in the world, Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers are 33-15-5 and have emerged as one of the league’s best this season, a predictable rise that has finally come to fruition under their new head coach Gerard Gallant. He has implemented new systems and ways to win, as he is a proven coach who led the Vegas Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season.
The surprising thing about the Rangers is their gap in scoring goals versus allowing goals, with their electric group of skaters, one would think that they would be in the top-five in scoring. They rank 19th in goals-for while being ranked third in goals-against and a lot of that has to do with Shesterkin. He’s been a phenomenal goaltender since day one, boasting a 25-6-3 record with a save percentage (SV%) of .941. He is the clear-cut favorite to win the Vezina trophy, and it’s not even close.
These games also mark the return of Pavel Buchnevich to New York City, where he spent five seasons and played 301 games for the Blueshirts. He’s been a fantastic addition for the Blues and could help this Rangers team, but it’s still understandable that they needed to move somebody from their forward group that they wouldn’t pay. It worked out for the Blues and still could in some ways for the Rangers, as they got Sammy Blais in the deal. Unfortunately, he’s out for the season after playing in only 14 games.
Overall, the Blues have won five of the last eight between these two squads and four of the last six. This will be the first matchup between them since March 3, 2020, so the two-year anniversary of their last game will be Thursday, a day after the game. This should be a great game and a possible Stanley Cup Final matchup if a lot of things break the right way for both teams.
New York Islanders – March 5
The Blues will continue their East Coast trip with their first game at UBS Arena, as they’ll visit an Islanders team that has underperformed this season. That shouldn’t matter though, they still play a tough brand of hockey and are fourth in the league in goals against.
They rank sixth in the difficult Metropolitan Division and their record is 20-21-8, which is very much below their expected number after two straight appearances in the Eastern Conference Final. They’ve still gotten quality goaltending from Ilya Sorokin, who has a SV% of .923, but they’ve struggled mightily to score goals. None of this should matter though, as they’ve won four of five over the Blues, all of them being close battles.
Pittsburgh Penguins – March 17
This is the second and final matchup of the season with the Penguins for the Blues. Their first matchup was a 5-3 win for the Pens, exposing major flaws in the Blues’ defense, which was an issue even in January. There is an argument to be made that both of these teams have improved since that first matchup, more so for the Blues.
The Penguins are 33-14-8, with some streaks of four straight wins and four straight losses, they’ve been streaky but solid overall. Goaltender Tristan Jarry has played at a Vezina level, and if it weren’t for Shesterkin, he’d have a better chance to win it. He’s posted a 26-11-6 record with a SV% of .921, all of this coming after a brutal playoff run in 2020-21.
The duo of Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel with Evgeni Malkin returning and a big season for Kris Letang makes the Penguins a difficult matchup. Dating back to the 2017-18 season, the series between the two is four to three in favor of the Penguins, with them winning the last two games. It should be another great test in a month of many tests for the Blues.
Carolina Hurricanes – March 26
The Blues hung around with an elite Hurricanes team in the last November matchup between these two teams. The score was 3-2 and it was a start for Joel Hofer, who was solid. Both teams have evolved in positive ways since that game, as the Hurricanes are 37-11-4, which puts them in first place in the Metropolitan Division.
The game isn’t until the end of the month, but Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov are players that could keep head coach Craig Berube up all night, as they are next level. It’s also notable to point out that the Canes have two defensemen that are injured as of right now, Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Smith, but they could be back by this time.
The head-to-head series is led 48-31-5 if the entire history of the Hurricanes is taken into account, which includes the Hartford Whalers. The Blues have won five of the last seven and are 11-7-0 against them since the 2010-11 season. This will be a high-flying and fun game to watch, as it’s always nice to see an elite team from the opposite conference.
Other Notable Games
The Blues have an interesting back-to-back in the middle of the month with the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets. They’ll also go on the road to face the Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals, and finish the month in Canada against the Vancouver Canucks. It’s going to be a much tougher month of games than February was for them, but they should be up to the challenge.
They could get reinforcements late in the month with the trade deadline, but even if they don’t, they are as healthy as they have been all season. Both of their goaltenders have played well as of late, so it’s time for this team to make it clear that they will finish second or third in the Central Division, the time is now to make themselves known as a playoff contender.