The NHL is nearing the end of its regular season, often titled the “final stretch.” These games are the only thing separating teams from their playoff dreams or an unfortunately long offseason.
While the St. Louis Blues find themselves within a few points of clinching their fifth consecutive playoff appearance, there are a few things to remember about the end of the regular season.
#3 Points Do Matter
Regardless of the Blues’ position in the standings they still have something worth fighting for: the Central Division title. Last night the Dallas Stars clinched their place in the post season with a 6-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, but the Blues sit just two points behind them for the title lead.
Both teams have the same number of games remaining at eight, meaning St. Louis has to win more games than the Stars to claim the banner. If they manage to tie Dallas in points, however, the Stars will be named the division winner because they own the first tie-breaker having 42 regulation/overtime wins to St. Louis’ 38.
It’s still very much possible that the Blues could come out on top in the Central Division race, but earning home ice advantage should benefit them regardless. The note have a (21-11-4) record at Scottrade Center and a (22-11-5) record on the road, which is representative of solid play in both scenarios.
In the playoffs, though, home fans are a source of energy for players that just isn’t there on the road.
#2 Play Hard, Not Dangerously
Injuries at this point in the season for St. Louis could prove detrimental to their future success. Although games seem to not have as much meaning after clinching a playoff spot, it’s important to keep playing the way an NHL team should.
St. Louis wants first and foremost to enter the playoffs and compete to the best of their ability. They want to make a legitimate run at the Stanley Cup. Injuries are not part of the equation in doing that and while it may cost them a division title, a championship banner is worth a lot more in everyone’s eyes.
#1 Momentum is Key
Ending the season on a winning streak is a boost of confidence for a locker room heading into the unknown of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s a way to prove to the league that they’re still a competitive team even though they’ve secured a playoff spot as well.
Conversely, finishing the regular season on a losing streak that is fraught with poor, unfocused hockey is a recipe for disaster. It’s not a matter of if the Blues will clinch a playoff spot but when and while that’s a relieving feeling within a locker room, it can also cause laziness to creep into a team’s approach to games.
The final games of the season will test the mental strength of the Blues, while also proving to be an indication of how the postseason might go. If the team can stay strong and prove their capabilities to end the regular season, they should find success in the playoffs.