The Stanley Cup Playoffs are just a mere six days away.
Now that the burden of clinching the playoffs is no longer an issue for the St. Louis Blues, the team will start to focus on getting guys healthy, a la Barret Jackman, and also attempt to solidify their forward lines so that some chemistry can be formed before the start of the post-season.
But there’s still one major question left to answer: who will the Blues face-off against in the first round of the playoffs?
With only two games left to play in the regular season, the Blues are currently 6th in the Western Conference. If the playoffs were to start tonight, their first round opponent would be the Vancouver Canucks.
If that were the case, it would certainly make for an exciting first round matchup; but is it necessarily a favorable matchup for the Blues? Should they WANT to remain in the 6th slot in order to play the Canucks?
Note: the Canucks have clinched their division and can’t possibly pass the Ducks for the 2nd seed, so they are locked in as the 3rd seed.
With the exception of one hilarious, profanity filled tirade about the Chicago Blackhawks from user NYNE on the St Louis Blues sub-Reddit that just had to be shared for other Blues fans to read, the Canucks have certainly been the consensus pick amongst Blues fans on Twitter in regards to which team they’d like to see the Blues play against in the first round:
@BBSuns Personally, I'd like to see Vancouver.
— Frozen Notes (@FrozenNotes) April 22, 2013
@BBSuns I'd prefer VAN, we've played them well and Schneider is hurt now. But LA losing tonight could change the standings pretty quick
— STL BlueNotes (@thestlbluenotes) April 25, 2013
Who the Blues wind up playing against to start the 2013 playoffs might not be determined until the last game of their season.
However, it is extremely important to note that the Blues have some flexibility in determining where they’ll finish in the standings, and thus, who they could end up playing in the first round. It all depends on how these next two games go for the Blues, Sharks, and Kings.
Sportsclubstats.com estimates the Blues will most likely finish as the 5th or 6th seed. The only way for the Blues to finish the season as the 7th seed in the Western Conference, which would match them up against the 2nd seeded Anaheim Ducks, is if the Minnesota Wild win their last two games AND the Blues lose their last two games IN REGULATION.
They only need one overtime game in their last two games of the season to guarantee themselves a spot no lower than 6th.
I don’t foresee the previous hypothetical situation happening, so the Blues potential first round opponent should, in all likelihood, be one of the following teams:
Which Team Do The Blues Want To Play?
The Vancouver Canucks
-The Blues depth at forward and their deep defense corps filled with above average puck-moving defensemen.
-The injury to Cory Schneider.
Looking at the Canucks stats, its quite obvious that they get most, if not all, of their scoring from their top two lines; specifically, the Sedin twins who sport a 20 point lead over the 3rd highest scorer on the team, Jannik Hansen.
That’s quite a significant drop. Especially after analyzing the three regular-season games between these two clubs.
Out of 7 of the goals scored by the Canucks in those three games, a Sedin has gotten a point on 5 of those 7 goals. Shutting down one line is music to my ears.
Now let’s consider the Blues plethora of puck-moving defensemen, especially their roles in the newly revamped Blues power play. Over the last 3 games, the Blues have scored 3 power play goals.
That’s 3 goals in 11 opportunities. I’ve always been a firm believer of maintaining at least a 20% power play success rate and if my calculations are correct, 3/11=27%. The additions Jay Bouwmeester’s and Jordan Leopold’s shots from the point have done wonders for the power play.
Finally, the fact that the Canucks have lost their most current “starting goaltender”, Cory Schneider, for an undisclosed amount of time while the Blues get closer and closer to getting back their own #1 goaltender, Jaroslav Halak, would be a huge advantage for them and really any team for that matter.
Are there any disadvantages to playing the Canucks?
-The Blues lack of top-tier scorers.
The Sedins can dominate and control games by themselves; it’s been evident in the 3 previous meetings between these teams.
If the Blues were to lose a series against the Canucks, it would be due to the Sedins pure domination much like they did two years ago when Henrik put up 22 points and Daniel put up 20 points in 25 games throughout their run to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals.
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