The St. Louis Blues find themselves with a (12-6-1) record through their first nineteen match-ups of the season. That’s good enough for fifth in the league and third in the highly competitive Central Division of the Western Conference.
It is, however, only nineteen games into an eighty-two game season. The misconception that points matter most down the stretch is a highly misleading concept that plagues teams early in the season because they feel as if time is on their side. While that may be true, earning as many points as possible before the holidays is really the way to secure a solid position in the post-season.
The Blues have a handful of games coming up against teams they, quite frankly, should beat. That doesn’t mean the games will be easy, but St. Louis should find more success than not in the next handful of games.
The next opponent for the Blues is the consistently inconsistent Buffalo Sabres. They have been victorious in three of their last six games and find themselves with an (8-9-1) record eighteen games in.
The Sabres have shown some resemblance of their potential this season, but it’s really a question mark which team will show up on an nightly basis. The Blues have to take advantage of the adversity Buffalo is facing with starting goaltender Robin Lehner being injured in order to secure the win.
St. Louis will face Buffalo two times in their next four games, meaning a valuable four points is up for grabs.
Detroit Red Wings
Under new coach Jeff Blashill the Wings play an almost entirely different style than they did during Mike Babcock’s ten-year tenure in Detroit as the man behind the bench. The Red Wings are no longer the team they once were, but that doesn’t mean they can’t play incredible hockey at times.
They’re dealing with a number of injuries, which inhibits their ability to put consistent lines out on a nightly basis. Still they’re in the middle of the league with a (9-8-1) record through eighteen match-ups, which is good enough for third place in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference.
St. Louis will find success against the Wings as long as they keep their feet moving and avoid getting trapped in the offensive zone. Detroit is younger than they once were and with that youth comes speed that can rather easily produce quality offensive opportunities.
The Penguins have had a decent amount of controversy thus far this season, which they started (0-3-0), but have since turned it around and are (11-7-0). At the forefront of their concern has been the performance of captain Sidney Crosby. The first overall draft pick from the 2005 draft has struggled this season with only 9 points (2G, 7A) through 18 games with an unimpressive plus-minus of minus-8.
He, however, isn’t the only player on the ice. The Penguins are an offensively gifted team when they’re playing to the best of their ability and the Blues will have to ensure they stop their leading scorer Evgeni Malkin.
Regardless of their rank of 27th in the league on the power play Pittsburgh has a number of key players that can impact games. That only makes St. Louis’ job all that much harder.
There are no easy teams in the NHL. There is no easy game in the NHL either. Every night is a battle despite what the statistics and standings say because each team has their strengths and weaknesses. While the Blues winning or losing their next four match-ups against the aforementioned opponents most likely won’t make or break their season, earning the valuable points earlier rather than later in the season will surely help their bid for a return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs next spring.
Who do you think will be the toughest opponent for the Blues over the next four games? Leave your thoughts in the comments.