With the announcement of a 24-team playoff structure on the table, the St. Louis Blues will have a bye in the first round. How it will play out could pose as a good or bad situation. It’s a difficult call. Can the Blues defend the Stanley Cup in this new arrangement?
Where We Left Off
The Blues originally had 15 games scheduled for March/April to end the season. An extra game was added as a rescheduled postponed game.
Ironically enough, the last game the Blues played before the league-wide postponement was the ‘makeup’ game against the Anaheim Ducks that had been postponed due to Jay Bouwmeester’s heart incident.
The Blues were on a winning streak with an 8-2-0 record in their last 10 games.
Pros of the Structure
The layout automatically gives the top four teams in each conference a bye. In a regular season, this would possibly be an advantage. The stretch to the playoffs can get intense and grueling for players.
The Blues sit in the number one spot in the Western Conference with an extremely competitive Colorado Avalanche team two points behind. But the Blues are also the reigning Stanley Cup champs with experience and drive to defend that title.
The Avalanche were on a hot streak with a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 games. The race to end the season at the top is a hard one to have missed. However, with all the players in the same situation, the playing rink remains even.
If play resumes with all teams present in a decided upon location, that gives the teams with byes more time to condition and re-connect.
The ability to bond as a team again during additional time off while play resumes could be advantageous for the Blues.
Vladimir Tarasenko wasn’t due back on the bench until the very end of the season or even into the playoffs. The doubt he’d fit back into a well-oiled machine has now been cast to the wind. Back to square one.
Cons of the Structure
With the Avalanche on the heels of the Blues, the remaining 13-14 games could have made a huge difference in placing. Let’s not live in the past.
In the proposed playoff structure, the Blues would face the winner of the Winnipeg Jets/Calgary Flames series in the second round. If times were ‘normal’ and the Blues played the Flames out of the gate in the first round, they’d certainly have the advantage with a 3-0 record over the Flames in the 2019-20 season.
Considering the situation, it is difficult to assume who would have the advantage here.
The con of the situation is conditioning. The Blues may have Tarasenko back, but the Jets will have Patrik Laine back, as well. Laine is confident he’ll get back in his game shape.
The teams split wins/losses in their four-game matchup during the regular season played.
Another con to the playoff structure lay on the shoulders of every team – goalies. It’s one thing to have skaters keep their condition but it’s much more difficult for netminders to maintain their fluid, limber ability in net when there is no conditioning.
Jake Allen and Jordan Binnington have posted on social media and talked with reporters about what they’re doing during the quarantine time. No matter what they practice, it’s a different game once they get back between the pipes.
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All teams decimated by injuries prior to the postponement are no longer dealing with those issues. The Avalanche were down a few key players but everyone is healthy at this point.
Bottom line, it’s going to come down to who CAN play. All the teams have players that WILL play but really… it’s been an arduous position to be in for a professional hockey player.
Playoff Structure Success
For this proposed plan to work, the teams need to come in on an even slate. Something that can’t be guaranteed. No doubt these guys want to get back on the ice, but just like this virus; we don’t know what we’re dealing with. It could be good with time off or it could be bad. Only getting back in the arena will tell.
With a Mass Communications and Journalism degree from Florida International University, I completed internships with the Florida Panthers Hockey Club and Sports Illustrated. I’ve published several articles for various outlets, including one in ESPN Magazine and one on espn.com.