The St. Louis Blues: This Might Be The Year

St. Louis Blues Captain David Backes

Image Courtesy of Flickr. Photograph by Bridget Samuels.

If you’re pondering over the identity of the NHL’s legit Stanley Cup contenders, the St. Louis Blues are probably pretty high on your list. While choosing favourites at this time of year, all we have to go on is each club’s performance over the last few seasons and how stacked their lineup appears on paper. The Blues broke out of a long slumber in the 2011-12 season. They made the playoffs comfortably, sitting atop the Central Division, and 2nd in the Western Conference with 109 points. It was a huge step forward and a clear declaration to the rest of the league that the St. Louis Blues were becoming a Stanley Cup threat.

In 2012-13 they were expected to once again win the Central, and this time, follow it up by challenging for hockey’s ultimate prize. Things didn’t go according to plan. As we all know, the Chicago Blackhawks were near perfect, preventing the Blues or anyone else from achieving hockey’s greatest reward, the Stanley Cup.

The Blues stumbled to match the pace they set in 2012-13, but all things considered, they were quietly one of the best teams in the National Hockey League last season. Their 150 goals against tied them for 5th least in the league, and with 60 points, the Blues sported the 6th best record in the NHL by season’s end.

They started the playoffs strongly, going up 2-0 on the defending Stanley Cup champs from Los Angeles. It was a promising beginning to the playoffs, but it didn’t last. The mighty Kings powered their way back into the series with 4 straight wins, leading to a 6 game series loss for the Blues. But you know that already. So, what went wrong?

The St. Louis Blues Struggle To Find Offence, At Times

The Blues are stacked with talent up front, however, there were nights last season, when goals were hard to come by. In the tight checking Round 1 series against the Kings, each game was decided by one goal, and that game deciding decisive goal was scored by LA in four of six contests. Sometimes, not being able to score a ton of goals is the result of a tendency to play strict defensive hockey, and the Blues do love to play it tight. But St. Louis also lack a top flight goal scorer, and without one, they fail to match the mould of your standard issue Stanley Cup winner.

Sure, the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins have proven themselves Cup winners without an authentic sniper in the lineup, but it’s not the norm. The 95′ Devils and 11′ Bruins were very rich in four line forward depth. Plus, they fielded dedicated to defence blue lines, under the tutelage of insanely defence first thinking coaches. Their goaltenders were world class, top of the pile in the league, also. It’s a stretch to say the Blues have goaltending comparable to Martin Brodeur 94′ or Tim Thomas 2011.

The Blues can try and follow this blueprint, but it’s the road less travelled. I guess at the end of the day, a team has to play to their strengths. All that being said, the St. Louis Blues have some trending upward goal scoring in the form of two players with an increasing tendency to find the back of the net.

In Vladimir Tarasenko and Chris Stewart Missouri’s noteworthy hockey club possesses two wingers who have proven in spurts to be lethal offensive weapons. If they can both have career years in 2013-14, offence will come more frequently and more timely.

Who Is The St. Louis Blues #1 Goalie?

In 2011-12 when the Blues broke out of nowhere and finished 2nd in the West, they did so with two goaltenders playing near perfect hockey. It’s okay to have two good goalies, as long as, come playoff time you know which one to lean on more heavily. The combo of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott were good enough to win the Jennings Award that season.

Last season, things got a little complicated when the situation went from two starters to three. At one point, Halak even became the third stringer. It will be interesting to see how the goaltending fight for ice time plays itself out as the 2013-14 NHL season rolls along. Based on the prototypical design of a winner, it’s ideal that one of Halak, Elliott, or Jake Allen stand up and take over.

Are The Blues Ready To Win A Stanley Cup?

At this point in time, before the 2013-14 NHL season has witnessed its first puck drop, any prediction made is tainted with blindness. There’s no telling what injuries may occur, player trades will transpire, and meltdowns will erupt that will negatively affect the Blues, or one of their rivals. As we sit here in anticipation of the dawn of a new season, the St. Louis Blues are a Stanley Cup contender, on paper, and in theory. This could be the year.