Well, it would have been nice to do so on the strength of your own win, nonetheless ... the Blues have clinched a postseason berth when Boston beat Phoenix last night.
We. Are. In.
Now, it's just a matter of positioning. Ideally, the Blues finish first in the whole damn league. Or, at least, the West. Bare minimum, let's just win the Central, eh boys? First things first, and one leads to the next, after all. As things stand now, the Blues have a 4-point lead on Chicago for the Central, only 1 point on San Jose for the West, and are 2 points behind the Bruins for the Whole Damn League. Good, but not quite where we want to be. Definitely nothing to get comfortable about. Allowing it to be this close, it's almost to the point where my heart can't take it no more. Fortunately, the Blues (and us fans) don't have time to relax - there's another game just down the road in Pittsburgh. After a hard-fought loss in Philly, there's nothing left to do but get right back into the fight. The Blues will need to fight hard to avoid going down for the third time on this road trip.
Actually, both teams are playing back-to-backs. Yesterday, the Penguins hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning and won in OT. After allowing the tying goal in the last 90 seconds of regulation, the Pens took advantage of a Bolts Too-Many-Men penalty to score a Power Play Goal in OT. Huh ... power play goals ... I've heard of those...
Back in November, the Blues beat the Pens 2-1 at DrinkScotch, so I can imagine that the Penguins will want to even up that series. Additionally, the Pens will be wanting to put more space between them and the Philadelphia Flyers in the MEH-tropolitan Division standings. Pittsburgh has a sizable lead, but everything isn't settled quite yet. And, like us, the Pittsburgh team doesn't want to just win their division. They are trying to catch up and pass the Bruins for home ice there in the East.
Once again, it's too early of a game to be throwing a lot of numbers around. The one that I guaran-damn-tee that you will hear tonight is this: in 7 career games against St Louis, the great Sidney Crosby has 0 goals (and 4 assists). We are one of the few teams that The Kid hasn't scored against. Also, yesterday's shenanigans simply cannot repeat today. A continual parade to the penalty box will cost even more dearly today. The Pens have the best Power Play in the league (24.6%), and the second best PK (86.8%). It would behoove us to keep this at 5vs5 hockey. A special teams battle will get us nothing but heartaches.
The lead scorers are all the usual suspects- they have 5 players with 50 points or more. Heck, Sidney has almost doubled that mark. He leads the team in goals (34) and overall points (94). Evgeni Malkin is second with 23 goals and 49 assists for 72 points. Chris Kunitz has 62 points (32g. 30a), and James Neal (more like Knee-l, amirite?) follows with 52 points (23g, 29a). Rounding out the top 5 is Jussi Jokinen and his 50 points (17g. 33a). Someone else to watch out for is our ol' buddy Lee Stempniak . Since coming to Pittsburgh at the deadline, Dutchie has 7 points in 9 games. Man, what a strange place the NHL can be.... one day, you're playing in Calgary... a week later, you're playing for one of the top teams in the East, and playing on a line with Sidney Crosby.
As for goaltending, Bylsma had backup Jeff Zatkoff in net against the Bolts. Therefore, it's a safe bet that Marc-Andre Fleury will be between the pipes today. He's had a pretty good year, with a 34-15-4 record and a stat line of 2.39 GAA and .915 Sv%. Although, he's been known to crack before, too. His postseasons are reflections of some serious Jeckyll and Hyde cases.
Final Verse: Unfortunately (considering our record in those situations), it's another Noon game. Opening faceoff is at 12:00 St Louis time. The TV Broadcast will be on Fox Sports MW, and also on the NHL Network. The radio call is on the mighty KMOX 1120 AM. The happening place to be is the GDT, which should drop just before the puck does. In the meantime, consider this your morning skate. Gather here, bemoan yesterday's loss, bitch about the officiating, and offer up which you like better in the morning - Mimosa or Bloody Mary? While you're thinking that over, here's a video of something that happened earlier this weekend with our Chicago Wolves youngsters (story here)...