I'm sure that many of us read this article breaking down the Rangers' possible opponents in the playoffs. After I read it, I started thinking about the possible scenarios for the Blues come playoff time. Some matchups in the Western are pretty much set in stone, while the wild card race (actually, both of them, but I'm ignoring the Eastern for now (but go Jackets!)) is getting really interesting.
So who will the Blues face in the first round. And more importantly, who should they face?
Barring a Maple Leafs-like meltdown, St. Louis will take the Central Division. Sports Club Stats (whose traffic must go through the roof this time of year) also gives a 99.1% chance of Chicago and Colorado taking the 2 and 3 seeds, with smart money giving Colorado home ice in that series.
Now, the wild cards. Currently, we have:
- Minnesota -- 89 points, 6 games remaining (92.2% chance of making playoffs, per SCS)
- Phoenix -- 84 points, 7 games remaining (47.8% chance)
- Dallas -- 83 points, 8 games remaining (59.7% chance)
Technically, Vancouver has a chance (a 0.3% chance), but who are we kidding?
St. Louis and Anaheim are still battling for tops in the conference, so this discussion isn't about which wild card slots will be occupied by which teams; instead, it's about which team those wild card teams would face.
Head to head, how have the Blues done against those three teams?
- 4-0-0 against MIN (GF/GA of 13/4) (one game left)
- 2-0-1 against PHX (GF/GA of 8/6)
- 2-1-1 against DAL (GF/GA of 13/10) (one game left)
And how have those teams fared against Anaheim?
- MIN -- 1-1-1
- PHX -- 0-3-2
- DAL -- 2-1-0
As Blues fans, we're painfully aware that the playoffs change everything (hellooooo, 99-00). But without extended deep playoff perfomances from those three teams (or the Blues, for that matter) in the past few years, I'd imagine that their performance in the playoffs could be reasonably extrapolated from regular season records (which is a logical leap, I know. Sue me).
Anyway, glancing at those stats, it's safe to say that a first round matchup between the Blues and Wild would tilt the odds in our favor. Also, Dallas seems to have the best shot not only against Anaheim, but against the Pacific side of the bracket as well (2-1 against LA, 1-0-2 against San Jose). The Blues would definitely benefit from having either (a) a Central Division team come out of the Pacific bracket, or (b) a severely bruised and tired Pacific team. Dallas seems to be best suited to provide that.
Of course, we can't forget the remainder of the Central bracket -- Colorado and Chicago. I know I'm not the only one to be happy with that matchup. Colorado has taken four of five games between those teams, and while the Blues have taken three of four from Chicago so far, at least we know that if the Hawks reach the second round, it'll be a fight for them to do so.
As it stands right now, the Wild are the most likely first round opponent for both the Blues and the Ducks (37.2% and 50.5% chances, respectively -- gotta love statistics). As ever, something will undoubtedly happen to throw all of this out the window (the Sharks take over the Pacific division, that 0.8% chance of the Blues and Hawks meeting in the first round actually happens, the Leafs win, hell freezes over, etc., etc.). But I was bored at work. So there you go.
P.S. A quick shoutout to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, who have managed to fight their way from an 8 seed through the 1 seed Dynamo Moscow and 2 seed SKA St Petersburg to reach the conference finals in the KHL. Oh, and an extra shoutout to their goalie....former Blue, Curtis Sanford, whose 94.5% save percentage is tops in the playoffs.