I posted previously looking at who the Blues might face in the first round of the playoffs. The basis of the article was who would win the wildcard spot between Phoenix and Dallas. While this may still be relevent, the Blues are looking more like Ryan Miller's previous team than a team who had their eyes on the presidents trophy. There are 3 games left on the Blues schedule, and all 3 are games against quality opponents. With the Avalanche only 2 points behind, it is becoming a real possibility that we lose out on the central division. Here is a break down of the Blues final 3 games.
Blues @ Wild -
The Blues have had the Wild's number this season, but as of late the Wild are coming on strong. They are finishing their season by beating some of the top teams in the league while the Blues fall to pieces. In their past 6 games the Wild are 5-1. Their only loss came to Chicago while they managed to beat Boston, Winnipeg, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. That is a murderers row of games, and the Wild have found a way to come out on top. This game is also set in Minnesota, making it even tougher on the Blues. They will also be without captain David Backes, a Minnesota native. This is a game that the old Blues would win, but a game that looks desperatly out of reach of the new look unit. A unit who's top scorer is Maxim Lapierre.
Blues @ Stars -
The Stars have been laying a shellacking to the Blues as of late. They have won their last 2 in a row against the note, and now get to host the Blues in Dallas. The Stars are a hungry team. They have rallied since Rich Peverly fell dead on the bench, and have come out with a vengeance. Their first win against the Blues came a day after Rich collapsed. The Stars are fighting to stay in the playoffs over the Phoenix Coyotes. The Blues' ticket is already punched, making the Stars a far more desperate team, and playing at home in front of their fans. If the Blues current play is any measurement of their effort and ability in the future against the Stars, the Blues could easily drop this game as well. The Stars are 5-2 in their last 7 games, beating teams like Nashville, St. Louis, Tampa, and Washington.
Blues vs. Red Wings -
The Blues end their season at home against their old rivals the Detroit Red Wings. This will be the only game I am able to attend this season, and I couldn't have picked a worse time. The Blues are limping into the playoffs and have set the stage to get embarrassed at home against their rivals. The wings had some sketchy stretches through the season but have put it together and are currently in the playoffs. They are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, beating the likes of Boston and the red hot Wild. The injury front this far in advance can't be predicted. There is a good chance David Backes will be back in the lineup for this game, but whether Tarasenko will return early, or be held out even in the first round of the playoffs is yet to be determined. I can't imagine him returning sooner, but he has been seen skating at practice this week.
At mid season or even a month ago, I would have bet money that the Blues wouldn't lose 6 straight games to close out the season, but the stage is set for that kind of drama. This isn't to say the light couldn't come back on, but since the loss of Tarasenko, this team has been a quivering cup of jell-o instead of the toughest in the league. The Avalanche also have 3 games left this season. The only bright side is they face all of them on the road. The only team they face who should put up only minimal fight is the Vancouver Canucks. They aren't a push over at home, but compared to their final 2 games, this is the only one that looks easy. They then travel to San Jose and Anaheim respectively. Both of those teams are powers in the west, and will make life hard on Patrick Roy and Co. If the Avalanche win only 1 of their remaining games, and the Blues lose out there will be a tie. This means it comes down to a tiebreaker. In that event, the Avalanche would win the higher seed, as they hold the tiebreaker advantage on the Blues. The first relevant tiebreaker is the team with more wins with shoot out wins subtracted. The Blues have won 9 times this season thanks to shootouts. The Avalanche have only won 5. With the season 3 games away from its conclusion, the Blues must win the same number of games or more than the Avalanche to keep their top spot. That is no small challenge.