The Blues certainly could’ve drawn an easier opponent had they played better in the round-robin series. After going 0-2-1 in the first three games, blowing leads that they held going into the third period in each of them, the Blues will be playing the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the playoffs.
The Blues could’ve drawn the Blackhawks (4-0-0 in the regular season), the Coyotes (1-1-1), or the Calgary Flames (3-0-0). Instead, they’ll be playing the Canucks - a team that they’re pretty evenly matched up with. They finished the season 1-1-1 against Vancouver, and despite the 16 point difference between the two teams at the end of the season, St. Louis and Vancouver finished three and four in the league on power play percentage, and Vancouver finished 16th in penalty kill percentage to the Blues’ 18th. Vancouver’s 3.25 goals for a game is better than the Blues’ 3.14, which was enough for 14th in the league.
Where the gap comes in are the goals allowed a game - the Canucks allowed 3.10 goals a game; the Blues allowed 2.68. If the Blues can score, they can win. Simple as that. The problem is that their round-robin performance doesn’t create a lot of faith in that. One goal against Colorado, one against Dallas, and four goals - but from two players, David Perron and Colton Parayko - against Vegas: none of that is enough for a playoff series.
Sammy Blais is a probable no-go for game one due to an injury sustained during Sunday’s loss to the Stars. Ivan Barbashev will more than likely miss the first couple of games as he gets back into the bubble after his wife gave birth.
So what will the Blues need to do to win? Coach Craig Berube broke it down very clearly:
“Vancouver has a lot of young guys who are really good players, (have) a lot of speed,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “They’re a dangerous team offensively, they really come at you with speed. We’re going to have to do a good job of checking, doing the right things. And they also have a good power play. We took too many penalties (in the round-robin), so it’s important we have to stay out of the penalty box.”
Don’t. Take. Penalties. That what it boils down to, and that was something that the Blues didn’t do much with in their last game against the Stars.
History isn’t on the Blues’ side; they’ve never beaten the Canucks in the postseason. But that kind of history doesn’t matter. It matters as much as what happened last June. This is a new playoff series, a new postseason, and this series can easily go either way. If the Blues have focused goaltending and some offense, they’re good. If the offense dries up and the defense reverts back to how they played against Vegas? They’re going to have problems getting out of the first round.
Focusing on just one team, and knowing that the playoffs have officially begun should go a long way to centering the Blues’ focus where it needs to go.