The St. Louis Blues’ Thursday loss to the Vegas Golden Knights guaranteed them a 3rd or 4th place ranking in the First Round seeding. Their exact ranking will be determined by their Sunday game against the Dallas Stars, where the winner will get 3rd and the loser gets 4th.
But their confining to the bottom-two rankings makes things much clearer for St. Louis, in terms of what to anticipate heading into the first round. Thanks to the Western Conference win-percentage rankings, there are two teams the Blues could play in the First Round. If they beat Dallas, they’ll face off against the 8th-ranked Calgary Flames. If they lose to Dallas, the Blues will face the 7th-ranked Vancouver Canucks. This is, of course, pending any upsets, which would see the Blues play one of Calgary or the 10th-ranked Minnesota Wild or even the 5th-ranked Edmonton Oilers.
This is... worrying, to say the least. Both Calgary and Vancouver have looked strong through the Qualifying Round, clearly finding their form. Calgary would surely be the easier of the two teams to face-off against. While they did look surprisingly well, winning each of their three games emphatically, they’re moving on in large part thanks to the many, many weaknesses of the Winnipeg Jets roster. The Jets’ woes at defense were readily apparent through the season and their two star scorers, Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine, were both injured after Game One. This gave Calgary one of the easiest Qualifying Rounds in the NHL, as they simply had to find a way to topple Connor Hellebuyck; something they did with ease.
Vancouver has had a much tougher road. They faced off against the somehow-good Minnesota Wild, who pulled themselves together to form a Qualifying Round-worthy team this season despite not having any expectations going into it. The battle between Vancouver and Minnesota has been one of playoff-veterans versus playoff-rookies. The Canucks are a dazzling, young team, with names like Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes leading the pack through the Qualifying Round. But their inexperience has shown at times, leading to nervous showings and poor play. While it seems they’ve found their footing — shown by a 3-0 victory on Thursday — there’s no telling how such an inexperienced team would do in the face of the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
Of course, these matchups are made assuming that Chicago and Vancouver both win tonight. If Edmonton manages to come back from their 2-1 series deficit, the Blues will still be guaranteed a matchup against one of Vancouver or Calgary. If Minnesota overcomes their deficit, the Blues will play either them or Calgary.
If Chicago and Vancouver win tonight... Blues play Vancouver or Calgary.
If Edmonton wins the series against Chicago... Blues play Vancouver or Edmonton.
If Minnesota wins the series against Vancouver... Blues play Calgary or Minnesota.
If Edmonton and Minnesota win... Blues play Calgary or Edmonton.
The First Round is looking interesting, to say the least. Do the Blues want to face off against St. Louis’ own Matthew Tkachuk and his gritty group of forwards? Do they want to battle the young phenoms Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes? Or are they hoping for yet another playoff series against the surprisingly strong, veteran lineup of the Minnesota Wild? Or maybe even the terrifying duo of Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid.
Let us know who you hope the Blues play in the comments below or on Twitter @StLouisGameTime or @NHLFoley!