Thursday night’s word from Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong that Andy McDonald passed his baseline test and that David Perron is doing light skating certainly provides some encouragement for the rest of the season. A Blues club that was built to play solid defense and get its offensive production from their top three forwards would finally get those players back.
Of the Blues next nine games, seven are against teams that the Blues are within four points of or ahead of in the west, with the other two against Tampa Bay and Florida from the Eastern Conference, teams the Blues have dominated this season.
That stretch, plus games against the west leading Canucks and Buffalo Sabres, would be one month of time for McDonald and Perron to get ready for the stretch run. If the Blues can simply stay within four points of the eighth spot in the west…getting 15 or more of the available 22 points, they would be primed for a solid stretch run.
When Perron went down on November 4, the Blues were 7-1-2. When McDonald suffered his concussion exactly one month later, they were 12-9-4. Without Perron, they’re 15-17-4, and without McDonald 10-9-2. Without question, getting two of your top forwards back…especially with fresh legs…is going to provide a boost.
If the Blues can get those two back for a February 19th game against Anaheim; they’ll have 25 games remaining. That’s plenty of time to overcome a four or five point deficit in the standings. It’s NOT enough time to make up an eight or ten point deficit.
Ultimately, the Blues can come back and make the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, and their young players can make huge strides if they do make the playoffs. They have a month for their concussed key forwards to return. That’s a month for T.J. Oshie to round into shape. They need Jaroslav Halak to play at a consistently high level, and for their defensemen to do the same.
The Blues, when healthy, can be a threat in the Western conference. And they could become whole in the near future. The key is going to be keeping pace without those key pieces for the next month. If they’re within five after that month, they have a chance. If they’re ten back, the season is over.