National Hockey League

There’s no reason to think the Blues will slow down any time soon

How cool is it to not only have a team that’s played at the highest level and won a championship, but have it continue its greatness?

That’s where we stand with the St. Louis Blues, who won their eighth straight game Sunday…and their second in a row over division rival Winnipeg…4-1.  There are numerous remarkable aspects to this team, and we’ll get into many of them in the next few moments.  But to me one of the most amazing things about the Blues is that they can still dominate while playing far from their best game.

That was the case Sunday.  The Blues shot the puck 59 times with 28 being on net.  Winnipeg fired 53 shots with 26 being on goal.  The Blues went 1-2 on the power play, while the Jets went 0-3.  The Blues did dominate in the faceoff circle, winning 64% of the draws in the game.  Both goalies played well.  But the Blues led 3-1 before scoring an empty net goal, and delivered a workmanlike victory.  We know the Blues can absolutely dominate Winnipeg, but they didn’t need to play their best game to knock off the Jets in a weekend home-and-home.

They’re remarkably consistent, going 13-4-3 at home and 13-4-3 on the road.  They’ve lost just eight games in regulation, and have lost three straight games in regulation once in forty games.  So, we have a pretty good idea of what they are.

Here’s another great stat-the Blues are 10-1-1 against the central division.  2-0-0 against Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota and Winnipeg.  The only division foe to handle the Blues so far has been the Nashville Predators, against whom the Blues are 0-1-1.

Perhaps the rest of the NHL might feel better if the Blues were JUST beating up on the central division, but they’re beating up on everyone.  Since last January 3, they’re 56-18-11 for a league leading 123 points.  In that same span, Boston is second with 116 points.  Washington, leading the league by a point over the Blues this season, has 114.  Then you’ve got Carolina, who had a second half similar to the Blues last season, with 110 and the Islanders and Tampa Bay with 108 each.  That’s five eastern conference teams that have at least 100 points in the last calendar year.  In the Western Conference, Calgary’s 98 points…25 fewer than the Blues…are the next most.  Winnipeg and Colorado have the next most in the central with 92 points, trailing the Blues by a whopping 31 points since early last January.

The Blues are obviously doing it this year without their top goal scorer, Vladimir Tarasenko.  They’ve played a good portion of this season without top nine forwards Tarasenko, Sammy Blais, Alexander Steen and Robert Thomas.  What they have had is exceptional goaltending, great defensive play and an impressive ability to raise their level of play when necessary.

On Friday night in Winnipeg, the Blues led 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3 before finally winning in overtime in Winnipeg.  They found a way to come out on top.  They can win a game like that, or they can suppress the league’s top two leading scorers, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in a 2-1 win at Edmonton.  Not many teams have the ability to be a chameleon and win in any way required.

The Blues leading scorer, David Perron, is the sixteenth leading scorer in the NHL.  They probably don’t have a Hart Trophy winner and certainly don’t have an Art Ross winner for leading scorer.  What they do have are a couple of defensemen in Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko capable of winning a Norris Trophy and a couple of goalies capable of winning a Vezina for best goaltending.

Jordan Binnington leads the NHL with nineteen wins.  Among goalies with at least ten games, he’s ninth in goals against average at 2.39 and eleventh in save percentage at .921.  Binnington’s goaltending partner, Jake Allen, is second in save percentage at .931 and third in GAA with a 2.19.  Allen is 7-2-2 in his eleven starts.

With the way the Blues are set up, with a defense and goaltending first approach, they’ll be a tough out in the playoffs again.  They have depth on the blueline, and obviously have two terrific goalies.

This amazing run enters it’s second calendar year with a road trip to Arizona, Colorado and Las Vegas before returning for a five game homestand.  There’s no reason to believe the Blues are anything but the best team in the west, and that’s fun.  When you root for a team that can win in any way they’re asked to win and finds a way to keep doing it, it doesn’t get any better.  And that’s what the Blues are right now.