The anticipation continues to grow for us Blues fans, we are days away from hockey’s return and the more prep I find myself doing for Wednesday’s pregame show (right here on 101 ESPN), the more I amp myself up for a season that will be unlike any other.
I read an article over the weekend though that has the Blues in the “2nd Tier” of Cup contenders while teams like Colorado, Vegas, Toronto, Tampa and Boston all find themselves ahead of the Blues. Some of those teams the Blues won’t have to deal with until the postseason and by then, as the saying goes, anything can happen. But it’s the teams in the West division with St. Louis that I’m confused about. So I began to dig and figured, time for another “Ferrario Five” of the teams that should be concerning in this division.
In this list I considered a lot of different variables from the last three season match-ups for the Blues. Roster additions/subtractions, offensive stats & more.
This might sound crazy to some considering the Avalanche and Golden Knights are both higher favorites for the Cup than the Blues but hear me out. If you look at the regular season numbers from the last 3 seasons, the Coyotes have had the Blues number. It’s 9 games which is around the average games played against opponents other than the Avalanche & Blackhawks but Arizona has continued to improve. The main reason they make me nervous THIS season is due to their Head Coach, Rick Tocchet. He is the identical version of Craig Berube and the Blues but with a different roster. I see the Arizona Coyotes as a team that plays like the Canucks but has the fighting mindset like the Blues. Goaltending and health were their major issues last season and if that works in their favor this year, then I think they can cause issues during this match-up eight times.
Vegas Golden Knights
This one I think everyone can get on board with but I have Vegas ahead of Colorado simply because of one player, Alex Pietrangelo. If you were to view the numbers, the Blues haven’t lost a game to Vegas in regulation since their inception. They also have lost just as many games in overtime as they’ve won. The Golden Knights seem to have everything, the offensive punch, the better goalie duo & Ryan Reaves to get under the Blues’ skin. What has always worked in STL’s favor though has been the ability to have a better defensive unit and shut things down to, at least, force overtime. That was with Pietrangelo. This team with the star power & coaching familiarity of Pete DeBoer can be a juggernaut in this shortened season. Their success all comes down to how strong their scoring depth will be with no Stastny this season.
I have Colorado third on my list of concerns because of familiarity. For some reason the Blues step their game up against this Avalanche team that they know what to expect from. Yes, Colorado got stronger with the additions of Brandon Saad up front and Devon Toews on the blue line. Although, the last three seasons the Blues have held this team to the third fewest goals allowed per game of all teams in the West division. They’ve also dominated the powerplay with a 27.8% and with the Blues additions, that may get even better. All of that being said, Colorado will still be an uphill battle with their speed and depth but I think experience gives the Blues the advantage and that is why the Avalanche dips to #3 for me.
Minnesota is a wild card for this upcoming season (yes, pun intended). This is the only other team (along with Arizona) that is.500 or better against St. Louis over the last 3 seasons. They also have scored the most goals against STL of all the teams in the West (3.09 GA per game) which could be a Blues weakness this season with no Pietrangelo. Now, Minnesota did change personnel by losing Koivu, Staal and Dubnyk but that actually backs up my case for them being #4, youth. Much like Arizona, this team is filled with guys who are in “prove it” situations with new GM Bill Guerin looking to set a new tone. They have a strong defensive unit and their goaltending could be better with Cam Talbot as an addition. This season will all come down to how they adapt to playing in the West division rather than the Central for a shortened year.
San Jose Sharks
Finally, I think the 5th spot can be a toss up for any of the three California teams but I went with the Sharks. They lost Joe Thornton which will be a big roster flip in terms of leadership and offensive consistency for this season. San Jose was awful last season but injuries and terrible goaltending got the best of them. If healthy this season, this Sharks team has a ton of offense that can cause fits to a Blues team that has shown problems in the past. Really it comes down to goaltending if the Sharks will be an issue for STL. Blues have scored the least amount of goals versus this team in the last three seasons (2.25 per game). If Martin Jones can regain his form and with Dubnyk joining the fold, if goaltending shores up the Sharks could steal some crucial points this season.
Let the debating begin!