The Blues could win the Central Division and take the top seed in the Western Conference by the end of the night, but to do it, they’ll need help from the Nashville Predators, who have a 7 p.m. matchup with the Dallas Stars.
The Blues will need to earn one more point than the Stars tonight in order to win the West. A Blues win and a Stars’ loss in any fashion would do it, as would a Stars’ regulation loss and just one point by the Blues tonight against the Washington Capitals (7 p.m. FSMW, Y98 FM).
To finish first, the Blues cannot be tied in points with Dallas, as the Stars own the first tiebreaker: regulation and overtime wins.
Here are the first-round playoff scenarios based on tonight’s outcomes:
- If the Blues win the Central Division and the West, they’ll face the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs next week.
- If the Stars win the Central Division and the West, the Blues will meet the defending-champion Chicago Blackhawks next week.
“It’s definitely a big game for us here,” said Robby Fabbri, who will return to the lineup tonight after missing four games with a lower-body injury. “It’s going to be a good test against the Caps here. We know what they’re going to bring, we played them only a couple weeks ago. We’ve just got to stick to our game.”
“You knew at the start of the year things were going to be close and we’d have a tough division,” defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. “But to come down to the last day to see who is going to play who… It’s awesome that it comes down to the last game.”
Bouwmeester said he won’t be watching the out of town scores tonight, but others will. Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock will monitor the game during intermissions in his office, and forward Scottie Upshall says he’ll take a glance at the scoreboard every now and then on the bench.
No matter what the result tonight, whether the Blues win the West or don’t, Hitchcock said he’s proud of where his team is at.
“To be in this position is pretty remarkable. I think it’s a real credit to the players. It’s their spirit. It hasn’t been a rembrandt on some days, but just like the Chicago game, we just keep hanging around and staying with it. Guys deserve a lot of credit because they’ve overcome a lot to get where we’re at.”
OSHIE RETURNS TO STL
T.J. Oshie had to wait 81 games for a chance to see some old friends, but the moment is finally here.
“It’s great to be back. It’s a little weird, but really, really cool to see a lot of good faces that I miss quite a bit,” Oshie said this morning. “I got to go out with some of the boys to dinner last night, got to see all the trainers and a bunch of the staff here. It’s weird, but great to be back.”
Oshie had the flu in late March when the Blues visited the nation’s capital and wasn’t even at the rink for the Blues’ 4-0 win against Washington. Tonight’s game will be his first visit back to St. Louis and first meeting against the Blues all season.
A fan-favorite, Oshie played in 443 games for the Blues from 2008 until 2015 before he was traded for Troy Brouwer, goalie prospect Pheonix Copley and a third-round draft pick.
Oshie has played in 78 games this season for the Capitals, recording 26 goals and 24 assists.
“I expect them to be hitting me, I’m definitely going to be hitting them,” Oshie said of facing his former teammates. “Afterwards we’ll hug it out, but in game it’s going to be a battle.”
With so much on the line, the Blues will bring a full lineup (minus the injured players, of course). Here’s what we’d expect the lines to look like tonight:
Alexander Steen - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer
Jaden Schwartz - Patrik Berglund - Magnus Paajarvi
Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson - Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko
Regardless of tonight’s outcome, the Blues have their eighth 100-point season in club history and fifth consecutive season of having home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A victory tonight would give the Blues’ their fourth 50-win season.
The Blues will enter the playoffs on their best stretch run in team history, going 13-3-0 (.813) since the beginning of March.
Vladimir Tarasenko set a new career-high with his 38th and 39th goals Thursday in Chicago. He also has seven game-winning goals this season, which also is a career-best.
Brian Elliott has won 11 straight decisions, which passes a club record set by Brent Johnson in the 2001-02 season (10). In his last 13 games, Elliott has a 1.84 goals-against average, a .933 save-percentage and three shutouts. For the season, he ranks first in the League in goals-against average (2.00), first in save-percentage (.932) and second in win-percentage (.722) behind Washington’s Braden Holtby.
Speaking of Holtby, the Capitals goaltender is one win shy of Martin Brodeur’s regular-season record of 48 wins, which was set during the 2006-07 season.
The Bud Light Party Pregame Rally begins with live music at 4 p.m. in the Clark Avenue Plaza outside Scottrade Center. Fans can win great prizes, get 20% off Blues merchandise at the mobile trailer and much more. In addition, all fans at tonight’s game will receive a team poster courtesy of Fry-Wagner.