There will be a narrative that dominates the discussion about the St. Louis Blues in the next few days -- that they are too inexperienced in the postseason to be a serious threat to claim the Stanley Cup.
Don't believe it.
While many of the Blues' key skaters are short on Stanley Cup Playoff experience, there are guys on this team that have been through the postseason wars. More importantly, the Blues have the necessary components to thrive in the postseason and claim the Stanley Cup.The Big Why:
First, St. Louis is better at preventing goals than anyone. Jaroslav Halak
and Brian Elliott
have already secured a trip to Las Vegas for the postseason awards show by allowing the fewest goals in the NHL this season to earn the Jennings Trophy. The Blues have allowed 1.89 goals per game this season.
Halak is one of those guys who has playoff experience -- he carried Montreal to the Eastern Conference Finals two years ago. Forwards Jason Arnott
and Jamie Langenbrunner
have both won the Cup, and could provide a valuable calming experience, as well as wisdom.
The second thing St. Louis excels at is controlling the play at even strength. There are fewer penalties called during the postseason, so five-on-five play is even more important. The Blues have allowed 101 goals at even strength -- 20 fewer than anyone else. Their five-on-five goals for/against ratio is 1.35, which is second in the League behind Detroit.
St. Louis puts nearly four shots more per game on net more than its opponents (3.9), which is the fourth-biggest advantage behind San Jose, Pittsburgh and Detroit. The Blues have gotten better goaltending than any of those three teams.Alex Pietrangelo
has become a Norris Trophy contender and true No. 1 defenseman. Kevin Shattenkirk
has been a great addition in his first full season, and gives St. Louis a potent one-two offensive punch from the blue line.The Big Uh-Oh:
This team doesn't have a lot of weaknesses, depending on how much the experience issue actually plays into their journey. There are a lot of nice pieces on offense, but there might not be a guy who can carry the team at that end when others are struggling to score.David Perron
, Andy McDonald
and Alex Steen
have returned from injuries, while David Backes
has become a top two-way center. There is also serious depth at forward, as the Blues can ice three scoring lines with plenty of grit on them as well. Will they score enough?The Final Argument:
Then there is coach Ken Hitchcock, who has plenty of playoff experience behind the bench. He might end up being a valuable weapon when playoff series can turn on one line matchup, or one intermission adjustment. Don't believe the negative hype -- St. Louis is one of the three or four best teams in the NHL and a serious contender for the Cup. And not next season or the one after that, either -- the Blues can win right now.