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Why They Will Win

Blues will storm to Stanley Cup

Coaching switch one of many positive changes for title-bound St. Louis

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

There has been an unbelievable amount of change since the St. Louis Blues lost to the San Jose Sharks in the 2016 Western Conference Final. 

The coach, Ken Hitchcock, was fired on Feb. 1 with the Blues struggling. The plan to replace Hitchcock with Mike Yeo at season's end was accelerated by several months.

Center David Backes, thoroughly gutted after elimination in Game 6, was not aggressively pursued in free agency. He plays with the Boston Bruins now, and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has replaced him as captain.

Kevin Shattenkirk, the high-scoring defenseman, was traded to the Washington Capitals on Feb. 27 for future assets, with general manager Doug Armstrong opting for long-term sustainability over short-term gain.


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Those are only the headlines in a season of upheaval for the Blues.

But the thing about change, as painful as it can be, is that it can be beneficial in the long run.

That's the case with the 2016-17 St. Louis Blues, who have been hardened by adversity and have forged the characteristics needed to be champions.

Goaltender Jake Allen, who was on the verge of losing his No. 1 job at midseason, turned it around and wound up breaking the 30-win plateau for the first time in his four-year NHL career.

Reliable right wing Vladimir Tarasenko, one of the most consistent scorers in the League, had his third straight season with at least 70 points. Left wing Jaden Schwartz had at least 55 points for the third consecutive full season. Pietrangelo, now St. Louis' top defenseman, scored an NHL career-high 14 goals. And depth forward David Perron returned to the Blues, who selected him with the 26th pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, and had his best offensive numbers in the past four seasons.

Their power play has clicked, averaging more than 20 percent since the coaching change and, and the St. Louis penalty kill has been the best in the League since February.

The ability to kill penalties and cover up for the occasional lapse in discipline, especially in what will be a physically arduous and emotionally draining march through the Western Conference side of the bracket, will pay huge dividends.

Plus, like any championship team, the Blues are getting stronger and healthier at the right time.

In a stunning turn of events, forward Vladimir Sobotka returned to the Blues on Thursday, terminating his contract in the Kontinental Hockey League to honor the terms of the one-year contract he was awarded through arbitration in 2014. He had left the NHL after the award and signed a three-year contract with Avangard Omsk instead.

Sobotka, 29, is a defensively capable forward with some offensive upside. He is also strong in the faceoff circle, which will improve an area of need for St. Louis.

The Blues even overcame injuries to forward Robby Fabbri, who tore the ACL in his left knee on Feb. 4, and to forward Paul Stastny, who sustained a lower-body injury on March 22. As a result, younger, untested players have gotten some unexpected minutes at the NHL level.

A season of change and challenge has made the Blues mentally tougher than they have ever been come April and beyond, which will lead to them raising the Stanley Cup for the first time.

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