Whether or not you buy into the idea that momentum doesn’t exist in the playoffs, the value of confidence cannot be overlooked. That’s what makes the final eight to 10 games of the season so important for any playoff-bound team – but especially for the St. Louis Blues.
Sure they’re the best team in the league (at this moment) but the Bruins, Sharks and Ducks are still hanging around in the rear view mirror. Any hiccups now can cost the team a valuable spot in the standings and, more importantly, can inject some doubt into the minds of the players.
That’s why the last nine games are especially important for the Blues to work out any kinks. And they’ll get the chance to do just that against some formidable opponents, with only one of their nine remaining games coming against a team with no shot at the playoffs (the Buffalo Sabres):
Playoff bound teams
Colorado Avalanche April 5
@Chicago Blackhawks April 6
Each opponent is heading to the playoffs (not officially, but at this point it’s just a formality). Each will be a good opportunity for the Blues to prime themselves for the type of competition they’ll likely face in the playoffs.
Dallas Stars Mar. 29, @Dallas April 11
Philadelphia Flyers April 1
Washington Capitals April 8
@Minnesota Wild April 10
Detroit Red Wings April 13
It’s these games that, to the surprise of some, could provide an ever bigger challenge. Each of the above mentioned teams is fighting for its respective playoff life, so the desperation level will be sky high in these games.
Dallas continues to hang around the wild card race and could potentially make up some serious ground on the Phoenix Coyotes who are without Mike Smith. That these two teams will meet twice before the end of the season will only add to the drama.
The Flyers are holding the third spot in the Metropolitan Division but could move higher so long as Claude Giroux continues to produce. The Flyers will also be coming in with the confidence of a 4-1 come-from-behind victory March 22.
The Capitals, meanwhile, are tied for a wild card spot, but could just as easily find themselves in either the two or three-seed in the weak Metropolitan if they can string together a few wins. They won the only other meeting this season by a 4-1 final, which shouldn’t sit well with the Blues.
The Wild will be seeking revenge on St. Louis after an embarrassing 5-1 loss March 27th. In the process they’ll also be trying to maintain their first seed in the wild card – though, admittedly, they have a respectable cushion.
Finally, Detroit is in a four-team race for a playoff spot and has played considerably better lately. This could be a very difficult game for St. Louis if the Wings are still hanging around, however, because it’s Detroit’s last game of the season and their post-season hopes are uncertain.
All this is to say that St. Louis can’t just expect to coast through these final games. They’ll get the elite competition from the playoff teams, but the bubble teams will be desperate and hungry for a spot in the big dance.