The St. Louis Blues enter Sunday’s game with the Detroit Red Wings needing at least a point and then some help to win the Central Division.
The Colorado Avalanche are in Anaheim, tied in points (111) but ahead in ROW (47-43) vs. the Blues. So St. Louis needs to have more points than Colorado at the end of the day, or it’s a first-round date with the Chicago Blackhawks rather than the Minnesota Wild.
But at this point, it might not even matter who the opponent is for the Blues. They’re beat up and beating themselves.
The Blues have lost five in a row, but they’ve lost so much more than that recently: Top forwards, the swagger of their goaltender and the confidence that had carried them through a Presidents’ Trophy contending season until a late-season skid derailed those hopes.
"We’ve been able to pretty much the whole year stay healthy," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said this week.
"We would have preferred better timing, but it is what it is and it’s all about who’s in now. You never know, everybody goes through this. We just got it at the end of year. You got to just stay focused on the guys you have.”
The injuries coincide with a perilous offensive slump: The Blues haven’t scored more than two goals in eight straight games, and have been shut out twice in their last five games.
All season, I’ve felt there were two factors that would make or break the Blues in the postseason: Secondary scoring and goaltending.
Whatever their top line ends up being – Alex Steen and T.J. Oshie would seem the constants – it’ll be matched by the shutdown units from teams like Chicago and Los Angeles. The sputtering offense conjures images memories of that 1.67 GFA last postseason and that sweep two years ago to the Kings, where the Blues managed to score six goals in four games.
The goaltending appeared solidified when Ryan Miler was stopping nearly everything during a stretch in March. But he’s given up 19 goals in his last six games, including 15 in his last four – although his 3-goal effort against Dallas came while facing 40 shots.
Not the way you want to roll into the postseason.
It’s not all gloom for the Blues, who are 8-8-1 since March 10.
Their possession numbers remain strong:
While it’s clear that luck’s not on their side lately; but, peaks and valleys happen:
The Blues are stumbling into the postseason. But a win against the Wings could help change that vibe; and the time off before their first postseason game could bring back a number of banged up bodies.
“The playoffs start Thursday and I’d imagine we’re hopeful all or most of these guys are back for Thursday,” said Hitchcock.