St. Louis Blues Have Breathing Room in Central Division: Fan Take

The St. Louis Blues can finally relax in the 2011-2012 NHL season. The once-packed Central Division finally has some teams spread out. At one time in early January, there were just five points separating the four best teams in the Central Division. Now it's past the All-Star break and St. Louis is in second place in the Central Division.

The Blues can afford to lose a few games here and there. They have 79 points on the year, good enough for the fourth seed in the Western Conference if the playoffs were to start today. That's five points behind the red-hot Detroit Red Wings and five points ahead of the Nashville Predators.

Perhaps more importantly, the eight seed Calgary Flames have 65 points, a full 14 points (seven victories) behind St. Louis.

The Blues had 87 points all of last season and missed the playoffs by 10 points. That translates into roughly nine more victories for the Blues to minimally make the playoffs in 2012. Hopefully they will get more points than that, but it won't be easy. There are two key road trips coming up in the end of February and middle of March. Two six-game road trips might spell trouble as the Blues have a hard time winning on the road.

Still, the signs are encouraging. St. Louis has the most wins in the NHL with 26, tied with the Detroit Red Wings. The once-tough Central Division has finally eased off the gas pedal. Four of the top six teams of the Western Conference are still in the Central Division which means the Blues have quality rivals. Even with the huge losing streak of the Chicago Blackhawks, they were able to beat St. Louis at home.

I have no doubt that the Blues can reach 97 points this year with a likely playoff berth. But a four seed is not the best in the world. That means they will likely play the Red Wings in the second round. The only way to get a better seeding is to win the division. Detroit has to cool off for that to happen.

William Browning was born in St. Louis and has been a lifelong Blues fan.

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Updated Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012