The only hangover the St. Louis Blues are nursing right now is of the “too much wine quarantine” variety. The Blues did what all of us considered the impossible last postseason by winning their first Stanley Cup, edging the Boston Bruins in seven games. Maybe it wasn’t considered impossible, but the Blues’ playoff run was surprising and improbable. They got hot at the right time and became the team of destiny.
Normally, a team like this coming off an emotional season, roller coaster of a playoff run after being dead last in the standings in January, would fold. We usually get some regression season-to-season. Not only that, but it only took 10 games before the Blues suffered a huge blow: the loss of RW Vladimir Tarasenko. The All-Star forward underwent shoulder surgery back in October and was expected to be sidelined for six months. By the end of this month, that timeline will have come and past. This means St. Louis should have its best player back before the NHL returns from this mess. Can you say huge? Let’s take a look at where the Blue stand currently.
Where do the St. Louis Blues stand during the break?
Points: 94 (preseason over/under: 99.5)
Place: 1st in Central (No. 1 overall seed in conference)
Stanley Cup odds (March 10): +1100
Instead of struggling this season, the Blues are sitting easy at the top of the Western Conference. It’s a tight race at the top of the Central Division between the Blues and Colorado Avalanche, but the defending champs have the edge as things stand. If the playoffs were to start today, St. Louis would likely be a bit upset with its draw.
Because of the competitive nature of the NHL seeding for the playoffs, the Blues would draw the Nashville Predators in the first round. The Preds have had an up-and-down season, but still have most of their core from their most recent Cup run intact. As you can see, the Blues’ odds to win the Cup are +1100, which is tied for the 5th-best odds on DK Sportsbook as of March 10. I view things as being tighter than they appear in the NHL and with Tarasenko potentially returning for the playoffs, the Blues are certainly better positioned to make a run at back-to-back titles.
Aside from Tarasenko, the Blues have a few other injuries to make note of during the break. Justin Faulk was dealing with an upper-body injury along with F Oskar Sundqvist. Getting all three fully healthy for the playoffs would be big. The Blues brought in Faulk after last season’s run and that defense was really only lacking a quick, puck-mover. The rest of the blue line is towering with pretty much everyone but Faulk and Vince Dunn hovering over 6-foot-2.
The Blues have been successful this season through their defensive play. While their penalty kill leaves a bit to be desired (18th, 79.3%), the Blues have been great at even strength and are limiting shots. Seemingly, St. Louis’ power play hasn’t missed a beat and is currently in the top 5 overall. Tarasenko’s return would be a huge boost for the offense. So if he’s 100%, it’s hard to find a weakness for the Blues. I’d consider them well-positioned to make another Cup run and the break should only help them the longer it goes on.