Why I’m Rooting for the St. Louis Blues

One of the best times of year is finally upon us: the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There are a lot of great storylines entering this year’s edition of the race for the Cup. Robin Lehner’s career-resurrecting year with the surprising Islanders, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s legendary regular season performance, and Alexander Ovechkin’s chance to defend the Cup with the Capitals all headlined this season. However, the storyline I am going to be monitoring is the St. Louis Blues outstanding midseason turnaround.

The St. Louis Blues struggled mightily earlier in the season. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Blues Resurrection

The Blues were sitting a substantial distance outside the Western Conference playoff race after their January 5th 4-3 loss at the hands of the New York Islanders. They owned a 16-19-4 record and had one of the league’s statistically worst goaltenders in Jake Allen leading the way. Enter Jordan Binnington. The rookie phenom started 30 of the team’s remaining 43 games and compiled a .927 save percentage and a 1.89 goals against average. Binnington, along with the Blues stellar defensive core, led them to a playoff position giving them a chance to make serious noise. 

Since that January 5th date mentioned above, the Blues own the NHL’s best record. At 29-9-5, they compiled one more point than the goliath Tampa Bay Lightning and five points more than the next highest team. During this span, they led the league with a 2.14 goals against average and were second in the league averaging 32.67 shots on goal. And they owned the second-ranked power play and third-ranked penalty kill among teams in the playoffs. To say the least, the Blues are red hot entering the playoffs.

The Players

There are several players that can help this Blues team make a run. The most important are Ryan O’Reilly, Alex Pietrangelo, Jordan Binnington, and each forward on the team’s fourth line. First, center Ryan O’Reilly has put together a career year in his first season with the Blues. He compiled a team-leading 76 points and led the NHL in faceoffs with a percentage of almost 57%. With ice time rising for the top guys come the playoffs, expect a lot of Blues’ wins on the faceoff dot. Second, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo once again showed why he is one of the most underrated star defensemen in the league. The team’s captain compiled 41 points and owned a Relative Corsi For % (Rel CF%) of +2.8, which shows the Blues are better with him on the ice rather than off. 

This chart is courtesy of daileyfaceoff.com. They get their statistics via corsicahockey.com.

Third, Binnington is one of the main reasons why they are even in the playoffs. His play will once again dictate his team’s performance. If he plays any way as he did in the regular season, the Blues have a shot at making a deep run. Finally, the fourth line. This line is comprised of Zach Sanford, Ivan Barbashev, and Alex Steen. According to the chart above, this line ranks as the NHL’s second-best fourth line. Devils’ fans know dearly how far a solid fourth line can go come playoff time. With a combined 73 points across the three of them, a solid playoff showing can go a long way in dictating the success the Blues endure in the playoffs. 

This chart shows how the Blues have the analytically-based advantage over the Jets in their round one matchup.

Why I Chose the St. Louis Blues

You can see how red hot the Blues are entering the playoffs. Unfortunately for them, they have a very tough road ahead. Round one starts with a Winnipeg Jets team who edged them out for home ice in the first round. If they are lucky to get past the Jets, they’ll run into Nashville who’s always intimidating in the postseason. However, if the Blues are able to get the play from Binnington he showcased in the regular season, and they rely on their stout defense, they may just have a shot to win their first Stanley Cup and break a league-leading 51-year drought. 

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