It all comes down to this.
The Blues can finish with the No. 4, No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the Western Conference, and it all depends on two games (Blues / Blackhawks at 7 p.m. and Kings / Sharks at 9:30 p.m.)
Here are a few possible scenarios:
- With a Blues win against the Blackhawks, the Blues guarantee themselves the No. 4 seed in the West and have home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Their first round opponent will be the winner of the San Jose / Los Angeles game (9:30 p.m. tonight, NBC Sports Network).
- If the Blues lose in overtime or a shootout tonight, they still get home-ice advantage if San Jose beats Los Angeles.
- If the Blues lose in regulation, they won’t have home-ice advantage in Round 1.
- The Blues finish sixth if they lose tonight in regulation and San Jose beats Los Angeles in overtime or a shootout.
That’s a lot of math, and it’s not always simple.
Basically, the Blues can play either Los Angeles, San Jose or Vancouver in the first round, and they’ll know the answer tonight after the Sharks / Kings game.
Each year, the entire team volunteers for this unique event, which takes place at Side Pockets in St. Charles and gives fans an opportunity to meet the players, get autographs and challenge them to video games, pool, darts and much more.
The fans pay an admission fee and then make a small donation for every game they play, autograph they get or photo they take, and all the money benefits The Dream Factory of St. Louis, a local nonprofit organization that finds seriously ill children and sends them on their dream vacations.
And I haven’t even told you the most touching part: a lot of the kids The Dream Factory supports are in attendance, too. For a few hours at least, they can forget about the challenges they face and just enjoy themselves.
Who couldn’t support a cause like that?
The Blues will face a stiff challenge when they host the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at 7 p.m. at Scottrade Center.
The Blackhawks have yet to lose a game in regulation, going 16-0-3 and setting a new record for the best start to a season in NHL history. The record was previously held by the Anaheim Ducks, who opened the 2006-07 season with points in 16 consecutive games.
Chicago is coming off a seven-game homestand and is playing its first road game since Feb. 10. Each of the Blackhawks’ last five wins (Los Angeles, Vancouver, San Jose, Columbus and Edmonton) have been decided by one goal.
How can the Blues break the streak?
“Sixty (minutes),” Hitchcock said. “Play 40, you’re dead. You’ve got to play 60 the right way and see where it goes. That’s the reason they’re winning…they play more minutes than other teams. They just play more minutes than any other team in the West right now.”
Added Matt D’Agostini, “We’re not thinking too much about their streak. We know they’re a beatable team, we’ve beat them before. So we’ll come out and play our A-game and we’ll get on them quick.”
Stop me if you’ve heard this joke before: 23 hockey players walked into an airport...
For the Blues players, coaches, broadcasters, equipment guys and management, yesterday’s situation in a Vancouver airport was ANYTHING but funny.
The team was supposed to take off from Vancouver at noon St. Louis time, but were delayed when the airline needed to wait for a replacement part to arrive. Just over 15 hours later, the Blues took off for St. Louis, where they landed at approximately 6:30 a.m. this morning.
Here’s the rub: the Blues host the San Jose Sharks tonight at 7 p.m. and then will fly to Denver after the game, where they’ll face the Colorado Avalanche tomorrow night at Pepsi Center.
I'd like to issue an apology for screaming (with capital letters) while tweeting during the first period of Friday's game in Calgary.
But can you blame me?
That save from Jake Allen, who was making just his second NHL start, was just so darn unbelievable.
"It's a great feeling. It's something you work for your whole life," Allen told reporters after the morning skate. "You want to make the most of it. It's hopefully another step in my career. It's more experience under my belt and I'm looking forward to the challenge tonight."
It won't be Allen’s first NHL appearance, however. Just last week, he played 31 minutes in relief of Brian Elliott on Feb. 5, where he made 6 saves on 8 shots in the Blues’ 6-1 loss to Nashville. In addition, Allen saw just over one minute of playoff action last season in Game 2 of the Blues’ second-round series vs. Los Angeles.
With Jaroslav Halak still out of the lineup with a strained groin and Brian Elliott struggling, Hitchcock has decided to give Allen his first chance to start between the pipes.
If he plays, the 35-year-old defenseman would be appearing in an NHL game for the first time since Apr. 11, 2010.
“It’s a chance to come back and show I can play and just be part of a team,” Redden said. “We’ve got a good team here, and I want to help the team win and have some success.”
Redden spent 11 seasons with the Ottawa Senators, most of which were spent playing alongside Zdeno Chara. Redden signed as a free agent with the New York Rangers prior to the start of the 2008-09 season, but struggled in New York. He spent the last two seasons with their American Hockey League affiliate, the Connecticut Whale.
Now, the Blues have given him another chance to play in the NHL.
Elliott picked up his first win of the season yesterday in relief of Jaroslav Halak. Elliott stopped all 13 shots he faced and then turned aside two Predators in the shootout to help the Blues to their second consecutive win.
“You just want to do your best for the guys,” Elliott said after the game. “When you get thrown in the fire, obviously (with) the long layover that we had last year (and) my first action of the year, it’s almost better to get in there with really nothing to lose and go out there and play your game. Let the guys in front of you do their job.”
Tonight’s game begins at 5 p.m. on FS Midwest (HD) and KMOX 1120 AM.
Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said he expects a tough game due to the similarities between the teams.
“We both have similar strengths, both have to work to generate scoring chances, both teams go to the net hard, both teams follow a script of a certain philosophy as far as play goes,” Hitchcock said. “Both teams really rely on their forwards to do a lot of work. That’s just the way both teams are built and the way both teams are structured.”
After the Blues’ win on Saturday, Hitchcock stressed the importance of not getting too high or too low during the season.
“This is one game,” Hitchcock said Saturday night. “Let’s evaluate us after 10 games and see what we’ve got. But I liked that we stayed on the hunt, except for the first two shifts, we stayed on the hunt for the rest of the game, which is a real good sign.”
As I left my house to drive in to work today, I searched through the music on my iPod, trying to find the perfect song to play on this bright, surprisingly-warm-for-a-January-morning-in-St.-Louis day.
I scrolled through hundreds of artists (most of them of the country variety), but stopped on a song that caught my eye: Brookroyal's "Bleed Blue." (Listen on YouTube)
That song was the theme for the Blues' postseason last year, and listening to it reminded me that the Blues will begin the season tonight the same way they finished the last one: as the NHL's Central Division Champions.
And that got me thinking a little bit: if last year brought a division title, how much further can this season's team go?