As of Wednesday March 6th, the St. Louis Blues have lost two straight and sit 3rd in the Central Division with 74 points. In terms of strength of schedule, (the difficulty or ease of a team’s schedule as compared to other teams), the Blues sit with the 4th easiest schedule down the stretch. But what does this mean for St. Louis? As many of us remember, the first half of the season was somewhat of a nightmare for the Blues. If we examine the record that the Blues had and who their opponents were in those games, we find that the abbreviation SOS (strength of schedule) could start to lean toward its initial and intended meaning (Save Our Souls)…
Up until this point in the season, obviously there have been many lows and highs. Being dead last in the Central Division on Jan. 2nd, 2019 and winning 11 straight to set a new franchise record are examples of these. So, what does it mean to have the 4th easiest schedule through the last month? It means that of the 17 games the Blues have left, only 2 are against teams that sit in the top ten in the NHL standings. 6 are against teams that sit in the middle 11, and 9 are against teams that sit in the bottom 10. This sounds favorable, right? Well, allow me to shed some light on the situation. Because things are not always what they seem…
Up until this point, the Blues have dominated teams in the top ten. Through 65 games, St. Louis boasts an impressive 15-8-2 record against top ten teams. With a win percentage of 0.60, they can expect to fare well against San Jose and Tampa Bay down the stretch…Remember this??
But how about teams in the middle 11 or even the bottom 10? Well, frankly this is where things become a little muddy. Concerning the middle 11, the Blues are 12-9-1 so far. Considering we’re winning approximately 54% of the games we play against these 11 standings places, these games are somewhat of a tossup. The teams we see in these 11 places are as follows:
- Arizona (H), Pittsburgh (A), Buffalo (A), Vegas (H), Colorado (H), and Philadelphia (H).
As one would hope, we pull out with at least half of those games, and maybe even see if Jordan Binnington and rejuvenated Vladimir Tarasenko can’t steal us one or two for insurance, and we can consider this chunk of games a success. Now, this is the scary stuff. Let’s talk about how the Blues have stacked up against teams in the bottom ten. Which is where just over half of our upcoming games lie. First, a peak at the schedule.
- Anaheim (A), Los Angeles (A), Ottawa (A), Edmonton (H), Detroit (H), Rangers (A), Devils (A), Blackhawks (A), and Canucks (H).
Now just about any other playoff team would be salivating over a stretch run like this. But the Blues could very well be crying. Up to this point, the Blues have gone 7-8-3 against bottom ten teams. Exclude the two wins we have against the Panthers (that season series is over, we will not see them down the stretch), and St. Louis has only been good enough for a record of 5-8-3 against the bottom ten teams they will face before the end. Considering the recent play of both the Western Wild Card teams, the Blues need to find out how to fix this problem and execute against these teams. SOS can really help a team that is in a dog fight, and St. Louis is. But in the case of St. Louis, it can also become a disadvantage…
So where do we go from here? Looking up at some things that could help out greatly, we can start with the home and road split. 9 of our last 17 games are on the road, where the Blues have gone 17-11-4 season long. These numbers also include a three-game road losing streak, which is uncharacteristic of this team who were a much better road team even in the first half. The other 8 games are at home, where as of late the Blues have been lights out. 17-14-2 on the season, St. Louis has gone 8-3-0 since the New Year on Enterprise Center ice. Jordan Binnington only just lost his first game (on home ice) against the Stars on Saturday night. So, with these stats in mind, the third seed in the Central (where they currently stand) is perfect positioning for some April hockey. Especially, given that we would play 4 of 7 on the road in a first round series.
The two other things we can turn to in hopes to take advantage of this strength of schedule, are Jordan Binnington and the aforementioned rejuvenated St. Louis offense. Binnington has redefined the phrase “lights out” with an astonishing record of 15-3-1, 1.68GAA, .933SV, and 5 shutouts. As well as taking over the starting goaltending position, and adding a handful of Blues franchise rookie goaltending records in the process. Meanwhile, Tarasenko and O’Reilly have combined for 60 points, (25 goals and 35 assists) since the New Year.
For Blues fans, it’s some concerning stuff seeing how we have fared against the bottom ten teams in the league this year. BUT, if you take all things into consideration (including the inevitable speedy return of Brayden Schenn and David Perron), the Blues have put themselves in a favorable position. Hopefully, they can defy the numbers again like they did in February and maybe even make a late push for a Central Division title. But if St. Louis reverts back to its old ways, we could very easily be revisiting the horror that was missing by one point in Game 82 last year in the Mile-High City…
-Let’s Go Blues!
Photos via: NHL.com
Statistics via: Hockey Reference