With two days left in the regular season, the Blues could be playing one of three teams in their first round playoff series: The Sharks, the Kings, or the Coyotes. Moreover, the Blues could still finish first in the Western Conference if they win both of their remaining games, tonight against Phoenix at home and Saturday in Dallas. Vancouver, after a 3-2 regulation loss in Calgary on Thursday night, has relinquished its hold on the West. In a crazy game in Los Angeles, the Sharks beat the Kings in a shootout, which leaves the fate of the Pacific Division in limbo.
The Blues’ 3-2 shootout loss on Wednesday against Detroit was a bitter pill to swallow. Brian Elliott extended his shutout streak deep into the 3rd period, and after a shorthand goal by David Perron and a tally by Andy McDonald, the Blues led 2-0. Johann Franzen and the Wings came back with a fury as the Blues retreated into a shell. Franzen scored 2 quick ones with under 6 minutes to play to tie the game. It was a disturbing result for a Blues team that has been inconsistent of late, particularly struggling to finish games with the same intensity with which they start them.
Here’s what will happen after tomorrow night’s game against the Coyotes:
With a regulation win on Friday against Phoenix:
The Blues will move to 109 points, tying with Vancouver. By virtue of the Blues’ extra non-shootoout wins (ROW), they would own the tiebreaker for 1st in the conference. Phoenix would remain in 8th, with 93 points and would be slated for a rematch with the Blues in the 1st round, each team with 1 game left.
If the Blues win in OT or a shootout, they would still move into 1st in the West because of the ROW tiebreaker over Vancouver. Phoenix would then have 94 points, the same as LA and San Jose, but because Phoenix has an extra ROW over San Jose but not LA, so the Coyotes would move into 7th.
If the Coyotes win in regulation, they would move into first place in the Pacific, the #3 seed with 95 points to SJ’s and LA’s 94. The Blues would remain in 2nd in the West and would then find it very difficult to win the West. The Kings would slide into the #7 spot and the Shark #8.
A Coyotes win in overtime, and the Blues would gain a point and would then need to get 2 points against Dallas and need Vancouver to lose on Saturday against Edmonton to win the West. The Coyotes would still move to the #3 spot.
Phew. Now on Saturday, that’s where things get REALLY interesting. LA plays SJ at the Shark Tank and the Coyotes visit Minnesota.
While it’s interesting for us fans to think about, the Blues need to focus on winning their last 2 games of the season. Stumbling into the playoffs is a recipe for disaster, and that scenario has doomed too many Blues teams in the past to count. Brian Elliott could very well earn the starting job in game 1 of the playoffs with another shutout tomorrow night, although Jaroslav Halak will have one last chance to establish himself as the go-to guy on Saturday. It’ll likely be Halak, as it should be, but Ken Hitchcock is taking nothing for granted. The Blues can go a long way toward righting the ship (3-3-4 in their last 10) this weekend.