I’m well aware how ridiculous the title of this article sounds.
For much of my life and especially in the post-lockout NHL the Blues have been mediocre at best, making the playoffs only once, which ended in a first-round knockout by the Vancouver Canucks.
The Blues went to three consecutive Stanley Cups after entering the NHL as part of the expansion to 12 teams but lost each of them and haven’t been back since, not to mention their last conference final was in 2000-01. However, the Blues have appeared to have turned the page and now look as if they might be able to contend come spring.
St. Louis passed Detroit for the Central Division lead two nights ago with a convincing 5-2 win in Edmonton, but fall back into a tie with the Red Wings after last night’s 2-0 loss to Vancouver, who leads both Detroit and St. Louis by three points in the Western Conference standings.
If one would have predicted the Blues would be where they are right now at the beginning of the season, they would have been laughed out of town, mocked, ridiculed, you name it.
The Blues are the real deal and have what the three key components that could keep them playing hockey well into May. Those three components are: 1) solid goaltending, 2) veteran leadership, and 3) young talent. All previous Stanley Cup Champions have had these attributes in one way.
1. Stanley Cup Champions Have Solid Goaltending
The Blues have had the most consistent goaltending of any team in the NHL and sit first in the NHL in goals against, allowing under two per game. The most impressive part about the Blues’ goalie situation this year is that they appear to have two capable No. 1 netminders and have been platooning them all season.
Jaroslav Halak has a record of 20-10-5 with a GAA of 1.94 and a save percentage of .925. Backup Brian Elliot has a record of 20-7-2 with a league best 1.65 GAA and the second best save percentage of 0.937, behind only Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers.
Elliot has been one of the biggest surprises for the Blues this season. His solid play has earned him a new contract and some stability in his life. St. Louis is Elliot’s third team in less than two years, having played for Ottawa and Colorado last season.
Obviously some credit has to go to the defence and penalty killers that play in front of them, but having one of the most dynamic goaltending duos in the league is the No. 1 reason why St. Louis is a legitimate threat come playoff time.
2. Stanley Cup Champions Have Veteran Leadership
Every team that wins a Stanley Cup has that one veteran, or group of veterans, that provide stability and guidance, which acts as a calming influence to the younger players around them. Last year Boston had Mark Recchi, the year before the Chicago had John Madden, and the year before Pittsburgh had Bill Guerin.
The Blues have Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Andy McDonald.
Although far past his prime, Arnott is having a solid season and is the anchor on a relatively young Blues squad. He is a balanced scorer (15G, 15A) and is plus-11 in 57 games with the Blues this season. He was a Stanley Cup champion with the Devils in 1999-2000 and brings his veteran leadership to the Blues club, which is invaluable down the stretch.
Langenbrunner, although currently injured, has won two Cups, one with the Dallas Stars in 1998-99 and the other with the New Jersey Devils in 2002-03 where he was the leading scorer in the playoffs. He knows how to get it done and has been a winner throughout his 17-year career in the NHL.
McDonald is another player with a championship pedigree having won the Cup with the Ducks in 2006-07. He has missed a sizable chunk of games this season and has been battling concussion issues since for a number of years, but one can’t argue about his effectiveness when he’s in the lineup. He has 10 points (5G, 5A) in 13 games this season and is dangerous on the PP and has been his whole career.
3. Stanley Cup Champions Have Young Talent
The Blues aren’t shy on talented young players either. It’s the benefit of finishing low enough in the standings to accumulate a number of high and talented draft picks, just ask the Penguins and the Blackhawks.
St. Louis currently has six everyday players that were first round draft picks and are less than 26 years of age. Those six players all rank in the top eight in scoring for the Blues.
T.J Oshie ranks second in team scoring and plays on the top line with McDonald and captain David Backes. The Blues second line features David Perron, Patrik Berglund ,and Chris Stewart, all of which fall into the aforementioned category of youthful first-rounders playing on the squad. Perron leads that line with 30 points in 39 games.
Blue-liners Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk are having career years offensively, ranking third and fourth, respectively in team scoring. They have combined for 77 points (18G, 59A) as well as a plus-40.These two are a big part of the Blues’ success and will be for years to come.
Based on those three key elements top championship caliber teams have, the St. Louis Blues appear to have all the necessary weapons to be a challenge in the perennially competitive Western Conference.
There isn’t really a hole in the team or a chink in the armor if you will. St. Louis is for real. So if you’re not taking the Blues as a serious Stanley Cup Champion contender, you better start soon.