A year ago, the St. Louis Blues were solid yet disappointing. There were huge expectations placed on the team, with many projecting them to go to the Stanley Cup, and they initially fueled those expectations by going 6-1 during January. However, things dwindled for the club as the season went on, and they were marred by inconsistent play. They went on a four-game home losing streak during February, and ended up with an unimpressive 11-15 record during February and March. They rebounded big time to win 12 of their 15 games in April, but they couldn’t keep up their good performance during the playoffs and ended up being knocked out in the first round by the Los Angeles Kings.
Last year, the two biggest factors which contributed to the Blues’ regular season inconsistency were a failure to create offense and an inability to find a consistent goaltender. The team averaged just 2.58 goals per game, and there was not a single 20-goal scorer among the bunch. With the goaltenders, it was a matter of trying to find the hot hand. Brian Elliott, Jaroslav Halak, and Jake Allen split the starts almost evenly, and each of them finished with a winning record, but they all went through cold streaks which contributed to losses.
This year, the Blues have made somewhat of an effort to try to solve these problems. They signed forward Derek Roy, who scored 32 goals for the Buffalo Sabres back in 2007-08 and has been a consistent scorer throughout his career. Between the pipes, Halak will be given the first shot after going through an extensive offseason conditioning program, and the team seems to believe that he will be improved this season.
As far as this year’s schedule, the Blues will have a great shot at competing once again, but they’ll be given a tough challenge with the NHL’s divisional realignment. The team will now be located in the Central Division, where they will face the Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets. Perhaps more impactful, though, is that the Blues must now face every team in the Eastern Conference twice. Things may get more interesting now that the Blues will have to contend with teams like the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins multiple times.
Ultimately, look for the Blues to be successful, but still have some issues with consistency. This group of players has struggled throughout their careers with always beating the teams that they should beat. If the pattern holds as it has for the past few years, the Blues will probably hit some bumps in the middle of the schedule, but rebound late and finish strong. With weaker teams like the Washington Capitals, Buffalo Sabres, and Colorado Avalanche at the tail-end of their schedule, it’s very realistic to think that they’ll wrap the season up in good fashion. It’s always tough to predict schedules, especially in the NHL, where injuries and bad performance significantly affect teams throughout the year. That being said, the Blues should go 47-29-6, with their increased depth allowing them to make a deeper playoff run this year.