How quickly things have changed for the St. Louis Blues in the last two weeks.
On Feb. 16, the Blues had beaten the Vancouver Canucks for a sixth straight win and a seventh win in eight games since firing Ken Hitchcock and naming Mike Yeo as the replacement head coach ahead of schedule.
In terms of results, the Blues had seen the desired impact in the immediate wake of the coaching change.
Since then? The Blues have now lost five in a row, as their skid, which has once again put them outside of a wild card spot in the Western Conference, continued Friday in a 3-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
“We’re trying to build more pace into our game. We’re seeing less consistency in our game lately in the four losses,” said Yeo prior to Friday’s game. “Just not enough in there to guarantee wins.”
Blake Wheeler opened the scoring in the first period and finished it with just over a minute remaining in the third period. Mixed in there was Brian Little’s empty net goal that put this one out of reach for St. Louis. Making matters worse, Alex Pietrangelo crashed hard into the boards after losing the race to the puck with Little.
The Blues remain a single point back of L.A. for the final wild card spot, but with a game in hand, too. So the old adage of controlling their own destiny does still apply, but with less than 20 games now remaining in their schedule, a prolonged losing skid can quickly squash that.
The Blues are in Colorado to face the last-place Avalanche on Sunday.
PHT Morning Skate: Joel Armia scored an amazing shorthanded goal you’ll have to see to believe
—Joel Armia has developed into a very useful player for the Winnipeg Jets, and on Tuesday night, he scored an incredible end-to-end goal that you won’t want to miss. He fought off one New Jersey Devil then got around two others before scoring this beautiful shorthanded goal. (Top)
–The Score breaks down the best “bang for your buck” contracts on each Canadian team. It’s not shocking to see Senators goalie Mike Condon on this list. The second-year netminder has been with three teams this season, but he’s come through in a big way for the Senators, and he only makes $575,000. (The Score)
–Elliotte Friedman’s “30 Thoughts” blog touched on some advice David Poile had for the Golden Knights now that the Oakland Raiders will be moving to Vegas. “You have to do your own thing. We created our ‘Predator Way.’ The Smashville idea and name. In-game entertainment fitting the market. Those things worked.” Friedman also wrote about Ken Hitchcock possibly returning to Dallas, and much more. (Sportsnet)
–Brampton Thunder forward Laura Stacey is the great-granddaughter of hall-of-fame defenseman King Clancy. Recently, Stacey decided she wanted to do a little digging into her great-grandfather’s career, and it really allowed her to get an appreciation for everything he accomplished. “Now I understand how hard he worked, how passionate and determined he was to be the best. Yes, it was a different era, but I can only imagine how hard he had to work to get where he was. As I get older, it makes it more special in that I know more the kind of guy he was.” (Canadian Press)
–The Montreal Canadiens have had some incredible defensemen come through their organization, but last night, Andrei Markov was able to reach an impressive milestone. By picking up an assist in a 4-1 win over Dallas, he tied Guy Lapointe for second in points by a defenseman in franchise history. Larry Robinson’s mark is pretty safe.
With assist, Andrei Markov ties Guy Lapointe in all-time points by a defenceman with the #Canadiens (572)- 2nd only to Larry Robinson (883)
The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.
For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.
The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch when they failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).
New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.
This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.
There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fan, maybe.
On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.
The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.
In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.
The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.
Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong regular seasons, even as memories of their Cup win start to fade into the distance. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.
Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to defend Craig Anderson following his blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.
It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).
Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.
More Boucher on Anderson: 'For all the saves he’s made this year, and all the times he’s made us win a game, he gave us a point tonight.'