On Tuesday, the St. Louis Blues punched their ticket to a second straight playoff appearance with a 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche.
That led to GM Doug Armstrong being asked about possible first-round opponents — to which he offered up a rather interesting response.
“I don’t want to play Chicago right now,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Other than that, we’re going to be ready to take on whoever has to come.
“Chicago is the one team that from start to finish has put a three-month distance between itself and the rest of the pack. Anything else in the conference is nothing more than a mild upset.”
Based on how this season has gone, it’s not surprising Armstrong wants to avoid the ‘Hawks.
The Blues are just 1-3-0 against Chicago, with their lone victory coming via the shootout (the two teams will play each other once more in the season finale on Saturday.)
The ‘Hawks have also outscored the Blues 11-5 and shut them out twice.
Despite this, it’s kind of strange to hear a GM say (publicly) that he wants to avoid a particular team.
But it’s also been a strange year for St. Louis.
The team has battled inconsistency, resulting in an inability to follow up on last year’s stellar campaign — Ken Hitchcock said 2013 has been “as challenging as any season I’ve ever coached in,” — and it appears these inconsistencies may have left some questions of the group.
That said, this could simply be Armstrong’s subtle way of challenging his team, something he alluded to in speaking with the Post-Dispatch.
“[Playoff] games are for the self-motivated,” he said. “But right now, that’s playoff hockey. The playoffs always clarify things. They show your strengths and magnify your weaknesses.
“We’re now at the stage where it’s what we do. We’re in the playoffs. We’re going to find out what we are.”