One of PHT’s 10 pressing questions in advance of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs…
The way a team is playing when it finishes the regular season doesn’t always continue into the playoffs.
Just ask the St. Louis Blues, who finished the 2008-09 campaign on a 9-1-1 streak, only to get swept by Vancouver in the first round.
The Blues are hoping the opposite scenario will occur in 2014, given they enter the postseason on a six-game losing streak in which they’ve been shut out three times and outscored 22-5. That skid cost them first place in the Central Division, and earned them a first-round match-up with the defending champions from Chicago.
Not long ago, St. Louis was the oddsmakers’ favorite to win the Stanley Cup. Today, one has to wonder if the Blues will even win four games this postseason, let alone their first championship in franchise history.
Head coach Ken Hitchcock is counting on the return of forwards T.J. Oshie, David Backes, and Vladimir Sobotka to kick-start an offense that had no trouble scoring most of the season.
“The offense goes when you get the people that have coordinated us all year coming back in,” Hitchcock said, per the Post-Dispatch. “It’s pretty simple. This (playing with replacements) is a perfect example of ‘Try like crazy, try hard, battle away,’ but you need your best players in the lineup to be going.
“When you start dropping guys out, it’s hard to create. For us, just get the players back in, get the thing coordinated, get guys back playing with people that played with each other all year and see where it goes from there.”
Meanwhile, the Blues’ big trade-deadline acquisition, goalie Ryan Miller, is confident he can rediscover the form that convinced general manager Doug Armstrong to pay a hefty price to Buffalo, despite already having a capable netminder in Jaroslav Halak.
Miller has lost his last five starts, allowing 18 goals on 125 shots, for a save percentage of .856.
“Obviously it’s been a tough stretch as far as goals-against, but I don’t feel like I’m in a really bad place,” Miller said. “I feel like I’m in a pretty good place, honestly. I know people probably will take that and just chop it up and laugh about it, but I feel pretty good.
“I can compete. I just have to worry about battling and competing. It was going to be the same job no matter what. Once you get to the playoffs everybody’s at zeros, so compete.”
The Blues entered the NHL in 1967, meaning no current franchise has been around as long as they have without winning the Cup.
This was supposed to be the year.
It still can be.
“There’s challenges in every season,” said Miller. “We’re facing ours right now. I think it can end up a positive.”
For more Pressing Playoff Questions, click here.