It wasn’t that long ago that the St. Louis Blues’ season looked like it was over, set to go in the books as a bitter disappointment after a significant spending spree over the summer to address the shortcomings at forward.
At the 20-game mark the Blues had already fired their coach, had won just seven games, couldn’t keep the puck out of their own net, and weren’t really getting much production out of anybody except for Ryan O'Reilly.
Now they look like they are going to be solidly in the playoffs barring a late-season collapse.
If nothing else, they have at least given themselves a great shot to get there.
They won their seventh game in a row on Tuesday night by absolutely crushing a hapless New Jersey Devils team, 8-3, to continue climbing the Western Conference standings.
The Blues’ win, combined with the Minnesota Wild losing a multiple goal lead against the Philadelphia Flyers, means the Blues are now in sole possession of the first Wild Card Spot in the Western Conference with a four-point cushion over the pack of non-playoff teams behind them, while also having games in hand on several of them. Put all of that together and they look more likely to be a playoff team than not.
The seven-game winning streak is also part of a larger 14-game stretch that has seen the Blues go on an 11-2-1 run to really make their move in the standings.
They have been doing all of this without David Perron, one of their most productive forwards this season, who has been sidelined for more than a month due to an upper-body injury.
Alex Pietrangelo and Ivan Barbashev each had three-point nights in Tuesday’s win, while Vladimir Tarasenko picked up a pair of assists to extend his point streak to nine games. Overall Tarasenko has 18 points during this most recent 14-game hot streak by the Blues.
Overall, it was a completely dominant effort by the Blues as they held the Devils to just 16 shots on goals on the night and were holding a 7-1 lead just one minute into the third period.
The turnaround for the Blues began when rookie goalie Jordan Binnington got his opportunity. All he has done with it is solidify a position that had been a glaring weakness in the first part of the season and now win 10 of his first 12 starts with a save percentage over .930 so far.
The Blues now have an opportunity to really extend their cushion in the playoff race with a huge three-game road trip that takes them through Arizona, Minnesota, and Colorado. The latter two teams are the two biggest challengers to them at the moment, and both have been struggling in recent weeks, with the Avalanche in total collapse mode. A couple of wins over the next three games would go a long way toward solidifying the Blues as a playoff team.
Given the way each team is playing at the moment it is not hard to imagine exactly that happening.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.