For the past couple of weeks it has almost looked as if nobody wants to claim the fourth playoff spot in the West Division as the St. Louis Blues, Arizona Coyotes, and San Jose Sharks have all struggled with an opportunity to secure that spot.
It was not looking much better for the Blues on Saturday afternoon when they faced a two-goal deficit just five minutes into their game against the Colorado Avalanche.
It was at that point that Ryan O'Reilly took over and started to lead the Blues’ comeback and help drive them to a massive 5-3 win. O’Reilly recorded his second hat trick of the season in the win, including a pair of goals less than three minutes apart in the first period. He scored his third goal of the game late in the third period into an empty net to help put the game away.
Mike Hoffman put St. Louis ahead just a few minutes earlier when he blasted a one-timer by Devan Dubnyk on a two-man advantage. It is the exact situation that the Blues signed Hoffman for and the exact type of result they were hoping to get from him.
Individual performances aside, this is a massive win for the Blues given their recent play, the state of the West Division playoff race, and the remaining schedule they still have sitting in front of them. The win on Saturday is just the fifth for the Blue over their past 20 games and temporarily puts them back ahead of the Coyotes for the fourth playoff spot in the West. Arizona could potentially reclaim that spot later on Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings, but the Blues still have three games in hand on Arizona the rest of the way. So by points percentage the Blues look to be in a good position.
The concern, though, is that St. Louis is not getting any favors with the schedule. St. Louis spends the rest of the season playing almost nothing but the top three teams in the division with games against Colorado (one), Vegas (two), and Minnesota (five). The only have three games remaining (one against Los Angeles and two against Anaheim) against non-playoff teams. Arizona, meanwhile, plays seven of its remaining nine games against teams that are going to miss the playoffs. Given those remaining schedules, it is a must for the Blues to collect points anywhere they can get them.
Saturday’s game is probably not the brand of hockey the Blues want to play all the time, or even a recipe for consistent success. They were badly outshot, they were out-chanced, they feasted a little on Colorado’s backup goalie, and they spent a lot of time on their heels defending in their own zone. But their best all-around player (O’Reilly) came through with a game-changing effort when they needed it most, and they were opportunistic late in the game when they had a chance to capitalize on a two-man advantage. Sometimes you need performances like that. Sometimes you need to win a game where you are not at your best.
The Blues got all of that on Saturday. It came just exactly when they needed it.