The St. Louis Blues are set to make history again this coming season. Are they primed to go on a historic ride through the playoffs and into the Stanley Cup final? The NHL’s Eastern Conf. champion is the only team missing from the top of the rankings since April when they were knocked out in the first round by the Ottawa Senators. The Blues have been the worst team over that stretch, and it looks like they’ll slip even further behind in the standings before the season even concludes. They’re in danger of slipping even further.
One major reason the Blues could slip is the fact they’ve lost three of the last four meetings against the Predators, who hold a one-point lead in the Atlantic Division. The Predators have been playing with more confidence lately, acquiring veterans Benoit Pouliot, Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi, and Craig Smith, while also bringing in youth and athleticism such as Alex Ovechkin, Beau Bennett, Mattias Ekholm, and Andrei Kostitsyn. This gives the Predators a very good overall mix. The bottom line is that these are big, athletic forwards who can play right wing and play defense. If the Preds can keep everyone on their feet, this is a team capable of making the “big play.”
This is where the Blues come into play. They have one of the best young defenses in the league in terms of preventing goals, allowing only 24.5 goals per season. That’s the lowest average in the league, and they have one of the youngest defenses as well. They also boast one of the best young goalscorers in Matt Cooke, and the speedy but diminutive but strong Michael Grabner is on the wings as well. These are big, physical guys that match up well against any opponent.
The Flyers are probably the surprise team here, despite having the oldest and most experienced players on the team. I’m not saying they’re going to beat anybody, but they have a lot to lose if they don’t at least come into the season with some hope. Ray Allen, Brian Boucher, Chris Simon, and Dave Bolland are all unrestricted free agents next summer, and that means someone else has to move on. The Flyers are clearly rebuilding, but they have enough quality players to hold onto their top prospect, Braylon Edwards, even if he doesn’t pan out.
The Jackets have been a bit more successful lately, especially with the breakout season from Jackets forward Nicklas Grossman. He has been a force, scoring the goal that started everything for Columbus, and he’s a big reason why they haven’t been bounced from the top of the Eastern Conference just yet. It’ll be tough to knock them out of the top spot, but it’s certainly possible. They’ll need help from the rest of the league, especially if they continue to lose to bad teams like Colorado and New York.
The Islanders aren’t quite as hot as the Flyers or Jackets, but they do have one advantage they can take full advantage of they play in the best division in the East. Yes, they’ve been competitive lately, but they haven’t been able to put a consistent team on the field, and their division is very winnable. If they can get hot at the right time, they have a real shot at taking over the Atlantic Division. And they do have one big player who can make an impact. That guy is Islanders captain Depth Player Garth Snow.
If you’re an Islanders fan, you’re probably as excited as everyone else is about Islanders rookies Garth Snow and Islanders first-line center Mats Lindberg. Snow has the potential to be a very good player, and it’s easy to see why he’s one of the hottest commodities in hockey today. He has speed, and he’s a powerful player who can compete at the top level. His contract doesn’t expire until after the season is completed, so there’s no rush to sign him right now. For now, though, it looks as though the Islanders will have another banner year to celebrate.
Now that the Islanders are done for the season, it’s just a matter of focusing on building a big team around John Tavares and finding a way to get him the puck on a consistent basis. Whether or not he’s a true number one center or he’s more of a playmaking type, he’ll be vital to the Islander’s chances of winning the Cups. With so much riding on one record, this one must be broken.