ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- The St. Louis Blues last made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2009 as the sixth seed in the Western Conference. They were quickly knocked out in a four-game sweep by the number three seeded Vancouver Canucks.
But this time they are headed to the playoffs as the Central Division Champions, the first time since the 1999-2000 season. The team is number two in the conference and is expected to do well. With a few key components working properly for the Blues, they could cover some serious ground in this year's playoffs.
Goal Tending: Thanks to goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, the Blues won their first William Jennings Trophy since the 1999-2000 season. The award goes to the team who allowed the fewest goals all season. Halak and Elliot tied a modern-day NHL record after combing for 15 shutouts, which set a franchise record. During the season Halak won a career high eight consecutive decisions and Elliott had a career high 241:33 shutout streak. Head coach Ken Hitchcock has not announced who his starting goalie will be but as long as these two play the way they did in the regular season, opponents are going to have a touch challenge facing the Blues.
Special Teams: During the last five games of the season the Blues went 1-4 so you would think that their penalty kill wasn't good, right? Wrong. The Blues only allowed two power play goals in over 20 penalty kills. However, the Blues' power play was not great during those five games. They were only able to muster up two power play goals in over 20 man advantage situations. The two goals came in the last game of the regular season against Dallas; a game they won. For the Blues to win in the playoffs, they have got to be solid on both sides of the special teams.
Defense: The Blues have played solid defense all year long. Both Halak and Elliott credit the men in front of them for the success they have had this year but during the four-game losing streak at the end of the year the defense had a hiccup. After losing to the Phoenix Coyotes last Friday defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said "We didn't play the way we wanted to and we kind of got away from our game." It seems the Blues may have found their rhythm again in Dallas but game one against the San Jose Sharks will prove that true or false.
It takes 16 wins to hold the Stanley Cup above your head. When the Blues had everything working in January and into mid-February, they won 15 out of 20 games. The Blues have all in the ingredients to win in the playoffs, they have proven that. Now it's time to make it all happen when it really counts.