If you follow the National Hockey League at all, it is hard to ignore the fact that the St. Louis Blues have been one of the hottest teams in the league ever since they made a coaching change in the beginning of November. Their new coach Ken Hitchcock, is their 24th coach in team history and is the one that is taking them to the top of the NHL and into the playoffs.
Many Blues fans (including myself) have been wondering when the Blues would once again become a playoff contending team. At the beginning of the season, I always come up with a playoff bracket and try to see how close I can get to predicting the Stanley Cup winner. I had originally guessed the Blues would make it to the second round of the playoffs. And that was before they started to win. Now I have them as a contender for the Stanley Cup and a tough team to battle in the Western Conference.
The Blues got off to a terrible start and were towards the bottom of the NHL once the first month of the season was over. On November 6, 2011 they made a coaching change that would change their entire season for the better. Ken Hitchcock has infused a winning attitude and it has translated into leading the league in points. But how can this team be winning without any superstars, like Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Steven Stamkos of the Lightning, or Claude Giroux of the Flyers? Hard work and dedication to the system has found this team success as well as excellent play from both of their goaltenders.
Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot have combined to be the best goaltending tandem in the league. They both have contributed to over 20 wins a piece and less than a 2.00 goals against average. That is unheard of to have both your starting goaltender and your backup to have such astounding numbers. Right now they are one two in goals against average and Elliot is the leader in save percentage. This tandem of goaltending is why they are leading the league at this point in the season.
I bet many average hockey fans could not name five players on the Blues roster right now. And that is totally fine, but this team deserves the big recognition for the hard work they have put forth and the great physical, hardnosed hockey that has led them to number one. They do not have any player with more than 22 goals and do not have a player who has more than 50 points. Led by their captain David Backes, both their leading point getter and goal scorer, they have put an effort based on team defense first and offense second. The talent of other young players such as T.J. Oshie and Alex Pietrangelo, a forward and defenseman respectively, are second and third in team scoring. And the point contributions continue down the roster has they have 11 players with more than 20 points on the year. They have no pure goal scorer, so when a team talks about secondary scoring help, this team can say that for every player on the roster.
Stellar goaltending, excellent defense, scoring from every player on the team, and hardnosed physical hockey has the Blues sitting pretty as the NHL leader in team points this year and striving for the Presidents Trophy. Ken Hitchcock has really turned this team around and has given hope to many Blues fans that this could be a sign of a long term plan for success.