Round 2 in Reach for the First Time Since 2001-02
Following their Game 4 win in San Jose on Thursday night the St. Louis Blues found themselves in a position to reach the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-02 season. In 2001-02, the Blues knocked off the Chicago Blackhawks four games to one before being eliminated by the Detroit Red Wings four games to one in the second round. Now the Blues are poised to eliminate the San Jose Sharks and advance beyond the first round for the first time in 10 years (Knock on wood).
If you’ve followed me on Twitter you’ll know the stats above. If you’ve followed the Blues for the last 10 to 20 years you’ll know that the Blues haven’t been in this position for quite some time and are poised to break what has been described as one of their most unsuccessful runs in franchise history.
Fans of other NHL teams might view advancing to the second round as a small accomplishment. For Blues fans simply making the playoffs was a big accomplishment while the idea of advancing beyond the first round is almost monumental given the struggles the franchise has had in recent years. The club made the playoffs just once since 2005-06 and that resulted in a first round sweep at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks in 2008-09. It was impressive that squad even made the playoffs but it was extremely disappointing to see their playoff run end before it ever got rolling.
This year is different. As opposed to just sneaking into the playoffs the Blues entered as the second seed in the West. They climbed one hurdle by winning their first playoff game in eight years and are now one win away from winning their first playoff series in 10 years.
In the recap of Game 4, I mentioned that teams that hold a 3-1 series lead advance 90% of the time. The odds are certainly in favor of the Blues ending their lengthy drought.
However, while it’s fun to look at the stats, odds and percentages, fans as well as the actual members of the St. Louis Blues need to remember that the job isn’t over yet. The team still needs to win one more game. While 90% of the teams in this position have moved on there is still that 10% that lost sight of the goal at hand and ultimately bowed out following a sizable collapse. The Sharks might be in a big hole but you can realistically only count them out when the Blues have won their fourth and final game.
Odds & Ends
Jaroslav Halak’s return is still a ways off. He was wearing a walking boot as the Blues competed in Game 4. It seems pretty unlikely that Halak will be cleared for Game 5 on Saturday, meaning another start for Elliott and Jake Allen once again backing from the bench. Given Elliott’s strong play since coming on in Game 2, I doubt you’ll hear any complaints. Halak is still considered day-to-day.
UPDATE: Jeremy Rutherford reports that Halak was not wearing a cast or limping when he returned to St. Louis. No comment on whether Halak is back to full health, but Hitchcock has stated Game 5’s lineup will be the same as Game 4.
HockeysFuture.com named Vladimir Tarasenko their prospect of the year for 2012. Fans will know that Tarasenko has been a big performer in the KHL and have seen the talent the youngster possesses. However, Tarasenko has yet to make it clear whether or not he plans on leaving the KHL for the NHL. In my opinion, we all know about Tarasenko’s talent but I’m not going to buy into the hype until I know he is going to play for the Blues.