A phenom returns in a big way, plus a look at who the Blues could draw in early April.
Lookout for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The return of Sidney Crosby makes the Penguins a scary team in the Eastern Conference. In 4 games, Crosby is a +7 with 9 points. Think he’s a difference maker?
They trail the New York Rangers by just 1 point for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, and the conference altogether. If the season ended today, Pittsburgh would draw the Philadelphia Flyers in Round 1, but would rather face the eventual eighth seed (likely Washington or Buffalo). The Rangers travel to Pittsburgh on April 5th in what could decide the playoff seeding.
Regardless, kudos to the Penguins. Crosby has played just 12 games this season, and the Penguins have 96 points. In large part to Evgeni Malkin, who now has 41 goals and 88 points. Nobody wants to draw this duo.
Another huge game for the Blues in Anaheim tonight. The Ducks are a feisty bunch, despite no longer a candidate for postseason play. They are 19-16-3 in the Honda Center, far from great. Halak has been in net for all 3 games against the Ducks this year. The Blues have won 2/3 meetings, but lost in October in this building.
Keep in mind, the Blues 3-1 win over the Ducks last month was a 1-1 game into the 3rd and aside from Halak, a rather sloppy game offensively. The Note enters fresh off a 3 day break and will be well rested for tonight.
The Blues could be without David Backes (foot), Andy McDonald (shoulder), and Jason Arnott (soreness). They do have some phenom named Jaden Shwartz though. Congratulations on goal #1, pretty special.
Lucky for St. Louis, they have an 8-point cushion over both Nashville and Detroit. The Predators actually leapfrogged the Red Wings in the West. The Wings are banged up with injuries to Jimmy Howard, Nicklas Lidstrom, Darren Helm, and Johan Franzan. How great would that be to have Nashville and Detroit battle in Round 1?
The Blackhawks are surging. 8-1-1 in their last 10. Teams with experience always excel when it counts. If Jonathon Toews returns from a concussion, the Hawks are legit contenders.
The final two spots in the West are a dogfight with five teams in contention. Colorado looms as the shortest plane ride for St. Louis, which is really the only benefit I see over any of the other teams.
You know what? They all suck, and the Blues are elite. They should have no problem with Round 1.
One side note: Ilya Kovalchuk netted his 400th goal in a 1-0 New Jersey win over Ottawa and goaltender Ben Bishop.
Ah, playoff hockey is just 9 games away.