It's Official - St. Louis Blues Playoff Bound
The St. Louis Blues are heading back to the Stanley Cup playoffs after clinching their spot by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night. The win also carried the Blues to 100 points in 2011-12 - the first time they have crossed the 100-point barrier since the 2000-01 season. The playoff berth is just the club's second since the lockout back in 2004-05. It's amazing how different the feeling is knowing that the Blues are playoff bound in 2011-12 compared to how we all received the news in 2008-09. Achieving the playoffs in 2008-09 was a surprise culminated with a ridiculous second half stretch that allowed the Blues to sneak in. What followed was a disappointing first round exit (swept by Vancouver) but nearly every Blues fan agree the season as a whole was a huge success simply by making the playoffs. Skip ahead to the present day and you have a club that we knew was realistically playoff bound for quite some time now - it just needed to be made official. The news that the Blues will officially be competing for the Cup was met with little emotion. There are bigger goals to accomplish. The 2011-12 installment of the St. Louis Blues doesn't view making the playoffs as an accomplishment worth celebrating. They have established themselves as one of the best team's in the league and have statistically been the best team in the Western Conference (and at times, the entire NHL) for weeks. Simply making the playoffs won't do. The Blues are expected to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup. The Blues find themselves in pretty unfamiliar territory. No longer are they a squad that can sneak into the playoffs and hope to knock off a more recognized team by being a team the opposition and media have underestimated. Instead, the Blues are one of the favorites that will be one of the main targets once the playoffs commence. Expectations, obviously, have grown to a pretty huge level in St. Louis. Rightfully so. Personally, I already view the team's season as an enormous win. They have taken a squad that has one of the lowest payrolls in the league and made them an elite group - props to Doug Armstrong. As a writer that talks Blues hockey and generic NHL hockey on a regular basis for the past several years, I couldn't predict this is how things would go for the Blues in 2011-12. I thought the Blues were a team capable of making the playoffs as a seed somewhere in the #6 to #8 range. In no way did I see this team being at the top of the standings in the Central division, let alone in the entire NHL. The question that remains to be answered is simple - how far will the Blues be able to go?