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5 Stanley Cup Playoff Questions for the St. Louis Blues

by Photo of Gil Santos

David Rogers discusses Jaden Schwartz, the Blues’ playoff chances, and more.

5 Stanley Cup Playoff Questions for the St. Louis Blues

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are set to begin on Wednesday and CHARGED.fm wants to prepare you for this exciting postseason. To get you ready, we contacted bloggers for the 16 playoff teams and asked them five questions to give us more insight about the teams they cover. Up first is David Rogers of FrozenNotes.com to talk about the St. Louis Blues and their playoff chances.

In three years under head coach Ken Hitchock, the St. Louis Blues have consistently finished near the top of the Western Conference in the regular season. This year was no different as the Blues boast an impressive 52-33-7 record and the third most points in the West. However, like all Blues' coaches before him, Hitchcock has yet to translate regular season success to Stanley Cups. With injury concerns for their top forwards and a difficult first round matchup with the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks, the odds of the Cup coming to St. Louis may be dwindling.  To shed some light on this year's Blues' Stanley Cup chances before the series gets going at the Scottrade Center this Thursday, I talked to David Rogers of FrozenNotes.com. Here is what he had to say:

The St. Louis Blues have yet to win the Stanley Cup. What about this year’s team makes you think they can finally get over hump?

Barring injuries, I'd say depth and defense. When they're playing their game and they're composed, the Blues have the best defensive group in the NHL. Up front, the Blues have a great balance of skill, grit and strength. If the Blues are healthy - and that's a huge if - the club has the perfect balance to make a deep Cup run which they haven't had in previous years.

What are your main concerns about this current version of the Blues?

I've touched on this already, but injuries and composure. This team will not make a deep run if their key players (Backes, Oshie, Tarasenko and so on) are out of the lineup. The same could be said for any NHL team, but the Blues have been particularly unlucky when it comes to injuries as the season winds down.

Then there's composure. When the Blues are knocked off of their game, they make some nonsensical mistakes. They rush passes and give the puck away in their own zone. They beat themselves. Usually this leads to a large defeat (4-1, 3-0) as the Blues pepper their opponent with harmless shots which sail wide while giving away high-quality chances.

Who is an under the radar player that can make a huge impact on your playoff run this year?

Jaden Schwartz. He's one of the most dynamic forwards on the roster. He makes smart plays and has that dash of offensive flare which has traditionally been lacking in St. Louis forwards in previous years. If Vladimir Tarasenko is absent for the playoffs (we'll have to wait and see), the pressure will be on Schwartz to lead what has been a stumbling St. Louis offense. He's an exciting youngster who might make that big next step during the playoffs.

Other forwards receive the praise and attention, but Schwartz has been a critical member of this organization in 2013-14.

Jaden Schwartz has really come into his own this season with a career-best 56 points. How do you think he will fare in his second postseason?

See above! Schwartz was barely a factor in his first dip in the playoffs (6 games, 1 assist) and now he's primed to take advantage of an expanded role. If the Blues aren't able to recover from some of their injuries, the pressure will be on Schwartz to perform. 

The youngster doesn't need to change his game for the playoffs. Simply, he needs to keep doing what he's been doing all season long. I expect he'll rise to the challenge. He may not lead the team in points, but he will be a component the Blues look to throughout their time in this year's playoffs.

What is your overall prediction for the Blues this postseason?

It's difficult to be optimistic given how the Blues are closing out the season. Considering the current injuries and big losing streak, it's almost impossible to predict a long run for this squad. However, that could change in an instant. The switch could be flipped. I'll make two predictions, one which assumes the Blues are mostly healthy and one which assumes they're missing 5-7 of their top-9 forwards.

Healthy - Blues make it to the Conference Finals and are eliminated in six games. The team's offense dries up and as they press, more mistakes are made. Ryan Miller finds his confidence but he's exposed as the Blues make mistakes in front of him.

Unhealthy - It's ugly in a hurry. Blues are knocked out in the first round in convincing fashion. The Blues are forced to dress an AHL squad which is overwhelmed. Defensively, the Blues try to generate offense which leaves the exposed in the back. Questions loom over Miller's future after the team crashes out early.

David Rogers is the founder of the St. Louis Blues' blog Frozen Notes and is also the managing editor of NHL blog Puck Drunk Love. You can follow him on Twitter @FrozenNotes.

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