The St. Louis Blues wouldn’t mind just fast forwarding to the playoffs.
No team has less to prove in the regular season and more in the playoffs than the Blues this season. The Blues have accumulated an impressive 181-86-27 regular-season record over the past four seasons but have only one playoff series victory to show for it. They were bounced from the first round the past three years.
“I think we all have some good and bad lessons from the last four years,” Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko said. “It’s going to change one day. What we need to do right now is don’t feel comfortable when you’re in the top spot in the regular season. Don’t think about it. Just play every game step by step.”
The Blues will be looking to make those steps with nearly the same players as last season. Aside from a few roster tweaks, the Blues are doubling down on Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and the same group to finally get over the playoff hump.
Tarasenko isn’t worried about the guaranteed money getting in the way of his future performance, which could include a 50-goal season somewhere down the road.
“You need to go on the ice and do a job no matter how much money you make and what’s happening in your life,” said Tarasenko, who had six goals in last season’s playoffs. “All you need is to just go there and help the team win.”
Across the board, the Blues pretty much know what they’re getting from Tarasenko and fellow forwards Alexander Steen, Jaden Schwartz, Backes and Paul Stastny. Alex Pietrangelo is also a lock to a be reliable defenseman.
WORLD CUP CANDIDATES
The Blues should be well represented in the World Cup of Hockey next year. Tarasenko will help determine Russia’s fate and will be looking for a better individual performance than in Sochi. Steen also will be looking to provide more for Sweden. Schwartz and Pietrangelo could make Canada’s lineup. Backes and Kevin Shattenkirk are possibilities for the United States. Jori Lehtera could also be playing for Finland.
PENDING FREE AGENTS
Backes is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season but Armstrong has already expressed a desire to re-sign him to a long-term deal. Schwartz is a restricted free agent and Brouwer is unrestricted after the season. The cap could become a concern for the Blues going forward. The Blues’ season will also undoubtedly determine how they plan their future.
The Blues are a playoff team again. They might even win the daunting Central Division again. None of that matters, though. The Blues’ season won’t be deemed successful unless they at least advance to the Western Conference finals and are viable Stanley Cup contenders. First in the Central Division.