Some of the NHL players participated in a video webinar for the media on Thursday and both Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby and Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin agreed that if the NHL does return this season, they wouldn’t mind the regular season being over and starting with the NHL playoffs.
If that is the case, what would that mean for the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues?
The Positives in Starting With the NHL Playoffs
The first thing on everybody’s mind is the fact that the players haven’t been allowed to work out as a team. Some players have posted videos of them rollerskating or having shooting practice, but it’s not the same. It will take some time for players to be at playing speed again. That goes for the whole league though, not just the Blues. The Blues aren’t behind in that regard. The league has discussed giving the players a few weeks of just practice time before any games are played, which would put everyone on an equal playing field as long as everyone has a similar practice schedule.
In fact, this time off has given Blues star forward Vladimir Tarasenko extra time to heal and work out his shoulder that he had surgery on in October. He was originally expected to be ready in five months, which would have been at the end of March. He posted home workout videos and didn’t seem to have any issues with his shoulder. Before the league paused the season, Tarasenko was skating with the team regularly. If the season does continue, Tarasenko should be just as ready as every other player. This would give the Blues an added edge over opponents. The Blues have managed to play good hockey without him so having him back can only make things more consistent.
Then, of course, there’s the ultimate positive for St. Louis. The Blues have a chance to defend their title in the NHL playoffs and bring the Stanley Cup to St. Louis for the second year in a row.
The Potential Negative
If the season returns and starts with the NHL playoffs, the Blues managed to narrowly escape falling from first place in the Central Division standings. The Colorado Avalanche were only two points behind the Blues with one game in hand. Sure that sounds great in theory, but if the NHL decides to keep the same playoff format as last year, this means the Blues will play the Nashville Predators. That is the same Predators that swept the season series against the Blues this season 4-0. It’s the same Predators that beat the Blues in the second round of the 2017 playoffs. Yes, the Blues are a far better team this season than the Predators, but it wouldn’t be an easy matchup, especially if the past is on the Predators side.
If the regular season would continue, the Blues might get lucky enough to play the Winnipeg Jets, who the Blues beat in the first round of the playoffs last year. The Jets are currently in the first wild card spot with two more points than the Predators. However, the Predators had two games in hand on the Jets, which could have helped them move past the Jets.
Whatever happens, everyone hopes hockey will be back soon enough and that there is some type of NHL playoffs to watch at some point this season.