It has been 12 years since the Blues have been 1st overall in the NHL this late into the season. After beating Dallas 1-0 Monday night (Jan. 16th), St. Louis has 60 points with 37 games still to play.
Their success and dominance this season is the result of many things, but here's 5 notable differences to this team, that has catapulted them to the top of the league.
5. Veteran Leadership
The Blues made a splash this offseason by signing veterans Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott. These guys are Stanley Cup champions and know what it takes to play a full 82-game season and finish strong. The Blues have had problems in the second halves of their seasons the last few years. They needed that presence in the locker room to keep them motivated and take them not only to the playoffs but beyond.
4. David Backes
The captain is playing like a man possessed this year and he's inspiring his entire team to try and match his toughness, grit, and skill on the ice. He's proving to be one of the best power forwards in the league. He can score goals, kill penalties, and isn't afraid to drop the gloves. He can do it all, and he sets a very high standard for the rest of his teammates. After all, isn't that what a true captain is supposed to do?
This is the 3rd best defensive team in the NHL. They're one of only 4 teams left to have given up less than 100 goals on the season. Their team of defensemen is allowing very few shots on goal per game and all of them will get down to block shots, and lay their body on the line to get the puck out of danger. This fearless defensive play is a tough line of defense to get through...and then you have to deal with the absolute final line of defense, for that, read below.
Steady goaltending is one of the keys to success in the NHL and the Blues have a fantastic pair of netminders. The duo of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot is only outmatched in the NHL by Boston's Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask. They have now combined for 8 total shutouts and respond between the pipes, no matter who gets the call on gameday. Elliot's 1.68 goals against average is 2nd in the NHL to Rask, and Halak's is also a fantastic 2.18. Nothing frustrates an opponent more than to constantly keep getting turned away by these netminders.
1. Home Ice Advantage
41 of their 60 points on the season have come on home ice,so you can't talk about the Blues without crediting their outstanding home record. They're 19-3-3 at Scottrade Center and haven't lost in regulation there in over 6 weeks. The Blues are in the midst of a January where they're playing 9 of 11 games at home, so they're racking up the points when they can.
While it's home sweet home right now, the Blues are looking at a brutal final stretch of the season.
They play 9 of 15 games in February on the road. Their Feb. 23rd game in Nashville kicks off the worst stretch of their season and perhaps the most critical to surviving their season. They will play 13 games on the road, 3 at home in that time. That includes a 3-game home stand sandwich between 6 and 7-game road trips.
The Blues are only 8-9-3 on the road and will have to learn to be road warriors if they want to stay close to the top of the standings. The Western Conference is so tight this year that a bad losing streak late in the season could actually drop some teams out of the top 8.
However, one thing is for sure, the 5 reasons mentioned above to the Blues success are the exact reasons that should get this team through anything.
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