It's "Do or Die" Time

With 33 games to go, the Blues have a steep second-half hill to climb. They'll play 20 of those 33 on the road, including 6 and 7-game road trips. As much success as the Blues have had, much of their damage has been done from the comforts of home ice, now they'll have to prove they can win on the road, if they want to show they're the real deal.

Here are some notes about the looming 2nd half:

-The Blues are getting healthier. Andy MacDonald has been cleared for contact and Alex Steen is getting closer. This team will hopefully be close to full strength as they battle their toughest part of the season.

-Trade Bait. Names like Chris Stewart, Patrik Berglund, Ben Bishop, Ian Cole, and Cade Fairchild have been tossed around in trade talk. I believe Ben Bishop is the most likely to go, because Halak and Elliot are fairly young and the Blues have Jake Allen waiting in the farm system. Bishop's stock is very high, coming off winning the AHL All-Star MVP. Chris Stewart seems to be the odd man out in Ken Hitchcock's system, especially once MacDonald and Steen come back. Stewart is not scoring, it makes sense to trade him to get some scoring. Anaheim's Bobby Ryan and New Jersey's Zach Parise are very tempting targets if the Blues have enough to pull it off. Hopefully they sign these guys long-term, because it might be too much to give up for just a rental player. Remember how much Atlanta gave up to rent Keith Tkachuk? Walt went back to St. Louis that next summer.

-Eastern Conference Dominance. The Blues are the only team in the NHL without a regulation loss to an Eastern Conference team. They have 7 games against those teams left. That could help them collect some points.

-Division Play. It's no secret the central is the NHL's best division. 4 teams with at least 65 points, and half of the West's playoff teams. The Blues play 12 games against divisional rivals: 4 vs Chicago, 3 vs Nashville, 4 vs Columbus and 1 vs Detroit. The opportunity is there, if the Blues can beat these teams head-to-head, they can put themselves at the top of the Western Conference. Right now it looks like whoever wins the Central, will be the #1 seed.

-Ken Hitchcock, NHL Coach of the Year. He's already one of the favorite up to this point, but if he can't lead this team through this difficult finish to the season, he would have sealed the award.

Overall, the Blues have put themselves in great position to at least make the playoffs, but it's yet to be seen whether they can learn to play on the road or not. They haven't fared well so far this season despite solid efforts. The most critical key for them, is to keep collecting points even when they lose. That's what has them in the thick of things in the Western Conference: They're hard to take down in regulation.

This is where we finally see their offseason signings pay off. The veteran leadership of Arnott, Langenbrunner and Nichol will not let this team take a night off. That's why I believe this team will finish strong and surprise the league just how good they'll be come playoff time.

As a die-hard Blues fan, I just pray that I'm right!

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