It seems like a two-team race for the President's trophy as the top overall team in the NHL, between the New York Rangers and the St. Louis Blues. Let's break down what both teams have left.
Blues:vs Columbus, vs Detroit, vs Phoenix, at Dallas
Rangers: vs Boston, at Philadelphia, at Pittsburgh, vs Washington
The Blues have the advantage the rest of the way, playing three of their final four games at home, where they have the best record in the NHL. The last two games will be tough, because Phoenix and Dallas are trying to make the playoffs, and of course never overlook the Detroit Red Wings, even if they've only won 2 games in their last 10.
The Rangers have a very tough final four games, against powerhouse Boston, then on the road to hostile games against their rival Flyers and Penguins. Then they play Washington, a team playing desperate to make the playoffs. New York has their work cut out for them.
This year's Blues team is in many ways like the 1999-2000 team that won the President's trophy, but clearly with better goaltending. Roman Turek was a horse and started 67 games in the regular season and won 42 games, but he wore down in the playoffs and the Blues got bounced by San Jose in the first round. (look up Owen Nolan and Mike Ricci).
There are so many players on both teams that play similar games and help them win.
Pierre Turgeon played with finesse, skill and was a phenomenal passer. Much like Andy McDonald. Alex Pietrangelo is the leader on the blueline, just like Chris Pronger was back in the day.
Big Patrik Berglund's game is a lot like Michal Handzus'. Pavol Demitra was the team's leading scorer and had moves like T.J. Oshie or David Perron. The team had veterans, Arnott and Langenbrunner this year, Craig Conroy and Scott Young in 2000.
They had role guys on the 4th lines. Tyson Nash, Mike Eastwood, Jamal Mayers. Vladimir Sobotka, Scott Nichol, and Ryan Reaves.
I already mentioned the old team didn't have the goaltending this year's team has, but that team also didn't have any player close to what David Backes brings to the Blues. He's a five-tool power forward that don't come around every day. He gives you everything he's got every single night and his leadership in the locker room as the captain goes unmatched.
Although the Blues may not get the 113 points the 1999-2000 team had, I believe they're a much more complete team with stronger chemistry and clearly better goaltending. Yes the old team had MacInnis and Pronger on defense, but the Blues entire team has come together defensively to be one of the stingiest in NHL history.
If Ken Hitchcock can keep these guys focused on winning the president's trophy these last four games, I believe they'll win it, and earn the all important home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, not just the Western Conference. It's a goal that could have a high reward for the NHL's best home team.
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