Updated Dec. 19
For a couple of years now, St. Louis has been a team with impressive young talent like T.J. Oshie, David Backes, Patrik Berglund and David Perron. But even with that talent, the Blues have failed to qualify for the postseason the past two seasons and has made the playoffs just once in the past six.
That's a pretty lengthy drought for a franchise that once went from 1979 to 2004 without missing the playoffs.
Right now all of that potential is turning into wins. A lot of them. And the Blues seem to have a pretty solid recipe for success: physical, keep the other team pinned in its own end of the ice and don't allow anything to get through on their own goaltenders.
Entering this week's schedule, the Blues find themselves near the top of the Western Conference (and No. 6 in our Power Rankings) at 19-9-4 and have won nine of their past 12, including victories over other top teams in the standings like Detroit, the Rangers, San Jose and Pittsburgh. The Blues are doing it with a pretty solid mix of skill and grit, and getting more than enough goaltending from Brian Elliott, who continues his amazing season, taking everybody by surprise.
Goaltending is an unpredictable beast that can crush and confuse even the best general managers and scouts, and there is probably no better example as to just how unpredictable it can be than this Blues current Blues team. Playing for his third team in two years, Elliott is playing well above his normal career levels and is, for the time being, splitting the No. 1 duty with Jaroslav Halak, the goalie the team acquired before last season after he was the hot hand in Montreal, leading the team on its improbable run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Elliott currently is leading the league in goals against average, save percentage and shutouts.
While the goaltending has been great, the players in front of them have been outstanding at limiting their workload every night and preventing opponents from creating chances. Not only have the Blues been the toughest team to score against at even strength this season, they're also the toughest team to even get a shot on goal against. Six times this season they've allowed 20 or fewer shots in a game, and for the season are allowing just 26.2 per game -- a full-shot less than the second-best team in the league (Detroit).
I don't know how much of an impact the coaching change, going from Davis Payne to Ken Hitchcock, has had at this point, but right now the Blues have the look of a team that is going to hang around in the Western Conference race this season.