There was plenty to learn from the recent seven-game series between the St. Louis Blues and the Arizona Coyotes.
The St. Louis Blues and the Arizona Coyotes spent the first part of February doing something that usually only happens once the regular season has concluded: playing a seven-game series. Now, this wasn’t a best-of-seven like in the postseason, and it certainly did not have the high stakes that Playoff hockey does, but it was still seven straight contests between the same two teams, so it is worth examining closely.
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This series began with a Blues victory, which was then succeeded by three consecutive wins for the Coyotes. St. Louis bounced back with two victories to make the seventh contest feel like a true Game 7. That game was won by the Yotes on Monday night via a 1-0 shoutout. Clayton Keller scored the lone goal, while Darcy Kuemper recorded 24 saves.
Before reading too far into this series of games, it is important to note that injuries did have an impact. St. Louis was especially hampered by injuries, as players like Jaden Schwartz, Tyler Bozak, Marco Scandella, and more were all dealing with ailments. Defenseman Torey Krug can be added to that list after exiting Monday’s game.
Nevertheless, seven games are seven games, and whether injuries are influential or not, there is still plenty that can be learned from this series. Personally, I thought that the Coyotes would regress this season following some offseason departures, but this series has me thinking that I judged them too quickly. On the other hand, I believed that the Blues, still possessing much of the roster that won the Stanley Cup in 2019, would be in contention again this year. That hasn’t totally changed, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t second guessing it.
What did we learn from seven games between the St. Louis Blues and Arizona Coyotes?
It seems like every regular-season, as fans and experts assess which teams could make a run at the Stanley Cup, decisions are based on whether or not we believe Team A is capable of beating Team B in a seven-game series. That’s where this set of matches gets me thinking. In January, I would have told you that I didn’t believe the Yotes could take the Blues down in a Playoff series. Now, even keeping in mind the injuries and the fact that these regular-season games do still function differently than a postseason tilt, it’s actually been proven that they can.
There is no need for speculation. We just saw it happen, and it demonstrates how close these clubs actually are. In the seven games, each team scored the exact same number of goals (20-20), with five of the seven matchups decided by only one goal, and two of them requiring Overtime. Individually, the teams are similar too. The leading scorers are David Perron (15 points), Jordan Kyrou (14), and Ryan O’Reilly (14) for the Blues, and Conor Garland (14), Christian Dvorak (13), and Nick Schmaltz (13) for the Coyotes. In goal, Jordan Binnington owns a 2.37 goals against average and a .918 save percentage for St. Louis, while Kuemper has posted a 2.26 GAA and a .919 Sv% for Arizona.
Now, if the Blues and Coyotes were set to play another seven games, I would still pick the former to earn four wins. To be clear, I do still like St. Louis more than I like Arizona. However, isn’t it safe to say that the gap is minimal? Even in the standings the two clubs are only separated by four points, as the Blues lead and the Yotes have a game in hand. St. Louis has a +3 goal differential, and close behind is Arizona with a -2 goal differential.
There is no doubt that the top three teams in the West, in terms of talent, are the Colorado Avalanche, the Vegas Golden Knights, and the Blues. After watching these seven games unfold, though, the Coyotes have become Playoff contenders in my mind, and the Blues are clearly, at this moment, number three in the division to me. I am going to need to see St. Louis either prove that it can beat Vegas and Colorado, or really look impressive when it meets Arizona one final time in April. In the meantime, I’ll be looking for the Blues to collect a pile of wins against the three California teams between now and the middle of March.
When it comes to winning the Stanley Cup, nothing can be decided in the regular season. What this seven-game series between the Blues and the Coyotes does, though, is it gives us a look at something that we can usually only speculate about. Right now, it is a wakeup call that the St. Louis Blues have work to do and that the Arizona Coyotes will contend for that fourth Playoff spot in the West. As of mid-February, Arizona can win this best-of-seven matchup. It is on St. Louis, as theoretical championship contenders, to look at this unique Playoff-style stretch of games and adjust accordingly.