I know I’ve written about it here and here, but it’s getting ridiculous now. The St. Louis Blues have the most points in the NHL. Are they the best team in the NHL? Well, you are what your record says you are. So, as of today, yes.
With their 3-1 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday, the Blues earned their 100th point of the season, the first team to do so. Vancouver is four points behind for the top spot in the Western Conference. The Blues hold an eight-point lead over both Nashville and Detroit in the Central Division.
Former Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock really was the savior. How did he do it?
The Blues were dead last (30th out of 30 NHL teams) on the power play when Hitchcock took over. Today, they’re 16th, which is pretty respectable from where they came from. The most telling statistic is their 1.8 goals against per game, best in the league. Goalies Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak rank first and second in the NHL in goals against average, respectively. Elliott is also first in save percentage, while Halak is fourth. Only Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers, eight) and Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles, seven) have more shutouts than Elliott and Halak, who both have six. Not bad, eh?
Hitchcock has led the Blues to a 40-12-8 record since taking over on Nov. 7. Eighty-eight points in 60 games is incredible. Looking ahead at their final 9 games, I don’t think Vancouver can catch them for the West’s top spot. I’m not sure if any team in any sport has earned the top seed in the playoffs during a season it made a coaching change, but St. Louis is a couple weeks away from accomplishing that feat.
T.J. Oshie (18 goals-32 assists-50 points) is the team’s leading scorer. Unless you’re a huge hockey fan, you probably haven’t heard of him. David Backes (21-27-48) is second. I’m guessing not many people have heard of him either. And this team has the best record in the league. The NHL hasn’t really been a superstar-driven league like the NBA. Winning in the playoffs is usually about which goalie gets hot, and converting on the power play. The Blues’ improved power play and incredible goaltending could lead to a deep run in the playoffs. I’m not going to bet against them.
In high school, my hockey coach jokingly instilled the idea that whenever we won, it was all coaching. For the 2011-12 St. Louis Blues, it’s not a joke.
Hitchcock deserves to win the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s coach of the year. And the Blue Jackets should feel awful that he isn’t on their bench.