It is said in baseball that pitching wins in the playoffs. In hockey, it is defense. Of course, what I do not understand is why pitching and defense are said to only win in the playoffs. What about the whole regular season? Now after all, how do you get to the playoffs in the first place? Yes, it is true a team can manage to qualify for the playoffs, but get a quick exit because they could score, but not play defense; however the surest way to prosper in the playoffs is to be a good defensive team. Take for example the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. Here was a team last year that the experts, and even some their fans doubted, because of their woeful power play. That team was almost better shorthanded than on the man advantage. How did they win... stellar defense, not just from Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas, but the whole team was very responsible defensively. They did not have to overwhelm you with goals, just score more than their opposition.
This brings us to the present and the St. Louis Blues. Here we have a team that has few superstars, really if you are not a Blues fan you may have trouble naming anyone. They had only one All-Star, (Goalie Brian Elliot), and just try seeing a Blues game on standard cable television outside the Midwest. Yet this team can win because of their remarkable defense. Goalies are the first players we think of in this category, and the Blues Goalie tandem of Elliot and Jaroslav Halak are already taking home the Jennings Trophy for best goaltending in the league. When I say the best I mean, they let in only 1.89 goals a game! That is really small. It is the result of great goalies, but also great defense by the whole team. San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan summed up the Blues well in this quote from espn.com: "They're very good defensively, they outnumber you quickly. They get rebounds and they are physically strong. They battle for their ice." The Blues can score as well. Maybe not as much as some teams, but enough to win. Surprise everyone, I think this is the year the Blues win it all.