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Blues clinch playoffs in win over Lightning

Mar 17, 2012, 10:33 PM EST

Jaroslav Halak, Alex Pietrangelo Getty Images

With a 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Saturday, the St. Louis Blues became the first NHL team to 100 points and to clinch the playoffs. They no doubt have higher ambitions on their minds, but for a team that ranked 11th in the Western Conference last season, it’s a more than just noteworthy accomplishment.

Once again, a blend of defense and superb goaltending propelled them forward. 50-goal scorer Steven Stamkos was held pointless, and as a team the Lightning never managed more than nine shots on goal in a single period. St. Louis netminder Jaroslav Halak also did his part to earn his ninth win in his last 10 contests and his 25th victory of the season. Halak has now allowed just two or fewer goals in 11 of his last 12 starts.

With Andy McDonald sidelined due to a shoulder injury, 2010 first round draft pick Jaden Schwartz made his NHL debut. Schwartz made an immediate impact, scoring the game-winning goal on a power play in the first period.

David Perron and Patrik Berglund accounted for the Blues other two goals. The two have each recorded six points in their last six games.

Tampa Bay’s Brendan Mikkelson ended Jaroslav Halak’s shutout bid with just 4:11 remaining in regulation time. It was Mikkelson’s first goal in 116 career NHL games.

The St. Louis Blues have all-but secured the top spot in the Western Conference and can gradually start to shift their focus to preparing for the playoffs. That being said, it is still mathematically possible for them to surpass their franchise record of 114 points in a single season, set back in 1999-2000.

With this loss, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s situation has gone from bad to almost hopeless. Although they haven’t technically been eliminated from the playoffs, it’s hard to see how they can make up the seven-point gap between them and the Washington Capitals in the final three weeks of the season.

  1. zwilhelm16 - Mar 17, 2012 at 10:41 PM

    Bringing the cup to St.Louis this year.
    Go blues!!!!

  2. blomfeld - Mar 17, 2012 at 11:14 PM

    “have all-but secured the top spot in the Western Conference” ? …

    With all due respect to comrade Dadoun and this “well meaning” Blues fan above, I wouldn’t be so quick to count the chickens like that before the eggs have hatched. You’ve got the talented Sedin brothers hot on their trail, not to mention the Wings, Hawks, Preds, Sharks and need I say … our “beloved” LA Kings ! Yes siree, we Kings are in action tonight and so I’ll be brief, as I need to return to the action here shortly :) The point is, the LA Kings are currently the “hottest” team in the NHL @ 7-3 in their last 10 and so get ready, because “we’s a com’n fur ya !”

    • paperlions - Mar 18, 2012 at 10:49 AM

      First, the Kings are 18 pts back with 10 games left, they are not challenging for the top spot in the Western Conference. The Kings should be more worried about over-taking someone for a playoff spot as they are 9th in the West.

      Second, the Penguins are the hottest team in the NHL right now, having won 11 games in a row.

      Third, the Blues and Stars (7-2-1) both have better records than the Kings over the last 10 games.

      Fourth, the Sharks (82 pts) and Hawks (86 pts) may be hot on someone tail, but that someone is not the Blues.

      Fifth, the closest team to the Blues right now is Vancouver who is 6 pts back with 2 games in hand, other teams will require a larger stumble by the blues to even get back into the race for the top spot. Vancouver’s biggest advantage in that aspect is playing in a weak division.

  3. capsrockva - Mar 17, 2012 at 11:16 PM

    As a Caps fan, I know how much pain Halak can bring to the opposing team. that being said, heaven help the team that faces St. Louis in the first round…. Last time I checked it was CO, not San Jose.

  4. dougsautersmustache - Mar 18, 2012 at 1:56 AM

    1. With all due respect, are you intentionally misusing quotation marks? I can’t tell if you’re trying to be ironic or not.

    2. Admittedly, the Kings have been very good the last ten games, but how can you possibly justify calling them the NHL’s hottest team when the Penguins have won 11 in a row?

    3. You know Pickett’s Charge was a futile failure, right?

  5. paledevil - Mar 18, 2012 at 2:29 PM

    Dude is a hockey personality 4 sure… Remeber the old guy that drove the bus for the charlestown chiefs thats him ….

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