For better or worse, the St. Louis Blues have made history. They are the first team in over 100 years of NHL hockey to lose eight games in a row and follow it with a seven-game winning streak. The latter streak came to an end with a brutal 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres. It was an impressive run, but now that it is over, it’s difficult to really determine which streak better represents the team that the Blues will be in the 2022-23 season. It wasn’t that long ago that general manager Doug Armstrong was openly talking about a rebuild. Now the Blues hold the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
With so much uncertainty about the team, the one-day Thanksgiving break doesn’t give them much time to recharge. They will soon be traveling to the Sunshine State for a back-to-back meeting with the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers. Then a critical divisional showdown will bring the month of November to an end. With so many questions still lingering around this team, these three games will be a critical stretch for the Blues to establish their identity going forward. Let’s look at what’s to come in this trio of games.
A Pair of Games in Florida
For the second season in a row, the Blues will handle their business in Florida in one trip. This season, they’ll play the Lightning and Panthers in a Friday/Saturday back-to-back, a tough test for the team coming off the loss to Buffalo. Last season, they did not fair well in the Sunshine State, taking one point (a shootout loss) of the possible four. This year won’t likely be any easier. Though both of their opponents are having difficult starts to the campaign, everyone recognizes that the reigning Presidents’ Trophy-winning Panthers and the three-time Cup Finalist Lightning still represent two of the best teams in the league. What’s more, the trip will be their first run-in with Matthew Tkachuk, the St. Louis native who was traded to the Panthers in a summer blockbuster after an extended flirtation with the Blues. Many St. Louis fans still wonder what might have been had Armstrong managed a trade for the young superstar.
The Lightning mirror the Blues’ place in the standings, currently holding the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Their defense has struggled and Andrei Vasilevskiy, one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, has been mediocre, with a .903 save percentage (SV%). But Tampa Bay…