Blues bolstered by Berube, Binnington on way to playoff berth

The St. Louis Blues are back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the seventh time in the past eight seasons, clinching a berth when the Arizona Coyotes lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Friday.

The Blues (41-28-8), who did not qualify for the playoffs last season after doing so in each of the previous six, are third in the Central Division with 90 points, four behind the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators, who are tied for the division lead. St. Louis and Winnipeg each have a game in hand on Nashville.

Here are five reasons why the Blues clinched a playoff berth:

1. Coaching change

It's not easy for a new coach to come in more than a month after a season begins; Craig Berube faced that situation when he was hired as interim coach after the Blues fired Mike Yeo on Nov. 19. But Berube, who took over when the Blues were 7-9-3, has helped them turn around their fortunes; they're 34-19-5 since.

It took a little time, but Berube got the Blues playing as a cohesive unit. They're strong defensively, allowing 208 goals in 77 games (sixth in the NHL). Their penalty kill (81.7 percent) is eighth in the League. Berube also knew the potential of goalie Jordan Binnington, who played for Berube with Chicago of the American Hockey League in 2016-17. 

There have been seven coaching changes in the NHL this season, but Berube is the only new hire whose team is going to the playoffs. Considering what he has accomplished, it won't be surprising if Berube is part of the discussion for the Jack Adams Award for best coach in the NHL.

#hockey, #professional

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