Sunday, 27 April 2014

Much Ado About Nothing

This was supposed to be their year. This was the season that the St. Louis Blues threw the gorilla off their backs and finally marched towards the promised land with a little swagger. They were tough. They were rugged. They had the pieces to make the rest of the NHL worried. They matched up well against all opponents. This was supposed to be the year that the Blues went all the way. Except that they awoken the beast called the Chicago Blackhawks who decided that the Blues were going nowhere but home.

Everyone thought that St. Louis was going to be the juggernaut that crushed the dreams of teams like Chicago, Colorado, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose simply because they had the pieces to go deep. Backes, Oshie, Steen, Tarasenko, Schwartz, Sobotka, Morrow, Ott, and Berglund up front makes for a formidable foe. Toss in Pietrangelo, Bouwmeester, Jackman, and Shattenkirk to make the Blues even tougher to play against. Cap it off with a tandem of Ryan Miller and Brian Elliott, and the Blues should be planning their second-round travel plans.

Instead, they'll be booking tee times after being outscored 14-6 in the final four games of the six-game series as Chicago is looking at visiting either Denver or St. Paul in the next round. Chicago got key performances from Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Duncan Keith in the four games as the Blackhawks looked like the defending Stanley Cup champions once again.

If there were concerns about the Blues going into the playoffs, the same concerns were magnified in the playoffs. Ryan Miller's 2.70 GAA is higher than one would have liked to have seen, but his sub-.900 save percentage is never going to win a playoff series against a team like the Blackhawks.

Vladimir Tarasenko's four goals certainly helped the Blues in this series, but it's never a good sign when a defensive defenceman like Kevin Shattenkirk leads the team in scoring. Alexander Steen? One goal and two assists. David Backes? One assist. TJ Oshie? Two goals. When St. Louis' top line has been outscored by one player on the Blackhawks, that's not going to help either.

Both of St. Louis' wins in Games One and Two came in overtime, meaning that Chicago could have won those games just as easily. While Chicago didn't light the lamp in either of the opening games' overtime periods, they didn't have any problem winning in Game Five in St. Louis, so the experience factor certainly came into play. The Blackhawks know how to close out games. The Blues do not. At least "not yet" anyway.

For all the hype generated about St. Louis being a playoff team thanks to their addition of Miller and Ott, the results were the same: an early exit with little to reflect on in terms of playoff success. If we need to talk about a St. Louis team that finished as one of the final four teams, we're going back to 2000-01 when they lost the Conference Final to the Avalanche by a 4-1 count. If you want to talk Stanley Cup Final, we're going generations back to 1969-70 when they lost in a series sweep to the Boston Bruins when Bobby Orr scored his famous goal. Needless to say, for all the talent the Blues have had over the years, success in the playoffs has eluded them.

For Blues fans, it's same old broken record: see you in September.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: