In sports, it’s good to win on the road. Going into someone else’s house and take the game and the mood of the night along with you to the plane back home is special and gets you through a season. However, playoff teams must be great on their home turf. If you find it difficult to nestle up a winning spirit in front of your home crowd, something is wrong with your play and needs addressing soon. Good thing for the St. Louis Blues that they are amazing at the Scottrade Center this year. When they needed a boost or something to look forward to, they could look at the schedule and know the ship would be righted once they stepped back on home ice.
The Blues have come a long way since the post strike misery from 2005-2007. When Mike Kitchen was coaching games and fans were greatly appreciative if the Blues kept losing streaks to two games. These days, losing two in a row isn’t just outlawed but creates something downright nasty on fan forums. Twitter blows up with remarks that would make a casual fan think the Note were swimming with the fishes at the bottom of the conference. Fans cry out into the cold, find a climbable bridge and look out over the ledge. When the Blues lost two in a row this past week to San Jose and Los Angeles, a lot of fans(not all of them) were ready to put torches to all the previous wins that came. That is when you miss important details.
The Blues lost to San Jose, who are 10-1-2 on home ice and are 2nd in the Western Conference right now. Sure, you want to win these big matchups but losing to the best has a few rewards as well. Next up came Los Angeles, the pack of wild dogs who sent our team home the past two times we made the playoffs. Better yet, Jonathan Quick wasn’t playing due to injury. The stars were aligned for us to take them down. Instead, we lost and the world of fans started to panic. “OH NO, THE BLUES CAN’T POSSIBLY BE FLAWED ENOUGH TO LOSE TWICE IN A ROW!” Sure they can. Remember this team never quits. After falling 4-0 early to the Sharks, we battled back to make it 4-3 before losing 6-3. Against LA, we were down 3-0 and battled back to fall 3-2. Sure, both are regulation losses in the end, but the overall attitude of this team is, we are never out of the fight. That’s the positive.
If there is one thing I hate out there, it’s hearing, “oh well, they just didn’t really want it tonight.” Yeah, and hockey is supposed to be so darn easy. Every night the Blues want it. In this rugged game, the puck bounces funny for everyone and the hits come harder than ever and the night before seems like a distant memory. Hockey, 82 game season and all, can punch a team in the teeth often.
The Blues dusted themselves off at home, winning easily 5-1 over a weak Islanders team. They found solace on home ice, improving their record there to 12-1-2 and their overall record to 19-5-3, which is good for 3rd place in the Western Conference. They are three points behind the Blackhawks(whom they have beat twice this season) and they face the Ducks tomorrow night, whom they are tied with for 3rd place.
The matchup with the Ducks comes at home, where the Blues are mighty and nearly unbeatable. The attendance at Scottrade has been down this season so far, but the noise and emotion has been steady. Fans come, get loud and cheer on their Blues. They have a team committed to winning and an owner in Tom Stillman who lives and breathes the will to bring a Cup to St. Louis, so much that he wants to strap the skates on himself and hit the ice.
Sure, it’s not safe to lose too many games in a conference where 12 teams are in reach of a playoff berth but remember these Blues won’t go down easy. We get down early and we will fight back. Our goaltender has a bad night and we will pick him up. Halak and Elliot aren’t going to win Vezina trophies anytime soon, but they get the job done and support their players. David Backes is scoring again at a high rate. T.J. Oshie has settled into a role that suits him. Playmaker. Alex Steen has turned into a goal scorer. Jay Bouwmeester has fortified the defensive unit. Players like Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart still have points to give but there is time.
Sure there are things to correct. We let other teams spend a LOT of time in our zone putting shots on net. Our offensive unit gets a little fancy with the puck on power plays. Our goalies can be lit up at any given moment. There are teams out there that can stuff us in the neutral zone. However, these things listed are common problems in the NHL. It’s a tough game and a very tough league.
Don’t freak out the next time this team manages to form a losing streak. Remember the days when it was a given. Cherish that those times have passed and Ken Hitchcock has the ability to jumpstart this team at any second. The St. Louis Blues are a dangerous team and they only get more mad and mean when they face a deficit.
I can’t tell you the Blues will bring a Cup to 14th and Clark, but I can tell you there are few teams better on home ice than the Blues. They are a little smarter, more reactive and ready for the challenge this year. The future is bright at Scottrade.
Thanks for reading this,
*Reach me at @buffa82 on Twitter and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org