Saint Louis has and will always be known as a baseball town. The city bleeds Cardinal red and Busch Stadium is our second home.
Though, with the boys down the street back in the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2001 and the Cardinals in bit of a rut, the baseball jerseys are being traded in for the blue sweaters.
No I am not saying the Cardinals are being forgotten about or that fans are giving up on them, I would get crucified for making such accusations. No, hockey is taking a front seat in the city because it’s new and fresh. We’ve seen our team succeed on the diamond year in and year out.
Much like Chicago with baseball, Saint Louis is finally getting a look at what Chicago fans have experienced with their teams success on the ice.
Now I’m a fan of any and all Saint Louis teams and will watch or listen to most games as long as I am able. For many people this is the first time they’ve experienced a winning hockey team or are watching hockey for the first time period.
I remember the days of Chris Pronger, Al MacInnis, and Keith Tkachuk, but I was also only seven years old at the time. So this, in a way, is the first time I’ve seen the Blues make a deep run.
No I didn’t have to live through the years of the poor management, nor did I get to experience all that was Brett Hull, but for the first time in 15 years this city is finally rallying around something other than baseball.
Whether it be a hang over from that football team that used to make its home here, or the social media explosion that has generated interest in this team (See #RoarBacon or @soIoucity) there’s certainly a hype around hockey in Saint Louis.
A hype that not only is felt within the city limits, but outside them as well.
If you haven’t heard the story of Gerry Nelson and his son Wyatt, it’s a good one.
The spark notes version is that Gerry and his son are huge hockey fans living in Saskatoon, following a minor league hometown team, the Saskatoon Blades. When they go to the games, Wyatt does play-by-play as Gerry listens intently. That’s because Gerry is blind.
A video made the rounds on the internet of Wyatt and Gerry getting a chance to see and feel the Stanley Cup. The St. Louis Blues offered to bring the father-son duo to the Scottrade Center for a playoff game between the Sharks and Blues.
So with Gerry and Wyatt in the stands for game two rooting on the Blues it’s a good thing the team has found its stride, because these are the types of cool stories we get to learn about.
FIRST ROUND WOES
Getting out of the first round and beating the Blackhawks is the toughest pair of challenges this team had to overcome to date in the post season. Not discounting what the Sharks, Penguins, or Lightning may have to offer, but had the Blues lost AGAIN in the first round, things wouldn’t have been pretty.
The onslaught of hate fans and foes alike would have shed toward this team would have been next to unbearable. A team, which last year looked great on paper and in the regular season, failed to meet expectations in the playoffs. A team this year that looked good, but not great, nearly blew a 3-1 series lead to the defending champions and the best player in hockey in Patrick Kane.
Somehow they found a way to get it done and move on.
The Dallas series, albeit tough wasn’t anywhere near as stressful as the opening round against Chicago. Not only were they the defending Stanley Cup champions and St. Louis’ rival, in my opinion they were the best team in the NHL.
GOALTENDING WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS
As the saying goes, to be the best you have to beat the best. In my opinion, the best goaltending wins the Stanley Cup the majority of the time. You can make cases for a few teams, but especially the past four years between Corey Crawford and Jonathan Quick the case rings true. This year for Saint Louis… well it couldn’t be more true.
The Blues live and die at the hands of Brian Elliot. Sure the offense has started to find its stroke and the defense knocks the living crap out of the opposition, but Elliot has dominated the crease and shown over the past month since his return, he’s for real.
It’s a tough spot for Jake Allen, but Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock has finally realized the platoon swap isn’t going to bring lord Stanley to the Gateway city. Elliot is the center of this teams success and if he can keep doing his thing, Saint Louis is in good shape.
LONG ROAD AHEAD
Though San Jose is going to bring the pain over the next week to week and a half. Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton are some physical dudes. They’re going to body the Blues about as much as St. Louis bodies its opponents. After a tough loss in game one, look for them to come back with an onslaught like they had towards the end of that game.
There’s a mighty long way to go, and for as good as Dallas and Chicago were, there are three demanding and talented teams, two of which Saint Louis will need to deal with before they can get a taste of the ultimate prize.
Game two of the Western Conference Finals between the San Jose Sharks and the Saint Louis Blues is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on the NBC Sports Network.