Blues Should Be Earning Your Support
We’re down to the Final Four of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. That means there’s a pretty dang good chance that the team you root for has either been long-eliminated or honing their golf game since the start of the playoffs.
So now that we’re down to the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning in the east as well as the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues in the west, who should you be rooting for to get to the top of the mountain? The answer is pretty simple: it’s Blues or bust, baby.
Why the Blues?
As sympathetic as the Sharks feel, the Blues might be more so. They’ve been around a lot longer than the Sharks, for starters. Founded in 1967, the Blues actually made the Stanley Cup Finals in their first three years in the NHL, losing twice to the Canadiens and then to Bobby Orr and the big bad Bruins. That 1970 appearance would be their last trip to the Finals ever since.
The Blues had a Red Wing-like run of playoff appearances, amassing 24 straight playoff appearances from 1979-80 to 2003-04, missing the playoffs the first three seasons after the 2004-05 lockout that cost the league the entire season. Since then, they’ve had a rise back to power. They’ve been contenders in the ultra-tough Central Division, competing with the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks, winners of three Stanley Cups in the last six seasons, and whichever upstart rises to power in a given season.
Led by a core of David Backes, Alex Pietrangelo, Alex Steen, Jay Bouwmeester and others, the Blues have been contenders the last several years. But like the Sharks, they’ve failed to live up to those expectations. In the four seasons preceding this one, the Blues finished first or second in the Central Division, but failed to make it past the second round of the playoffs each time. Not only that, but it felt like they could never get past their rivals from Chicago. Despite only one previous playoff match-up — a 2014 first-round loss — it felt like the Blackhawks were the obstacle they could not overcome.
So it just makes the Blues a feel-good story given that they finally overcame the dynastic Blackhawks, surviving a comeback from the defending champions to win Game 7 and advance. Following another series victory in the second round, the Blues earned their first trip to the Western Conference Finals since 2001, the glory days of Chris Pronger, Pavol Demitra and Pierre Turgeon.
Besides their history, there are other reasons to root for the Blues. Watching Vladimir Tarasenko is about as much fun as you can have these days in the NHL, a dynamic youngster who could be the best player in the league before long. There’s goaltender Brian Elliott, who went from afterthought in Ottawa to a stellar starting goaltender an anchor for these strong Blues clubs. Plus, we are getting a clinic in NHL coaching from Ken Hitchcock, who has quietly become one of the better coaches in NHL history.
So when you switch on the Conference Finals, shift all of your rooting power over to the Blues. After all, think about how awesome it would be to cheer on a team to its first Stanley Cup championship after nearly
40 50 (ed note: bad at math) years of existence?