Today, as with most home games due to work outside the building selling our little game-day paper, I arrived late. I got into my seat somewhere around the 10 minute mark, which also happened to coincide with the Tharshers second goal, giving the away guys a 2-1 lead. I told the folks who sit around me that I'd gotten in just in time to see two goals. They, being good hockey fans, told me to go back outside and stand in the rain.
"I promise," I said, "if we're down by one in the third period, I'll go stand outside in the rain."
So, at the 17:16 mark of the third, when Roman Polak scored to pull the Blues to within one goal (and presumably to return to the bench to fart in someone's helmet), I quickly gathered my things, told everyone I would hold up my end of the bargain and left to go stand out in front of the building in the rain. Alas, it was all for naught, as the Blues failed to score with the goalie pulled, but that isn't my fault; I did my part.
And yes, I believe in that kind of stuff and yes, that all really happened.
I don't want to take anything away from the Atlanta Thrashers tonight. They are a much-improved team compared to what little of them I have seen in the past. They skate hard, they finish their checks, they go to the net and they protect their own well. Beyond that, Ilya Kovalchuk, who I admittedly have not watched much, is ridiculously talented. He deserved goal number 300 of his career tonight (though goal 301 was one that Al Iafrate would think is "for pussies"). Fans of that team have plenty to be excited about, probably more so than any other year in their existence.
But tonight's loss was less about the Thrashers and more about the Blues. What we saw tonight was exactly what I was chicken-littleing about before the team left for Sweden. They looked slow and listless. They didn't put an actual hard bodycheck on anyone until late in the third period. Their passes were sloppy, as were their set plays. Have you ever seen a pro team coming through the neutral zone four-on-two and then watched as the winger throws a rink-wide pass at the blueline? I don't know if dumbfounding is a word, but that particular play was dumbfounding.
To me, this looked exactly like a tired hockey club. I'm sure we'll hear lots of spin tomorrow about how this had nothing to do with the overseas trip, but I'd love to hear some candid answers from the players as to whether or not they feel tired still.
Tonight before the game I was talking with some other fans outside and the topic of how much different this year is compared to the lean years, like 2005, right after the lockout. That was one bad Blues team, we all agreed. They were slow and untalented. Thank your gods that's over we all agreed.
Not so fast, wiseasses.
For those of you who were among the masses actively steering clear of the Blues in 2005, you just got a little taste of it. Nasty, eh?
The question now remains as to which team shows up Saturday when the Kings arrive. The Kings are a young, fast-skating and talented team. If a seemingly jet-lagged Blues team like we saw tonight shows up, they will get slaughtered by the Kings. If the team we all saw skating and playing hard in Sweden shows up, we've got an entertaining game on our hands.