As it became apparent last Friday that the Blues were about to clinch their first playoff berth since before the lockout we started to look ahead. Who was going to be unlucky enough to match-up against the buzzsaw known as the St. Louis Blues?
The team had gone from 15th place in early February to eighth place in early April. No one in the playoff picture wanted to draw St. Louis. The Blues are the hottest team in hockey in calendar year 2009. They had won sight of their last ten. They'd beaten top teams like Boston, San Jose and Detroit. They are hungry and physical and have been playoff-intensity hockey for the better part of three months.
The Sharks and their fans didn't want to host them, and the Red Wings and their annual playoff goaltending worries didn't want to host them. As for us, the fans? We didn't care, bring on whomever.
And then on Saturday something happened that hasn't really happened for the Blues much this year: the two teams ahead of them lost and opened the door for St. Louis to find a way into the six seed. And then on Sunday something else strange happened: the Blues took advantage of an opportunity to move up.
Nothing easy has come for the Blues this year and making the playoffs was about kicking in the door and inviting themselves; they didn't get a ton of help from other teams.
Moving up to six also earned them a date or two with Vancouver's Canucks, another group that has had an interesting story this year. Too bad for vancouver and their fans, they may have drawn the exact wrong opponent. Here are five reasons everyone feels bad for them:
One: If not for the Blues, maybe the national media would be talking about them as the darling of the playoff dance. The Canucks had a pretty nice turnaround/playoff race of their own this year. Around the same time the Blues started their climb up from the bottom in the Western Conference, the Canucks hit their own nadir, out of the playoffs and losers of 10 of the 12 games they played in January.
Starting with a last-second win in their first game in February they went on to a 27-7-2 record, winning the Northwest Division and locking up the third seed.
Unfortunately for them, the scrappy Blues managed to catch the attention of the East Coast media first and caught all the praise. Everyone loves an underdog, and the Canucks played them right out of underdog status.
Two: Karma, she is not one to be trifled with. Mats Sundin, doing his best Brett "hey, what's Brett Fah-vra doing here?" Favre/Roger Clemens impression broke the hearts of the Toronto Maple Leafs fans by telling them that he didn't want to leave Toronto. They believed he'd be back. It wasn't about money, he said.
And then he signed for big money and left.
Not only that, but he completely screwed over the team that he supposedly loved so much refusing to be traded to another team at the deadline last year because he wanted to remain a Leaf. The team missed out on a huge opportunity to jump-start their rebuilding but he put an end to that.
And then he left for nothing in the summer.
That's some bad karma. The hockey gods are never pleased by decision-making as poor and transparent as this.
Three: Those uniforms fans have been subjected to buying. look, the Blues made a mistake back in the 90's with the slanty-numbered, red-tinged, trumpet-shouldered gear. But it was the mid-90's, we all made fashion mistakes. The Canucks, on the other hand, have made only onecorrect decision with their jerseys and they quickly ruined that one.
When they joined the league in 1971 they had a pretty nice uniform. It looks a lot like the one they use today, minus any lettering or shoulder patches. The stick penetrating the rink, while non-sensical, was simple and was the primary logo. they used those until 1978.
In 1978 they lost their minds, expecting fans to root for the horrible V jerseys. Did someone lose a bet? Was someone on drugs? How did these get approved?
(thanks to www.nhluniforms.com)
How did they expect fans to spend money on something like this? To wear something like this? The Horror. The Horror.
And that wasn't it. They moved away from the V in the mid-eighties, but kept the same terrible color scheme. But did this logo make any more sense?
Oh, I get it. There's a skate in there somewhere. Now it seems fine.
They finally dumped all of that silliness and introduced new colors and another new primary logo... an Orca whale. Which makes great sense since everyone knows a Canuck is a Canadian person, right?
The logo is actually in honor of the team's owners, Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment. An ownership group that was bought out in 2006. And yet the logo remains the primary for the team.
What if the Blues did something like this? Would the new logo be a giant picture of Utah, home of owner Dave Checketts?
Four: Did we mention karma yet? The Canucks, trying to be like the Oilers of the previous summer (and why wouldn't you want to mimic them, everything seems to be going great in Edmonton), offered Blues RFA forward David Backes a contract this summer in an attempt to steal him from St. Louis.
Blues ownership and management was not pleased, quickly chosing to match the contract and re-signing Backes for three years at $2.5 million per. They then offered Canucks forward Steve Bernier an identical RFA contract, which was matched by Vancouver.
This season David Backes has become a 30-goal scorer first-liner who is openly being discussed as a future captain of the team. Steve Bernier is openly being discussed as being fat.
The move was great for the Blues, but we don't think karma is done evening that Lowe-ish move yet.
Five: No one wants to face the Blues. Despite all of the confidence they have in their team, even the fans over at Nucks Misconduct will tell you via vote: they wanted the soft-as-a-pillow Columbus Blue Jackets to be their first opponent.
The Canucks have an all-world goaltender in Roberto Luongo, a solid, mobile defense, and several lines of Swedish players who can score. They're also grittier than they get credit for being.
The Canucks are a good team, but as we have been saying for over a month now, it isn't really about the opponents anymore, this playoff season, it's about who the Blues have become.