In the end, the 2009 playoffs for the St. Louis Blues will at some point be seen only as a building block instead of the disappointment that has set in with Sunday's 3-2 loss at home to the Vancouver Canucks.
I've left a lot of Blues playoff games dejected and angry, upset over misplays and glaring mistakes. But this was different. After about five minutes of elevated blood pressure I was able to see a little bit of the bigger picture. This team wasn't supposed to be here. TJ Oshie, Patrik Berglund, David Perron, David Backes, Roman Polak, Brad Boyes - none of these guys knew what the playoffs were really like before this series. They know now.
At the beginning of the season, John Davidson tried to temper expectations for the team and why the front office wasn't aggressive during free agent or didn't become more aggressive with trades. He urged a little patience and that this edition of the Blues is still a work in progress. Eighty-two regular season games and three postseason games later, I'm still buying what JD is selling.
When the Blues sucked, we constantly tried to make ourselves feel better by saying, "Better days are clearly ahead." And while the run of February and March signaled that the better times are already here, but that doesn't mean this team still isn't a work in progress.
The Blues have one goal on the power play this series after finishing the regular season with the eighth-best completion percentage in the NHL. The Canucks are playing well on the penalty kill, Roberto Luongo is a tough guy to face, the Blues are missing too many shots wide and high, they're passing up too many shots and there's no real threat on the point. That about sum it up? No Erik Johnson on the point and you've got Barret Jackman playing the point on one of their failed 5-3 advantages. That is clearly the No. 1 need still lacking on this team, a scoring threat from the blue line.
Sunday night's game got off to such a great start. The atmosphere was absolutely electric and I don't remember the concourse ever being so crowded. The Blues had their first lead of the series, the team was flying. And then they came out and didn't respond to a resilient Canucks team. That was probably the most disheartening thing (other than the 5-3 advantages). It got so quiet in there with many fans saying, "Here we go again" when the Canucks started scoring.
I don't think I've seen a more physical violent hockey game in my life. While we've seen games where each team is trying to constantly play the body and send a message, but it seemed like almost every shift there was a play where one player wanted to send a guy on the other team to the hospital. Elbows were up, sticks were up. The hits were absolutely vicious. And I still want to know what's gotten into Ryan Johnson. That guy apparently hates every single player on the Blues.
Don't get me wrong, it sucks the end of the season seems a lot closer than it did last Wednesday. Yes it's really difficult to see the Ducks take a 2-0 lead on the San Jose Sharks, the team the Blues would have played if they had lost the last game of the season to Colorado. But we as fans got to go back to the playoffs too. We got a peak of what's still coming. No matter the finish to this run and that's still exciting.
After devoting hundreds of hours this season to this team, I can't think any other way.