I hope you're not wearing black for tonight's Blues game because there isn't a corpse yet and no funeral is on the schedule. The Blues have a game, a winnable game. It's just one game, it's all they can do tonight. We'll worry about what comes next after tonight. And tonight, the Blues are going to play to extend the season at least one more game. That's all we can ask for, just one more game.
Tonight is about pride. It's about proving the last two months weren't a mirage. It's about showing the Vancouver Canucks and their douche bag fans that Canada doesn't own this game (but please don't boo O' Canada). It's about not being the first Blues team to be swept in the first round since the 1993-94 team lost four straight to the Dallas Stars. Before that, the last Blues team to be swept was back in 1984-85, surprisingly also to the Stars organization (North instead of Texas). That means something, right? This team doesn't want to be the first to get swept in 15 years. That's what's on the line tonight.
This one-game showdown is more about the crest on the front instead of the name on the back. You've probably heard this story before but it bears repeating for a game like tonight. In Bobby Plager's book "Tales From The Blues Bench," the lifelong Blue talked about how many of the veterans on the original Blues team in 1967 came from Montreal and brought a sense of tradition with them.
"One time in Oakland we came off the ice after a game and one of the players was mad. He threw his sweater on the dressing room floor. I don't remember if we won or lost, but this guy was mad. Dickie Moore grabbed him by the throat and put him up against the wall. The guy's feet were off the floor.
"And Dickie Moore said: ‘That sweater never hits the floor. That crest never touches the floor in Montreal. That Bluenote, that crest, is our life. It's your livelihood. You take pride in it.'
"Young guys like me and Barclay Plager and Timmy Ecclestone and Craig Cameron and Terry Crisp all saw that. We learned to take pride in that sweater. It never hit the floor again in that dressing room.
"When Barclay, Noel Picard and myself became veterans, we passed that on to the younger guys like Brian Sutter and Bernie Federko. Nobody wore the Bluenote with more pride than Brian and Bernie. And Barclay taught both of them in the minors when he coached in Kansas City. Brian Sutter became the captain of the Blues and passed it on to younger guys who came after him."
Not getting swept tonight is keeping the crest off the floor. No the Blues have never won a Stanley Cup. No the Blues aren't an Original Six team and can't boast some of the lineage that other franchises have. But this franchise and its fans have a special bond. From the days when fans would dress up to go to games at the Arena and sing "When the Blues Go Marching In," this team has played hard for the people who buy the tickets. And those patrons have repaid the players with devotion and unwavering support (except when the team was up for sale by this one guy from Central Missouri who abandoned the franchise because he couldn't buy an NBA team for St. Louis). And while a win tonight doesn't advance to the Blues to the next round or put them in position to challenge for a Stanley Cup, it's another brick in the foundation for this franchise moving forward. A win tonight goes in the experience column for every player on the team.
Violent is a strong word. It's a negative word, but not in this sense. Maybe it's because it's been five years since we've seen playoff hockey in person, but this series has been one of the most violent I remember. I'm not talking about cheap shots or pushing and punching after the whistle. We've seen all of that and more. Watch the hitting tonight. Both teams want to hurt each other on each collision. There's special purpose with these kinds of hits: teams wanting to put the other into submission. The Canucks have taken all time and space away from the Blues literally everywhere on the ice. Ask Patrik Berglund how long he has to make a decision with the puck. While he's answering, punch him in the mouth to illustrate the point for him.
It's hard to quantify playoff experience. The Blues are obviously lacking in it while the Canucks have many more playoff games under their belt, few of the players have experienced much success in their careers in the postseason. One Blues player who seems to be emerging from his learning how to play in the second season funk is David Perron. His pass from the corner through the edge of the crease to a streaking McDonald in Sunday night's game was poetry. McDonald must have been shocked he was open and had more than the post to shoot at, but the pass was the play.
If the Blues lose tonight, so be it. This season has been more exciting and interesting and thrilling than we could have ever imagined, especially in December. Odds are it will end soon and this may be the last time you read my words in this paper until next fall. If that's the case, thanks for reading. Over the course of the season, I've put several thousand words on this Web site. Here's to hoping I can write even more before a Game Five Friday night.