Stop me if you've heard this one before. The Blues have started the season with two convincing wins. They look fast and skilled starting strong and killing the competition. The offense looks great. Enthusiasm is running really hot. The goaltending is strong. It's a great start to the year. And then they came back from Sweden and looked like dog crap. Oh wait, that was last year.
Call this a cautionary tale, a warning to you my fellow Blues fans. Look, we went down this road a season ago. Sure it had a detour through Scandinavia, but it's pretty eerie to see another fantastic start to the season. Don't go getting your hopes up just yet. That's why I'm saying this start is a trap (cue Admiral Tarkin for all the nerds in the house). Now the Blues can avoid it, but there's definitely a spring-loaded bear trap with sharp metal teeth hidden in the brush up ahead. And if the Blues can't keep focused (a perpetual problem last year), they're going to step right in it just like they did last year. And then they're going to have to gnaw their own leg off to get out of it. And no one wants that.
Ah, the Sweden trip. They started with two convincing wins against a slower, older Detroit Red Wings team in Stockholm. Maybe, just maybe, the Wings realized you can't win the division in the opening weekend. And maybe the Wings' European players were a little distracted. When Detroit made the playoffs last year and the Blues didn't, that weekend was just an afterthought, a bitter memory of what might have been.
At exactly this point in the season last year, I wrote about how last the team was different. I wasn't drunk on the Kool-Aid, I was bathing in it. I can't believe I wrote this crap.
The Blues didn't learn to play this brand of hockey overnight. This is a team cooked in a crock pot set on low. It's been built through multiple drafts, a few shrewd trades and a couple of free agent signings and waiver wire pickups. In other words, they picked their own guys they liked that others left on the table and they acquired players others found to be expendable or too expensive. And these two wins are another validation of the team's plan. Think about how long the Predators and Blue Jackets have been building this way. And it hasn't worked. It's not easy. Yet, here we are. The front office made some uncanny decisions on players, stuck to its guns and the team has a white hot start to the season as a reward.
Yeesh. That's hard to read. I must have been drunk, your honor. I didn't know what I was doing. There's no way rational thought produced that drivel. But here's where the Blues fell for it last year: They believed I was right. Even if they didn't read it, they were thinking the same things. They bought the hype and let their guard down. They forgot the grind of an 82-game season. When games turned tough, they wilted with the security in their minds that they could turn it on and play like an elite team any time they wanted to. The only problem is elite teams don't do that, they play hard and aggressive and with killer instinct every fucking game.
The next test comes Thursday night at Nashville. The Predators are a classic hard working, overachieving team that gets by on defense and playing hard instead of scoring a lot of goals and skating fast. They do not have as much skill as St. Louis, but the Blues have had problems in playing down to their competition. Then they play Saturday night at Dallas, a team that has had some bad blood with St. Louis. Then the burner gets turned up a few notches quickly. The schedule after that: at Chicago, home with Chicago and home with Pittsburgh in one week.
I'll make this statement right now: If the Blues are still in first or tied for first for the Central Division after Oct. 23 against the Penguins, then you can start believing this start is really real. I can't wait to fill up my Jacuzzi tub with the Kool-Aid.