Some random thoughts as the NHL cruises through the last 10 games or so.....
- I could not be happier that the Blues are finally not one of these teams fighting for a playoff spot at the bottom of the standings. David Perron admitted in the Posty D this week that when the Blues made that incredible run a couple years ago, when they finally clinched a playoff spot it felt like they won the Stanley Cup. Half a week later when the playoffs started, they were already done and over, emotionally. Some of these teams that are battling right now look scary, but these battles are taking a serious toll.
- On the same note, I couldn't be happier that the Blues aren't battling for mid-seeding positions. Go read the SBN sites for the Red Wings, Predators and Blackhawks - every one of them have given up on catching the Blues and all they care about is whether it's better to land in 5th and play a Central team or game it to be in 6th and face some crappy Pacific team. It's nice to not be in that conversation.
- Hand-in-hand with those points, still no one will talk about these Blues. Fine, just fine. I'm not totally confident our Blues team is ready for the next level of competition that comes with the playoffs anyway. Why get a bunch of people fawning over them if they're going to choke in the first round anyway? Can Ken Hitchcock get them ready? We'll see
- (psst. don't tell anyone, but, yes, hitchcock will have them ready. the team is finally going to be totally healthy, rested and ready to go. hitch will have them mentally prepared. for real. just keep it between us, 'kay?)
- Everyone seems to think that Nashville is the team to beat in the West because of their deadline deals and the addition of KHL star Alexander Radulov. I never thought I'd see the day when Paul Gaustad and Andrei Kostitsyn equaled a quantum leap forward in talent and Stanley Cup probabilities, but it was a pretty weak deadline day, I guess.
- As for Nashville's addition of wolf-boy Radulov - I'll believe the hype when I see execution. Dirk over at On The Forecheck ran the numbers and (I think, stats make me dizzy) seems to think that he should tear up the NHL at nearly a point-per-game pace. Color me skeptical. When was the last time you saw an athlete at any level (even your rec leagues) take a step down in competition, tear up weaker competition and then step back up a level and tear up that league too? 'Zactly. I'll believe it when I see it.
- No matter who the Blues play in the first round, I'll be uneasy. Read the first couple bullets in this list and you might wonder why, but I have seen unspeakable things happen in the first round of the playoffs. The last time the Blues were in a position similar to where they are now, I saw a defensemen throw a puck into his own net. I saw a rival players score from the kosher hot dog stand out on the concourse as a period expired. I saw players get so overconfident their bleached tiger stripes into their GODDAMN EYEBROWS! I have seen hubris. I have watched the impossible become probable and been powerless to stop it. Yes, I will be uneasy.
- Uneasiness aside, I do expect the Blues to get through the first round. I also cannot envision a scenario after that does not include back-to-back meetings with Central Division teams. If the Note are to get to the Finals for the first time since 1970, they're going to have to beat two of Chicago, Detroit and Nashville. You know this is inevitable.
- If the Hawks, Preds and Wings are to be the obstacles for the Blues to get past, lets hope they get back their premier players first. That's right; I want them healthy. Chicago believes Jonathan Toews is their god. Wings fans believe Nicklas Lidstrom is the reason they are struggling. Mustard fans believe that Radulov is their missing piece of the puzzle. Let them be in the lineup, please. If the Blues beat those teams at their best, it's good for their confidence going forward. If the Blues lose a series, all is not lost - the team is just seeing their window opening: learn how to win now can only help going forward. If a long run is made, let it be against the best possible rosters they can face.
- The media is officially out of love with the Rangers and totally, hopelessly in love with the Pittsburgh Penguins. But they might go to prom with New York if the Pens already have a date. They also feel like the Boston Bruins might be their BFF. And those peskyDevils, peskyPanthers loveable Jets? Definitely in their crowd. Who cares. If everything goes right and the Blues get to the Finals, they only have to play one team out of the East. It's way too early to worry about all the teams coated in media slobber at this point.
- You wanna know what the talking point is if the Blues manage to beat all these odds and keep advancing through the rounds? Simple: "This is the consummate TEAM! These guys don't have a SUPERSTAR! These guys just go out and PLAY FOR EACH OTHER! Can a team reliant on a guy or two do WHAT THESE GUYS DO?" You are welcome, NBC.
With 10 games left the Blues are fine-tuning and ramping up. It's a good position to be in. There's plenty more to worry about ahead. We'll get there when we get there.