Didn't we just see these guys? I feel like we just saw these guys, like, three days ago.
[In fact we had - the Blues beat the Wings in their last regular season game of 1997 just 3 days ealier by the score of 3-1. Although the Wings had nothing to play for, the Blues had an outside chance to move up to the 4 seed and get home ice in the first round. That didn't happen, as the Mighty Ducks finished 4th and the Coyotes won the tie-breaker to force the Blues into the 3-6 rematch with Detroit.
Oh, and by the way - for our Throwback Previews and the like, we'll be writing from the perspective of the time - as if they were SLGT posts that day. Anything written in italics - like this - is an aside, either to explain things out of character, to give some historical tidbits that wouldn't have been known at the time, or to just for your usual run-of-the-mill hack jokes. I encourage you guys to play along in the comments of these posts by sticking "in character" unless in italics...but this is also America, so I'm not your boss.]
Never mind that game. A win is nice, but does it matter any more? No. That Long December with the 1-6-2 stretch? Nope. Nick Kypreos taking out Fuhrer's knee? Last year, doesn't matter now.
Actually, let's talk about last year. In the 2nd round, the Blues streaked through games 3, 4, and 5 against the Wings to nab a 3-2 series lead. They even had a chance to knock out the Dead Things on home ice in game 6 and make the conference finals for the first time in 10 years. That didn't happen, setting up a game 7 at the Joe.
And I'm not talking about that game.
A lot has changed in the past year.
"Iron" "Scrap Metal" Mike Keenan was sent packing, thank god. The Great One hated Mike so much he couldn't wait to take less money to play in Manhattan, presumably as that was the only way he could get tickets to see Rent. Hullie's still pissed about something, probably. And now we're lead by first time head coach Joel Quenneville, who makes up for his lack of experience with a very aggressive mustache game. Oh, and remember our old friend Brendan Shanahan? Yeah, he got shipped from the Hartford Whalers to Detroit. Mike Keenan - the gift that keeps on giving. [Hey, a Whalers mention!]
One thing hasn't changed though - neither the Blues nor the Wings have won the Cup in the Expansion Era. So both teams are looking to prove they can compete with the big boys. [...sigh...those were the days, weren't they?]
1996-97 ST. LOUIS BLUES SEASON REVIEW:
36-35-11; 83 points - 6th seed in Western Conference (4th in central)
236 goals scored, 239 goals allowed
Power play: 15.3% (16th in league)
Penalty Kill: 83.4% (15th in league)
Head coach: Joel Quenneville (1st year, 18-15-7)
Captain: none [After striping Hull of the captaincy the year before, Keenan couldn't give it back, could he? So after Gretzky left, the captaincy was left open until Quenneville would give the 'C' to Chris Pronger that summer.]
Leading scorer: Brett Hull (42 goals, 40 assists, 82 points in 77 games)
+/- leader: Chris Pronger (+15) [Hey, we all would've thought that meant a lot back then, right?]
Starting goalie: Grant Fuhr (73 games played, 33-27-11, .901 sv%, 2.72 GAA)
BLUES PLAYOFF ROSTER:
Marc Bergevin, defenseman
Jim Campbell, right winger
Craig Conroy, center
Geoff Courtnall, left winger
Pavol Demitra, right winger
Brett Hull, right winger
Igor Kravchuk, defenseman
Stephen Leach, right winger
Al MacInnis, defenseman
Craig MacTavish, center
Stephane Matteau, left winger
Chris McAlpine, defenseman
Sergio Momesso, left winger
Joe Murphy, right winger
Scott Pellerin, left winger
Mike Peluso, right winger
Ricard Persson, defenseman
Robert Petrovicky, center
Chris Pronger, defenseman
Pierre Turgeon, center
Tony Twist, left winger
Harry York, center
Grant Fuhr, goalie
Jon Casey, goalie
1996-97 DETROIT RED WINGS SEASON REVIEW:
38-26-18; 94 points - 3rd seed in Western Conference (2nd in central division)
253 goals scored, 197 goals allowed
Power play: 17.9% (7th in league)
Penalty kill: 86.7% (4th in league)
Head coach: Scotty Bowman (25th year, 951-460-263)
Catpain: Steve Yzerman (22 goal, 63 assists, 85 points in 81 games)
Leading scorer: Brendan Shanahan (46 goals, 41 assists, 87 points in 79 games)
+/- leader: Vladimir Konstantinov (+38)
Goalies: Chris Osgood (47 games, 23-13-9, .910 sv%, 2.30 GAA); Mike Vernon (33 games, 13-11-8, .899 sv%, 2.43 GAA) The veteran Mike Vernon will likely get the nod in the playoffs.
RED WINGS PLAYOFF ROSTER:
Doug Brown, left winger
Kris Draper, center
Sergei Federov, center
Viacheslav Fetisov, defenseman
Tomas Holmstrom, left winger
Joe Kocur, right winger
Vladimir Konstantinov, defenseman
Vyacheslav Kozlov, center
Martin Lapointe, right winger
Igor Larionov, center
Nicklas Lidstrom, defenseman
Kirk Maltby, left winger
Darren McCarty, right winger
Larry Murphy, defenseman
Jamie Pushor, defenseman
Bob Rouse, defenseman
Tomas Sandstrom, right winger
Brendan Shanahan, left winger
Tim Taylor, center [You're kidding me, right? Detroit native Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor played for the 1997 Red Wings? I don't remember that season of Home Improvement.]
Aaron Ward, defenseman
Steve Yzerman, center
It's been a pretty average season - but it doesn't have to be an average postseason! Check back tonight for the GDT just before the puck drops!
[We'll be streaming the game on NHL Gamecenter at 7:00 pm central time tonight. If you don't have Gamecenter, we may...have some "alternative sources" In the game day thread, if you catch me.]
Let's go Blues! And you know what? ...
EDIT: All stats and roster information courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com.