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Lighting The Lamp: Forget The Pundits

You might recognize the "Lighting the Lamp" feature from the Game Time paper. Rick Ackerman has been nice enough to send over his column for the website. "Lighting the Lamp" will be featured every home game day.

Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

Lighting the Lamp, with Rick Ackerman

The Blues will be making their 39th appearance in postseason play in the franchise's 47th year of existence. Since there were no playoffs in 2005 due to the NHL lockout, that means St. Louis hockey fans have seen the Note qualify for a chance at Lord Stanley's Cup an incredible 85% of the time in Blues' history. Of course, although St. Louis did manage to make it to the Finals three times (1968-70), the club has still not sipped champagne from the bowl of the Stanley Cup or paraded down Market Street.

Other teams that have also disappointed their fans without a championship include 
Buffalo and Vancouver, both birthed in 1970, Washington, 1974, San Jose, 1991, Florida, 1993, Winnipeg/Arizona, 1996, Nashville, 1998, Atlanta/Winnipeg, 1999 and Minnesota   and Columbus, 2000.

Like the Blues, the Canucks made it to the Finals three times, the Sabres twice, and the Capitals and Panthers once. The Coyotes, Sharks and Wild have never made it to the Finals, and the Predators won their first and only series in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs. Neither the Jets nor Blue Jackets have ever won a playoff series. Two other teams in the great NHL expansion of 1967, the Minnesota North Stars and California Seals, never won a Cup, although the North Stars' franchise won one championship after the relocation to Dallas as the Stars, thanks to Brett Hull's controversial triple-overtime goal in 1999.

And the disappointment continues for fans in Buffalo, San Jose, Florida, Arizona, and Columbus since they have all been eliminated from postseason play this year, as well as the fans of the hapless Toronto Maple Leafs, who hold the record now (48 years) for the longest drought by teams that have won at least one Stanley Cup. Wouldn't it be something if the Maple Leafs won the amateur draft lottery this upcoming June as a sign from the hockey gods that Brendan Shanahan will turn things around in Toronto and the club will be vastly improved over the summer?

In case you missed it, the NHL recently announced the officials for the first round, and there are some surprises both on and off the list. Not making the cut for playoff referees included St. Louis' own Tim Peel, a 15 year veteran, Denis Larue, a 23 year veteran, Greg Kimmerly, an 18 year veteran, Ian Walsh, a 14 year vet and Paul Devorski, arguably the best referee in the NHL, who recently retired after 25 years of service. Devorski will truly be missed.

Those referees officiating in the playoffs who St. Louis fans have grown to dislike (and fear) include Eric Furlatt (who allowed Detroit to win an overtime game on a goal scored with a broken stick and has called 19 more penalties on the Blue than opponents in 38 games), Dan O'Halloran (20 more penalties in 41 games), Brian Pochmara (19 more in 38), Brad Watson (25 more in 43) and Steve Kozari, who officiated one of the worst games in recent Blues' history on April 7, a narrow 1-0 home loss to Winnipeg in which Paul Stastny's goal was nullified by a rather weak slashing call and T.J. Oshie was given four minutes for a non-existent high-sticking penalty.

Even though the Blues finished with nine more points than the Wild, statistically the teams are very close and actually split the season series, 2-2. Of course, the pundits don't call the playoffs the second season for nothing, so you can throw all the statistics out as they are entirely inconsequential and just don't mean anything now. It doesn't matter that the Blues had a slightly better goals for average per game and a slightly better goals against average or had better power play and penalty killing units. This is indeed the start of an entirely new season.

So, who do you like to win this series? The NHL Network hedged its bet by having Monday's commentator Kevin Weekes picking the Wild and Tuesday's E.J. Hradek choosing the Blues. Former player Mike Rupp likes Minnesota and former coach Barry Melrose favors St. Louis. Canadian columnists including those at TSN are also pretty much split between the two clubs as well. There is no real consensus pick by the "experts."

Call me a homer, because I pick the Blues to win the series. Why?

Virtually all of the experts who picked the Wild did so because they believe in the "miracle" performance of goaltender Devan Dubnyk obtained by Minnesota in January from Arizona for a third round choice in the upcoming 2015 draft. Dubnyk won 27 of 39 games for the Wild with a sparkling 1.78 goals against average and a remarkable .936 save percentage.

And I don't think any of that means a thing as to how well he will perform in this year's second season against an offensive-minded team like the Blues, who will throw three very good scoring lines at Dubynk and wear him down. In his professional career, Dubynk has virtually no playoff experience; the last time was in 2007 with the ECHL's Stockton Thunder.

Nor does the Wild have nearly the defensive depth the Blues possess. It will be a rough series and both teams' defense will take hits and risk injury. The Blues have far greater depth on defense and can more easily take the stress and strain of playoff hockey.

The same can be said for the offensive side of the hockey coin. The Blues are deeper up front, too.

The experts shunned the Blues based on the last two years' playoff performances and lack of experience, yet I think all that will (finally) change in 2015. This is just too good a hockey team not to advance past the first round this second season.