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Lighting The Lamp: Unexplained Mysteries

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.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Lighting the Lamp

with Rick Ackerman                            Playoffs: Round 1, Game 5; 24 April 15 Minnesota

When I taught high school history many years ago, the great mysteries of my intellectual life revolved around unexplainable historical events and occurrences. Did Lee Harvey Oswald really act alone in assassinating JFK? Who carved the giant statues on Easter Island and how did they get there? Is there an actual Bermuda Triangle in which aircraft and ships have totally disappeared? What really happened to James Hoffa and is he actually buried in the end zone of a football stadium? Does a creature known as Big Foot actually exist? What was the meaning and purpose of the prehistoric monument known as Stonehenge in England?

None of these mysteries compare to that which currently plagues Blues Nation, though. How can it be that the St. Louis Blues fail to show up one night, appearing disinterested and discombobulated, and then come back two nights later looking like a combination of the Montreal Canadiens of the 1950s and the  New York Islanders of the 1980s? How can any hockey team be so terrible one game and so magnificent the next?

The Blues weren't quite ready to play hockey when the opening round of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs started in St. Louis last week, losing the first game 4-2 to a hungry Minnesota squad. They were never really in the game, despite being arguably the most skilled, balanced and deepest team in St. Louis hockey history. Out hit and out shot, the Blues fell behind after two periods and never recovered. Both the power play (0-2) and penalty killing (2-4) units failed, disappointing a standing room only crowd of 19, 671.

The schizophrenic Blues came back two nights later and took command in the first period as Vlad Tarasenko scored two goals, one on the power play. Thanks to the stellar play of rookie goaltender Jake Allen who stopped all 17 Wild shots, the Blues held the lead through two periods. Minnesota's Marco Scandella (if only he had married a woman named Martha and had lots of kids) cut the lead in half with an early third period tally, yet the Blues held on and won, getting insurance goals from a rejuvenated Patrik Berglund and an empty-netter from Tarasenko for a hat trick. Another SRO capacity crowd was entirely delighted with an excellent performance.

With the momentum on their side, the Blues traveled to St. Paul with high hopes for continued domination and a series lead. Instead, they played one of the worst playoff games in history. Only Allen kept the disinterested Blues in the game in the first period, stopping all nine Wild shots. The Note could only manage four shots. It was more of the same in the second period and Minnesota finally broke through as Jason Pominville scored his second goal of the series and Zach Parise his first, assisted by Pominville. Center Michal Granlund drew assists on both goals. And that was all she wrote. The Wild out shot and out hit the Blues, adding another empty net goal in the third period. Jake Allen was the only Blue who showed up to play that game.

It was such a dismal performance that the talk shows and message boards were calling for the team to be totally blown up and both GM Doug Armstrong and Coach Ken Hitchcock to be sacked. There were calls for trades of core players such as Berglund, T.J. Oshie, Alex Pietrangelo and even Captain David Backes. Yikes! What a disaster! Bitter and angry fans steeled themselves for yet another disappointing early playoff exit from the "same old Blues." No wonder they call 'em "da Blooze (which rhymes with lose)!"

When turning on the tv for game four in St. Paul, most Blues fans were thinking about where the golf clubs cleaner was. And then, starting with a solid check by winger Chris Porter in his first game (and the spirited play of center Steve Ott and the indomitable Ryan Reaves), the Blues turned into that Canadiens/Islanders duplicate. Reaves scored early in the first period, followed by Tarasenko and Backes in a span of less then five minutes. The Blues out shot the Wild 10-4 and totally dominated play. Minnesota rallied with a power play goal early in the second period, yet Paul Stastny scored around two minutes later and the Blues continued the roll with goals from Tarasenko (his fifth in four games) and Berglund. Once again, Jake Allen was the reincarnation of Jacques "Jake the Snake" Plante, stifling the Wild shooters with 17 saves. St. Louis absolutely crushed Minnesota, sending the over-capacity crowd of 19, 390 home shaking their heads and wondering what the heck happened (just like Blues Nation two days earlier).

So now it is a best of three series with the fans of both the Blues and Wild wondering which of their schizophrenic teams is going to show up. Is there a doctor in the house? Are there any psychiatrists present tonight to help us out? Of course, they don't have any answers. No one does. That's why there is such a high turn-over of NHL coaches.

It all comes down to the players and simply how much they want to win, both individually and as a collective. Of course, luck and chance also play a part in determining which club will advance to play (most probably at this point) the Chicago Blackhawks.

And so an explanation or breakdown of this series will, for now, just have to remain an inexplicable, unexplainable mystery. The analysis of past statistical data is meaningless. Of course, it is this mystery that is the foundation of the allure and affinity we hockey fans have for the greatest sport on earth.

Lighting the Lamp

with Rick Ackerman                            Playoffs: Round 1, Game 5; 24 April 15 Minnesota

When I taught high school history many years ago, the great mysteries of my intellectual life revolved around unexplainable historical events and occurrences. Did Lee Harvey Oswald really act alone in assassinating JFK? Who carved the giant statues on Easter Island and how did they get there? Is there an actual Bermuda Triangle in which aircraft and ships have totally disappeared? What really happened to James Hoffa and is he actually buried in the end zone of a football stadium? Does a creature known as Big Foot actually exist? What was the meaning and purpose of the prehistoric monument known as Stonehenge in England?

None of these mysteries compare to that which currently plagues Blues Nation, though. How can it be that the St. Louis Blues fail to show up one night, appearing disinterested and discombobulated, and then come back two nights later looking like a combination of the Montreal Canadiens of the 1950s and the  New York Islanders of the 1980s? How can any hockey team be so terrible one game and so magnificent the next?

The Blues weren't quite ready to play hockey when the opening round of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs started in St. Louis last week, losing the first game 4-2 to a hungry Minnesota squad. They were never really in the game, despite being arguably the most skilled, balanced and deepest team in St. Louis hockey history. Out hit and out shot, the Blues fell behind after two periods and never recovered. Both the power play (0-2) and penalty killing (2-4) units failed, disappointing a standing room only crowd of 19, 671.

The schizophrenic Blues came back two nights later and took command in the first period as Vlad Tarasenko scored two goals, one on the power play. Thanks to the stellar play of rookie goaltender Jake Allen who stopped all 17 Wild shots, the Blues held the lead through two periods. Minnesota's Marco Scandella (if only he had married a woman named Martha and had lots of kids) cut the lead in half with an early third period tally, yet the Blues held on and won, getting insurance goals from a rejuvenated Patrik Berglund and an empty-netter from Tarasenko for a hat trick. Another SRO capacity crowd was entirely delighted with an excellent performance.

With the momentum on their side, the Blues traveled to St. Paul with high hopes for continued domination and a series lead. Instead, they played one of the worst playoff games in history. Only Allen kept the disinterested Blues in the game in the first period, stopping all nine Wild shots. The Note could only manage four shots. It was more of the same in the second period and Minnesota finally broke through as Jason Pominville scored his second goal of the series and Zach Parise his first, assisted by Pominville. Center Michal Granlund drew assists on both goals. And that was all she wrote. The Wild out shot and out hit the Blues, adding another empty net goal in the third period. Jake Allen was the only Blue who showed up to play that game.

It was such a dismal performance that the talk shows and message boards were calling for the team to be totally blown up and both GM Doug Armstrong and Coach Ken Hitchcock to be sacked. There were calls for trades of core players such as Berglund, T.J. Oshie, Alex Pietrangelo and even Captain David Backes. Yikes! What a disaster! Bitter and angry fans steeled themselves for yet another disappointing early playoff exit from the "same old Blues." No wonder they call 'em "da Blooze (which rhymes with lose)!"

When turning on the tv for game four in St. Paul, most Blues fans were thinking about where the golf clubs cleaner was. And then, starting with a solid check by winger Chris Porter in his first game (and the spirited play of center Steve Ott and the indomitable Ryan Reaves), the Blues turned into that Canadiens/Islanders duplicate. Reaves scored early in the first period, followed by Tarasenko and Backes in a span of less then five minutes. The Blues out shot the Wild 10-4 and totally dominated play. Minnesota rallied with a power play goal early in the second period, yet Paul Stastny scored around two minutes later and the Blues continued the roll with goals from Tarasenko (his fifth in four games) and Berglund. Once again, Jake Allen was the reincarnation of Jacques "Jake the Snake" Plante, stifling the Wild shooters with 17 saves. St. Louis absolutely crushed Minnesota, sending the over-capacity crowd of 19, 390 home shaking their heads and wondering what the heck happened (just like Blues Nation two days earlier).

So now it is a best of three series with the fans of both the Blues and Wild wondering which of their schizophrenic teams is going to show up. Is there a doctor in the house? Are there any psychiatrists present tonight to help us out? Of course, they don't have any answers. No one does. That's why there is such a high turn-over of NHL coaches.

It all comes down to the players and simply how much they want to win, both individually and as a collective. Of course, luck and chance also play a part in determining which club will advance to play (most probably at this point) the Chicago Blackhawks.

And so an explanation or breakdown of this series will, for now, just have to remain an inexplicable, unexplainable mystery. The analysis of past statistical data is meaningless. Of course, it is this mystery that is the foundation of the allure and affinity we hockey fans have for the greatest sport on earth.