What a difference a week makes, eh?
Starting on March 19, the Blues lost five of six games, culminating in an ugly loss at home to Vancouver on March 30 and were in disarray, looking sloppy, tired and worn out. The only victory in that span was an overtime win in Pittsburgh. Brian Elliott lost four of those matches, allowing 16 goals against and appeared befuddled and lost as he fought the puck and seemed overwhelmed. Would the Blues repeat last year's dismal finish which saw them lose the division championship and then get bounced in the first round of the playoffs?
And then things turned around as the Blues won the next three games during the week, defeating Calgary at home and coming from behind to steal contests in both Dallas and Chicago. Jake Allen was spectacular against Calgary and Chicago, only allowing two goals against, making 53 saves, many of them spectacular. In his victory, Elliott gave up five goals on 32 Dallas shots, yet was able to hang in there with an excellent third period as the Blues countered with three goals (four in a row) for a thrilling 7-5 win. And so the Blues are back, taking the Central Division lead from Nashville and looking very good in the process.
What a great roller coaster ride! Up, down and all around!
While the Blues entertain the Winnipeg Jets tonight, Nashville plays the Avalanche in Denver, while Chicago hosts the hard charging Minnesota Wild. Everybody in all three buildings will be watching the scoreboard tonight. The same thing will happen two days from now on Thursday, when the Blues welcome the Blackhawks and the Predators host the Wild. And then two days later on Saturday, St. Louis entertains Minnesota, while Nashville travels to Dallas and Chicago ends the regular season in Denver.
Winnipeg jets into St. Louis after a tough game last night in St. Paul, still in the hunt for a playoff slot, although it is unlikely they will make it unless both Calgary and Los Angeles go into season-ending skids. Nevertheless, the Jets will be desperate for points, so expect a tough, hard-fought game. It is unfortunate that bruising defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has been suspended and will not play tonight as a meet and greet with Ryan Reaves would have been most entertaining. Big Buff is 6'5" and 260 pounds; Reaver is only 6'1" and 225 pounds yet could hold his own and then some.
And how about that magnificent Mr. Reaves? Did you see him casually pull a tooth out of his mouth Sunday while sitting on the bench after his face was smashed into the glass by Chicago's Brent Seabrook? Incredible! And, no, of course there was no penalty called on the play.
Memorabilia collectors are well aware there have been two different Winnipeg Jets clubs in the NHL. The original Jets were birthed in 1972 as part of the World Hockey Association and then absorbed into the NHL in 1979 (along with teams in Hartford, Quebec and Edmonton). Almost twenty years later in 1997, the team was sold and relocated to Phoenix as the Coyotes, where they still play (at least for now until they are eventually moved to either Seattle or Las Vegas) as the Arizona Coyotes.
The Winnipeg Jets visiting us tonight are actually the Atlanta Thrashers, an expansion team that began NHL play in 1999. It was the second franchise for Atlanta, the first being the Atlanta Flames, established in 1972 as an expansion team. After eight unsuccessful years, the team was sold to businessmen in western Canada and became the Calgary Flames in 1980. In twelve years, the Thrashers only qualified for the playoffs once and never won a playoff game. So, in 2011, due to poor attendance and a failure to show profits, the team was sold to a consortium in central Canada and reincarnated as the Winnipeg Jets.
In three previous seasons in Winnipeg, the Jets have yet to qualify for the playoffs, so the team is desperate to win their last three games this year in order to make the playoffs for the first time in their short history. It would be especially sweet for Jets' Nation since the team was not expected to be as good as they have been, actually in the competition for a playoff slot in the tough Western Conference, well ahead of San Jose, Dallas, Colorado, Edmonton and Arizona and until last night, even with Los Angeles.
The old-style Jets jersey (pictured) is a highly desired collectible and game worn jerseys, especially of star players like Teemu Selanne and Keith Tkachuk, are worth thousands of dollars. And then in 2014, a Jets jersey worn by Bobby Hull during the team's 1972-73 inaugural season sold for a whopping $122, 057 at an auction in Quebec.
Currently a Mario Marois 1986-87 home (white) game-worn jersey can be had for $799 on ebay, or if you prefer, the 1987-88 road (blue) jersey of Peter Taglianetti can be yours for only $1, 500. In comparison, a 2014-15 new-style Evander Kane road (white) jersey is offered at $1, 200. You could also purchase a 2013-14 Jim Slater road jersey for $349. A much better offer is both the home and road jerseys of defenseman Grant Clitsome from the 2014-15 season for only $595, with an additional $35 for shipping. That's only $315 each, quite a deal, eh?
A Blues' victory tonight is most desirable, yet it wouldn't hurt that much if it comes in overtime or a shootout. One point for the Jets might indeed help Winnipeg make the playoffs at the expense of the Los Angeles Kings.