Lighting the Lamp With Rick Ackerman
Well, I have to admit I never thought I would actually be writing this article for tonight’s Game Time. What a bummer! And so fatefully and regretfully, it comes down to the 15th playoff game-seven in Blues history.
The St. Louis Blues have been in 14 previous playoff game-sevens, winning six with 24 goals for and losing eight with 39 goals against. The first was in 1968 when the Blues beat Philadelphia 3-1; the last was when the Blues lost to Vancouver in 2003. Three game-sevens went to overtime; two to double overtime. St. Louis won three of those matches, the most recently in 1999 with a 1-0 overtime win over Phoenix. Bonus points to those who recall Pierre Turgeon scored the goal. The Blues have only had one previous game- seven with the Blackhawks, a blowout Chicago win, 8-2, in 1990. It can only be hoped that past performance is not indicative of future results.
Want to know the best way to predict who wins tonight? Flip a coin.
Both teams are 2-1 on enemy ice and are almost statistically identical. With the exception of the game Saturday, all five other playoff matches have been decided by one goal. The Blues won in overtime and the Blackhawks won in double overtime. The Hawks have scored two more goals than the Blues in the six games of the series so far, two of which were empty net tallies by Panarin and Hossa. Both clubs have scored five power play goals, the Blues on 16 opportunities and the Hawks on 18. While Chicago dominated on shots on goal, St. Louis had substantially more hits (249 to 187). The Blues’ centers have won 222 face offs to Hawks’ centers’ 212.
And it would not surprise me at all (or any of us for that matter) when the game tonight goes into overtime, or even double overtime.
In a rather expected turn of events, if one has a Facebook or Twitter account or reads any of the hockey message boards, a large vocal segment of Blues Nation has already given up and thrown in the towel, crying that it is all over and the Bloosers have choked yet again to the powerful, experienced god-like Stanley Cup defending champion Blackhawks. And, of course, they are entitled to that belief thanks to the Blues’ second period woes (outscored ten to three and out shot 99 to 68 in combined second periods) and inability to put Chicago away in games five and six. With their foot on the Hawks’ neck, the Blues have not found a way to give it that last final push, as they seem to lack that necessary killer instinct.
Believe me, I understand the agonizing frustration and disappointment. I have attended at least one game each and every year of the Blues’ existence and was at Stanley Cup Finals matches in both 1968 and 1969, both losses to a powerful Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup champion. I have been a season ticket holder since I moved back from Ohio to St. Louis in the early 2000s, bleeding blue when the President Trophy team lost in the first round to San Jose in 2000 and suffering when the Blues missed the playoffs from 2006 to 2008 and 2010 to 2011, as well as grieving first round exits in 2014 and 2015.Yes, I know the agony and ecstasy of being a Blues’ fan well, disgruntled and dismayed there has been more overall agony than ecstasy.
So, what to do?
I, for one, am not going to hang my head and complain about the officiating or criticize the coaching staff or carp about and lament the Blues’ inability to put the Hawks away in the fifth game of the series, a game at home they woulda, coulda, shoulda won. Even though there was a clear display of favoritism shown to the Blackhawks (easy too many men penalty missed, obvious hooking or holding by Chicago players not called during the third period Saturday) that is still no excuse or reason Chicago was able to win. Superior teams don’t lapse into a defensive shell and instead dominate play, championship teams find a way to block the shot, clear the zone and then skate up ice and score the game winning, shorthanded goal. The Blues had a two-goal lead, up 3-1 at the end of the first period and completely gave it up in the second period. Worse yet, St. Louis was unable to capitalize on only 11 shots in the third period, going gently into that good night with a whimper and a moan.
No, this is the time not to falter or hesitate in our support for the St. Louis Blues. This is not the time to give in to our fears and capitulate to our frustration. If it is indeed darkest before the dawn, then yes, I agree that it is pretty freakin’ dark out right now. Nevertheless, that is no reason to throw the towel in and give up.
Yes, I am the eternal optimist when it comes to my hockey team. I am not about to give in to the negativity and defeatism I have been witness to since Saturday night’s loss in Chicago. If you hate the Blues so much, buy a Penguins or Capitals or Stars jersey and start rooting for them. In the meantime, I will continue to have faith I will be sporting a Stanley Cup with a Bluenote tattooed over my heart this coming June.