If there was ever a buzzword that I grew tired of last fall, it was "Reckless". In the hyper-accelerated lifespan of twitter, it went from catchy to snark to cliche in about an afternoon. Once the season got started, though, there was a marked difference to how the Blues played. This was not just a fiction of local homers - it was seen by the eyes of the world. If you wanted to hang a name on it, I suppose Reckless worked about as good as any.
However as the Blues succeeded despite injury after injury, another word seemed to replace it. It was less overt, never announced as such, but the team became better identified as Resilient. Whether it was the constant battles with the injury bug, rough patches in the schedule, or simply battling through games where rookie goalies suddenly looked like Hasek clones, there was always a bounce back.
The Blues find themselves in yet another situation where that resiliency will be tested. They've been here before, whether it was in Game 7s from previous rounds or from other elimination games of previous years. The scary thing, especially for spectators on the outside, is the fear of drawing from that well once too often. It's nice to rely on something, but what if it isn't there when you need it and it's just a dark hallow void? The fortunate thing is that resiliency is a renewable resource. Even if one individual falters, it only takes a word from a coach, advice from a teammate with a touch of grey in his playoff beard, a good shift, or some sort of lucky break to instantly have it replenished. We've seen it before.
That's what the Blues are going in with, and that's what gives me confidence. This isn't some sunshine-and-puppy-dogs nonsense promise. I have no idea whether or not the Blues WILL win. The Sharks are legitimately a team that's hard to handle. But, I know that the Blues CAN win, and until the clock ticks to 0:00, that's enough for me. Of course, we haven't had that multiple OT game yet, so this might not happen until sunrise. If the Blues pull this off, we'll all be dancin' in the streets.
As for the nuts and bolts of the game, the Sharks aren't making any changes to the lineup. So far, they've been succeeding with the same roster each time, so why should they? The Blues, on the other hand, have been trying to find new mixes on a game by game basis. Per Hitch's own words "We needed a jolt from Jake, and we got that. Now, it's Brian's turn to finish it". And with that, Jake Allen sits and Brian Elliott gets the start. This was a career-long stretch for Moose, so the break was well due. The expectation is that he needed some time off to physically and especially mentally hit the reset button, and should be sharper the rest of the way. There's not been anything else said about other lineup changes, but keep an eye on the twitter feed below.
Much has been speculated about Vladimir Tarasenko and his struggles to score. Some wonder if he's nursing an injury. Hitchcock says he's 100% -- which is probably true in a relative sense. Nobody is 100% this deep in the playoffs, and hockey players, coaches, and management are certainly known to outright lie to the media. I don't think that's the case here, though. If you're going to lie and get away with it, it needs to be vague or somewhat obfuscated. Allow yourself some wiggle room. Once the playoffs end, it'll surely come out what injuries the players were dealing with, and you never spin a yarn that will be easily proven false later. So then, what of Vladdy? Well, Coach Hitch volunteered to "write your articles for you" in the off-day scrum (skip to the 2:20 mark), and two writers took him up on that. They are very similar, but check out both Lou Korac's entry from NHL.com and Curtis Pashelka's article from the Mercury News. Good points and some food for thought. If he can find some space, he's going to be sitting on top of the world.
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Final Verse: The puck drops at 8:00 PM St Louis time, and the GameDay Thread will drop shortly beforehand. The TV broadcast will be on NBCSN and the radio call will be on KMOX 1120 AM. You have an extra hour to properly prepare, so don't forget to stop by the local pharmacy/liquor store/poorly lit street corner to stock up on your stress reliever of choice. Also, please drop by the GDT and watch the game with us, won't you?
Also, what collection of Grateful Dead tunes would be complete without Casey Jones?