Where the St. Louis Blues have taken their fans this postseason is soil that hasn't been touched in over a decade. The second round. In control. Out in front. Pushing another team around instead of being given the door. For the second series in a row, the Blues have taken a three games to two lead and the opportunity to finish the Dallas Stars at home awaits them tonight. Can they do it? How much torture will it involve? I wish I could answer those questions now but instead I'll take you back to Buffa the Kiddo.
Growing up, I went to games with my dad at the Old Barn and watched Brett Hull treat other teams to a Houdini magic show with his slap shots, wicked wristers and one timers. When you are a kid, a Stanley Cup doesn't really stand out with importance yet. All you want is for your favorite player to score, look good doing it and see a winner. As you get older, the idea of championship takes a bigger meaning. The idea that they actually play for something all season long.
I was a teenager the last time the Blues advanced to the third round of the playoffs. I was 19 years old when the Blues swept the Stars and advanced to face(and lose to) the Colorado Avalanche. It was glorious. Sitting in a condo in Brentwood Forest screaming like mad as the Blues gave Ed Belfour nigthmares again. It was back before my brother was afflicted with an illness that zapped our mutual love for sports. It was back before college and before I settled down. A year later, I would meet my eventual wife. 15 years later, the Blues can do it again. Win that championship. Bring home not just the trophy but the glory.
When people compare the Blues plight to the Chicago Cubs, the example doesn't hold much weight at first. The Cubs actually own a World Series and have been around for twice as long as the Blues. Eventually, though, you think about the last couple generations of folks that have been waiting for something magical to happen. Think about it. The Cubs didn't officially become the Cubs until 1907 and they won the World Series a year later. The Blues landed in 1967 and went to the Stanley Cup finals back to back seasons. Afterwards, nothing. So I get the way that thought floats into the head of people striving for a connection or comeback when a Blues-Blackhawks fight breaks out.
Here is why I think the Blues can finish this tonight.
Brian Elliott is having the postseason of a lifetime. No other goalie in the NHL is better right now. Elliott has faced 412 shots and stopped 93 percent of them. He's not allowing easy shit between the pipes. As good as Elliott, Jake Allen or whoever was in net for the Blues lately, a soft goal or two found its way in eventually. Ells isn't allowing bullshit. The Stars don't have that.
Colton Parayko and Alex Pietrangelo give the Blues a formidable mix of brawn and brains. Kevin Shattenkirk is solid too, but the Blues have the edge at the Blue Line and it's only getting better with each game. Sure, their levees may rupture in front of Elliott too often, but the possibilities with this group are wondrous.
Vladimir Tarasenko has scored 16 goals in 25 playoff games. Try stopping that.
David Backes is a man on a mission this postseason. He's playing like it could be his last hurrah in St. Louis. A pair of game winners and more goals than before spell something special. And he's bald with a beard, so that helps.
Ken Hitchcock is showing less inclination to screw this whole juicy optimistic thing up. More and more, I am confident in his ability to run away from ineptitude.
Also, Antoine Roussel sucks and Jamie Benn has ONE goal through five games. The Stars also seem to find their goal scoring kryptonite in Scottrade Center this season.
Tonight, in the words of Mortal Kombat, the Blues need to FINISH THEM! Do it now and don't let it get back to Dallas for another Game 7. I've tasted those and it's heart wrenching.
Play a hard 60. Forecheck like the fucking Dickens. Bruise these Stars often and early. Put a load of shots on goal. Play Tarasenko a ton. Push as hard as you can because if you win, there are two more series to play.
7 wins down. 9 to go. Let's do handshakes tonight. Go Blues!