Prior to game four, I had a chance to speak with old friend and former St. Louis Blues defensemen Jamie Rivers. Our discussion was brief, but we covered a few different points in regards to this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
Rivers had a pretty solid career, playing over 450 games in the NHL, as well as quite a few stints in the AHL and over seas. Rivers is a guy who knows the sport, so his opinion on anything hockey is always fun to learn.
The first question was simple, so I got it out of the way quickly: who has been the most valuable player for the Blues in the first round?
Rivers - Jake Allen. I think he’s been the MVP in the NHL so far in the first round. You know, great teams can usually go as far as their goaltender can take them and right now Jake looks unbelievable, so I’m excited for the rest of the playoffs.
The next question here was one every Blues fan wants to know, and it’s on the mind of probably the player himself. What is it going to take for Vladimir Tarasenko to break out of this scoring slump?
Rivers - I just think he needs to shoot the puck as much as possible. He can’t get discouraged if there are blocked shots, he just has to make sure he is pulling the trigger every chance he gets out there.
I’m generally curious of what other people associated with the game of hockey have to say in regards to other teams around the league, so my next question was a no brainer. What surprises you out of the playoffs this year, so far?
Rivers - Well obviously the Nashville Predators and the St. Louis Blues (Being up 3-0 in their respective series), are big surprises. The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Edmonton Oilers, I think you’re seeing a good example of how quickly some teams rebuild (Toronto) and how far along they’ve come in a short period of time. For me, it’s an exciting time for the NHL; they have a lot of teams that are competitive and it makes the playoffs just that much better.
My last question was to see if I could get Rivers, who is clearly rooting for the St. Louis Blues, to say his Cup winning team this year. I wanted to see if he was going to go the homer route and say the Blues, but he didn’t. (Does anyone have the Blues winning the Cup?)
Rivers - Honestly, my pick was the Washington Capitals. I thought they had been through enough heartache to last a lifetime. It’s not that I didn’t think the Blues aren’t a great team. Let’s be honest, a month ago, we weren’t thinking about the Stanley Cup, we were thinking this has been a great re-tooling year for the Blues. Washington, obviously, were my odds on favorite. However, the way the Blues look now, with getting Sobotka and potentially getting Stastny back later, and the way Jake Allen is playing, they remind me of the L.A. Kings when they won their first Stanley Cup.
So what happens today when the puck drops? Do the Blues close out their series, or does Minnesota fight back and force a game six? Do the Washington Capitals fight off the surprisingly strong Toronto Maple Leafs and fulfill Rivers prediction, or are the Blues going to push for their cup like the L.A. Kings of old? Only time will tell, but today it’s time to go for the kill shot and put the Wild down.