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The Blues are “Participation Trophy” dwellers for life

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-St. Louis Blues at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

During youth sports, kids are given a participation trophy-in other words, their parents got their shit together, enrolled their kid in a sport, and got him there often enough to receive an award that the parents will prop up and one the kid will ultimately hate when he is older. The intersection of average and incompetence is where a participation trophy exists. The Blues are participation trophy dwellers for life in the NHL.

Why? More often than not, they find their way into the playoffs and ultimately shit the bed. While others get the bigger trophy and are celebrated, the Blues get the smaller one and pout into the hot humid air of summer. While others parade around a golf course like Rodney Dangerfield, the Blues sulk in the bar like Ted Knight.

Some years they rush in with promise; other times they enter with a gambler’s chance. It doesn’t matter because in the end, they will lose. If the Blackhawks aren’t holding the sword, the Kings will be. Someone will. The Sharks. The Wild. The Blues are regular season masters and postseason blue ball specialists. Peyton Manning if he didn’t face Rex Grossman or have a dynamic defense.

They get the fanbase all shook up and in a frenzy, forcing fans to ask the question. Is this the year? No. How about next year? Not looking good. Five year plan? Most likely, a quarterfinal participation ticket, so beat it.

The Blues had no business beating the Minnesota Wild, and the Nashville Predators are slamming that point home. As the wonderful Laura aka @hildymac pointed out today, the excuses that rush in from the players in the postgame carry all the sizzle of a t-bone steak at Denny’s after a night out.

“We need to execute better.”

“We need to start out better. Be more efficient.”

“We had a game plan, but it focused mostly on winning, so it went to waste.”

“The other team put a hot biscuit in our neighborhood oven, and we didn’t know how to react. Suddenly, our sticks and skates stopped working.”

Pardon my use of hyperbole, but when you write 100 articles a year on a team with varying degrees of hope and despair, sometimes a little extra juice is required. If there is a drama, then I can add more and it won’t be noticed.

When I think of the Blues in the playoffs, I think of Matt Damon on Mars in a scenario where he didn’t make it off the planet. Towards the end of the brilliant film-The Martian-Damon’s character tells the young room of space students that life up there is a mindfuck: “It’s space. It doesn’t cooperate. Sooner or later, you will ask yourself-is this how I end?”

In the Blues case, the playoffs are Mars and space. Things won’t go right or as planned, and when they do go to shit, how do you stay efficient and win? How will you react? When will the Blues figure out that a regular season game plan pales in comparison to a postseason execution format? Until they can match their dominace in March to their play in April and May, this team won’t win shit.

Last year, the team celebrated a second round playoff triumph by halfway dismantling the team that caused a rough winter transition. Basically, Doug Armstrong didn’t retain key players and then didn’t replace those key players with better players. Winning franchises don’t stop after eight playoff wins. They don’t stop pushing until they reach 16.

I picked the Predators in six games because they are simply the better team when it comes to roster construction, game plan execution, and style of play. Jake Allen carried the Blues through the first round, but if Pekka Rinne can match Allen’s play, the Blues are screwed.

There’s more. The Blues take way too many boneheaded and ridiculous penalties. In their Game 2 win, the Blues took ONE penalty and it was offset by a Predator minor. In Game 4 last night, they spent 14 minutes in the box, and the result was a Predator goal. Don’t blame the refs. Blame the team that lead the planet in too many men on the ice penalties. If you can’t count to five, what good are you?

The penalties aren’t new-it’s plagued the team all year. Just mix it into the margarita batch from hell and it makes more sense. When you spend so much time in the box against a team with blue line rocket launchers and your fourth defenseman has more goals than 34 of the players on the team, things aren’t going well.

Here’s a theory I have about the referees and the penalties. Think about a baseball game where the pitcher can’t find home plate, so the umpire calls a lot of balls, which lead to walks. If a trend is developed, it’s hard to break away from. Like it or not, fair or not, the refs know the Blues tendencies for penalties and don’t have a problem pulling the trigger.

Will it stop? I doubt for more than a single game. The Blues are who they are. It’s not the refs fault that the Blues are in a 3-1 hole. It’s their ability to not withstand playoff hockey. After a while, they relent and wait for the participation trophy. It’s not supposed to be easy. It’s the playoffs. Nothing will go as planned.

I’d like to tell you the Blues will listen to St. Louis Post Dispatch columnist Jose de Jesus Ortiz and EXECUTE better, but I doubt it. They may find a way to win Friday night, but they will not win three in a row.

When was the last time they won three playoff games in a row after being down 3-1? I’ll mix a drink as you try to figure it out...

The answer is the 1998-99 quarterfinals against the Phoenix Coyotes. Those were the golden days where the Blues didn’t pay third liners four million dollars.

What is similar about that team and this current bunch? They both got participation trophies and sulked off into the warm weather.

Don’t act like you are surprised. By now, St. Louis hockey fans should be used to this unique brand of misery.