Is this how it all ends for the St. Louis Blues? I can’t help but think of my favorite Led Zeppelin song as the Blues engage in Game 5 tonight.
If it keeps on rainin’, levees are goin’ to break/
When the levees break, I’ll have no place to stay/
Mean old levee taught me to weep and moan/
Cryin’ won’t help you, prayin’ won’t do you no good.
As a heavy dose of rain ravaged parts of St. Louis and left several in need of flood relief, the Blues find themselves drowning with the hope of an extension for their 2016-17 playoff life starting to dim. It has seemingly rained forever around St. Louis, and it’s hard to resist finding a parallel between the two types of monsoons: one a physical and the other more of the emotional variety. Blues fans don’t take the ice with the players, but the finality of your team’s season doesn’t drift quietly into the spring night.
It’s never easy watching your team go down, and it doesn’t matter if your team has 12 Stanley Cups or zero. What starts as a genuine rush collapses into a quiet settling of the emotions. September preseason action, 82 regular season games, and hopefully, a long spring run of playoff hockey. For the Blues, a long playoff run sounds like an urban legend.
Let’s face the facts, folks. The Blues are perennial losers when it comes to true Stanley Cup aspirations. The “almost there” squad has problems executing and reacting in April and May, so the dream usually dies long before a fan is ready to say uncle.
The problems include the familiar laundry list of failures:
*They can’t score enough. The Blues are Jason Biggs for the first hundred minutes of American Pie during the playoffs. If you expect to win hockey games scoring a total of two goals in two games, please find a concrete wall and smash your head into it. The Blues couldn’t score enough two years ago, in last year’s Sharks series, and find the problem coming back to haunt them again. Devan Dubnyk? Jonathan Quick? A 34 year old Pekka Rinne? Does it really matter anymore?
*They can’t execute or focus. Talks of game plans and failing to do the little things that win playoff games is a regular customer as the Blues Sadness Memorial. Listen to the players after the games-they sound like they are explaining the plot of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar more than trying to dissect a sports event loss.
*The players can’t react to early adversity. Paul Stastny told STL Today’s Jeremy Rutherford after Wednesday’s loss that he felt the team didn’t react well after the Nashville early strike. Do I hear an echo? How many times have fans seen that happen in their lifetime? The other team strikes first, and the Blues curl up like Matt Damon at the end of Saving Private Ryan when the bridge is out.
*Penalties. Bad ones that leave a stink in the mouth long after the minor is finished being served happen way too often for this team to win more playoff games. If you want to blame the refs for Ryan Reaves taking a retaliatory penalty or the Blues failing to count the men on the ice for the fiftieth time this season, you’re doing it wrong. The Blues are undisciplined hockey players, and not the cool kind like Reggie Dunlop’s team. The Blues didn’t take bad penalties and won Game 2. The other games have featured stupidity on the ice.
By now, a Blues failure should feel ordinary, right? At some point, they are going to come up short every year. And it’s not okay anymore. I don’t care if the team wasn’t built for the postseason. Sell the excuses somewhere else, because I am all stocked up on bullshit here. The Blues made a huge run, got here intact, and are deflating early again. I’m tired of subscribing to the idea that making the postseason is grand, and you can hang your hat on that. How many more hats can the Blues fit on that fucking rack anyway?
I feel like there are two stances a fan can take at this venture: the honorable “head up” look or the disgruntled “fuck this” expression. I am going with the latter, because I’m tired of hearing stories about those great teams in the late 1960’s who got to the Cup finals in their first three seasons. Where the fucks are those teams? Will the Blues ever make the Stanley Cup finals again?
What needs to happen for the Blues to win Game 5? In order to not sound like a broken record, I’ll state the obvious first. Score more goddamn goals than the other team and please score more than one goal. Score first. Stay out of the box. Clean up your forecheck. Stop dumping pucks in for Rinne to easily cycle back out of the zone. Win some face-offs in your defensive zone. Keep the bodies away from Jake Allen’s view. Find a way to get in the Predators faces without taking redundant penalties. Create instead of retaliate for once.
Allen deserved better in Game 5, but I am beginning to question if it will matter. He played his ass off in the third period, and saw a fluke goal from James Neal somehow sneak above his left shoulder. Allen’s 2.05 GAA and .935 save percentage are very good, but not as good as Rinne’s numbers. That was the name of the game coming into the series: can Allen play as good as Rinne or will the Blues make it a non-factor?
I picked the Predators in six games, so I think this is the last paper of the season, but I would love to be wrong. I would love to see the Blues level of play rise like the Phoenix and equal the beautiful weather that awaits fans tonight at Scottrade Center. Do the Blues have one more comeback in them this year? I would love to read over these depressing words weeks from now as the Blues open up the Stanley Cup Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. That would be nice, but highly unlikely.
With the Blues, the Stanley Cup seems like a dreamy scenario that may never come to fruition.
Dream on and drink more bourbon.
Thanks for reading.