Tim Timmermann of the Post-Dispatch pulls zero punches with the headline on his article today: “After 51 seasons of failure, Blues open a new campaign with new title hopes.” It’s funny, because all of it is true. Every season, there are high expectations when it’s more reasonable to just assume the team will probably play pretty well barring injury.
But this year, the high expectations can almost be excused. Ryan O’reilly, Pat Maroon, Tyler Bozak, and David Perron (again) are here to shore up the forwards. With the addition of rookie Robert Thomas, the Blues have four lines worth of NHL centers who are playing with appropriate linemates. Jordan Kyrou is starting with the NHL club. Sammy Blais had a good camp and pre-season.
Sure, Jake Allen could be more consistent, but when he is he can be light’s out.
The expectation should easily be to make the playoffs. A higher expectation would be to make the Western Conference Finals. Stanley Cup? Let’s just be reasonable here.
The Blues are starting the season playing against the Winnipeg Jets, a team widely favored to finish at or near the top of the Western Conference standings. They fixed their goaltending, long seen to be questionable, a few seasons ago and All Star Connor Hellebuyck has allowed the team to reliably build on a young defensive corps. Patrick Laine and Mark Scheifele are a one two punch with captain Blake Wheeler serving as an assist machine.
The Jets used to be an easy target for the Blues going all of the way back to their time in Atlanta. They’re not anymore. Tonight’s going to be a test for the Blues, but there’s no better way to open the season.