On Jan. 2, the St. Louis Blues looked like white hot dog shit.
Carrying the fewest points in the league and dropping credibility by the hour, they looked like drunk hanging onto a winning lottery ticket in a blizzard. A team making spring vacation plans right after Christmas.
Then, they started winning. Soon afterwards, the winning wouldn’t stop. Eleven in a row! Sustainable streaks! Predators chasing and domination! It’s true ... all of it.
Friday night, despite a loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the Blues clinched a playoff spot. Thanks to the Colorado Avalanche beating the Arizona Coyotes in overtime, the Blues earned a seat at the playoff table months after nearly being kicked out of the building. Thanks to Stan Kroenke’s team, the Blues got in without a win.
I still can’t believe it. I happened to be downtown driving for Uber when the news came through. I drove up past the Enterprise Center, and just smiled. I smiled because sports are the most tumultuous relationships in life. You stand next to a team through thick and thin, taking all the shots along the way. Right when you think the team is being counted out, they lift their arm, raise a knee, and rise up.
The Blues were down and out on New Year’s Day, and now will contend for Lord Stanley’s Cup. It’s unreal. While a lot of the credit will undoubtedly go to the players who helped turn the team around, the head coach deserves the most praise. Craig Berube took an airplane heading for an ugly crash in November, and helped them soar back up into the great blue sky.
A coach, like a director on a film set, controls everything. The lines, starters, who goes in, who goes out, and how the next few games shape up. If a team goes down 3-0, the head coach has to turn it around. If the team doesn’t buy what he’s selling, you can forget about any sense of happiness, thus canceling out wins. The Blues believed in Berube’s goods, and haven’t stopped in over four months. With the clinch on Friday, you can bet your ass the Blues extend Berube very soon.
How can they not with what just happened?! Via Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic, the Blues became the seventh team since the NHL expansion in 1967-68 to make the playoffs after being at the bottom of the standings on New Year’s Day. It hasn’t happened in 12 years.
Now, the Blues get AT LEAST four playoff games. St. Louis hockey fans get AT LEAST two games at Enterprise Center. Bagel slice that shit, ladies and gents.
I don’t care who the Blues face. It doesn’t matter. The other team will be a bastard regardless, and if the Blues can’t handle a team like the Rangers, you damn well know it won’t matter at all.
The Blues get New Jersey next and then come home. They have five games left, and sit four points behind Nashville and Winnipeg. They are also just two points ahead of Dallas, who sits in the first wildcard spot. So, the Blues could finish on top of the Central if they go on a run while the Jets and Predators falter, or they could be a wildcard team. You never know.
Here’s what I do know. The Blues are a playoff team for the 42nd time in franchise history. I’m only 37 years old, but I think this is one of the most unlikely runs in their time in the league. I could be wrong, but I’m probably not. Just check the Rutherford tweet again.
Don’t stop now, Blues. As Jake Taylor once told a clubhouse full of misfit toys, let’s win the whole fucking thing!