Game 6 means vastly different things in St. Louis for the fans of the Cardinals and the Blues.
For baseball fans, it’s the lovely memory of David Freese literally ripping a World Series trophy out of the Texas Rangers’ hands, and creating Freese’s Lawn in center field. For hockey fans, it’s the finality of your team taking their final bow in a playoff series.
You don’t have to look back too far to find the Game 6 defeats for the Blues, but let’s start with 1981-82, which is when I dropped onto this rock. My first year on Earth, the Blues lost to the Black Hawks (it was two names back then) in six games.
In 1986-87, they lost to the Maple Leafs in six games. In 1990-91, they lost to the North Stars, aka the Dallas Stars.
One season after a brutal Game 7 defeat, where Wayne Gretzky committed the turnover of the century and Steve Yzerman leaped into the air after firing a goal over Jon Casey’s shoulder, Detroit beating St. Louis in six games.
What happened the following season, 1998-99? A Game 6 playoff exit to the Dallas Stars.
The trend stopped before picking back up in the 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 seasons.
All in all, since I’ve been born, the Blues have lost in Game 6 to be ousted from the playoffs ten times. That’s a number I’d like to shove into a bottle of tequila, light the bottle on fire, and drank the entire thing before collapsing on Laclede’s Landing. It’s bad history, stained by chokes, embarrassments, and maddening losses that lingered for an entire summer.
It’s what the Blues do, and I know this is where people will click out of this column, because they won’t want to depressed by truth. Just look at the name of the team to clarify existential angst. “The Blues.” The definition of Blues music includes this excerpt: “Feeling blue” is expressed in songs whose verses lament injustice or express longing for a better life and lost loves, jobs, and money.” Sounds about right.
Blues fans will often feel unjust, like their hockey team is holding out just to be torturous. They will long for a better life, and lose romance due to a lot of crying in the middle of the night. Jobs will be lost because someone mentioned at the water cooler that they are quietly a Blackhawks fan. Money is burned due to beer, whiskey, and nachos sales to comfort a long spring night of debauchery.
Since their inception in the late 1960’s, the Blues have teased fans with the idea of playoff supremacy. They have gotten invited to the dance 82% of the time, and never walked away with the Prom Queen. St. Louis hasn’t been to the Stanley Cup Finals in 49 years, where Bobby Orr and the Boston Bruins took them out in four games.
Anti-Fun fact: The Blues have never even won a Stanley Cup Final game.
It can end today, the final breath in an eventful season full of ups, downs, and all-arounds. The Blues were preseason favorites to go deep into the playoffs, before collapsing down a staircase that took three months to climb back up. For the last half of the season, they were one of the best teams in the NHL, nearly collecting first place in the Central Division.
After taking care of the Winnipeg Jets in Liam Neeson fashion, they have run into a buzzsaw in Dallas. Anchored by the hometown Chaminade alum, Ben Bishop, the Stars have used their strangehold defense to resist the Blues getting much going in the last two games of the series. Take away some Vladimir Tarasenko power play dancing, Jordan Binnington action in the net, and a wildly slick Pat Maroon winner, and this series may already be over.
You don’t have to be a cynical hockey fan to notice the lack of finish and execution in the Blues during this series all over the ice. Dallas is beating them at each end of the ice, getting the best of puck battles, sustaining possession of the puck, and putting the better shots on net. You don’t see them shooting pucks into the crest on Binnington’s jersey. They aim high, low, and where the Calder Trophy hopeful is not.
200 feet belong to the Stars, and it starts and ends with the Blues defensemen and forwards letting Dallas walk in and do what they want in front of Binnington. During Game 4, my dad belted out this during a game: “What the fuck are they doing?” Short, distinct, and to the point. That’s my old man. It’s not forechecking; just call it checking and covering your guy.
Robby Fabbri daydreaming about skyrockets in site and growing a full cheek of facial hair while his guy scores. Pat Maroon thinking about donuts and trucks as his guy flies past. Jay Bouwmeester acting like the liaison for the other team’s post-game party by having a puck go off his body and into the net. Colton Parayko playing Downey Soft in the corners. Joel Edmundson doing something that I am not sure is hockey. Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly disappearing during 5 on 5 action. I could go on.
I also could have chosen to write a RA-RA speech in today’s article. Taken the tireless route of optimistic soul who thinks the Blues can turn it around. I’ve written that article before and quite frankly, it’s boring. Let someone else do it.
A good friend of mine, Dan Reilly, said something on Twitter that seemed inspiring.
We have seen Dallas’ best and it’s really good. Dallas has not seen the #stlblues best, and it’s awesome. If they don’t bring their best they deserve their fate. I’ve been close to jumping ship too many times to give up now. How about ten wins in a row, fellas. Let’s get grindin.— Dan Reilly (@danreilly) May 5, 2019
Now that’s some inspiring shit. Truly. Go follow Dan right now or else I’ll take all your bourbon and cookies.
I just can’t do it. I picked the Blues to win in six games, and now I am thinking back and wondering if I was in a hallucinogenic state. Maybe I was happy about beating the Jets and thinking bigger.
If the Blues fire up two in a row and advance to the Western Conference Finals, it’ll be great. Playoff hockey is a special thing and should be cherished. It is the most intense part of any sport on this Earth, narrowly edging out a badminton tournament. I kid, it’s great and if the Blues get more games, I’ll celebrate with the finest alcohol my dad can buy.
If they lose, I’ll move on to movies and baseball. Don’t hate me. It’s the natural thing.
This isn’t giving up on the Blues. Think of it as taking a brutally honest angle on a playoff series location that carries storied, sinister history in this town. I’ll be watching today, checking to see if this miraculous team can pull one more amazing comeback. Can they walk into Dallas and extend the series back to a do or die Game 7 on Tuesday?
Game 6 means something different for baseball and hockey fans in this town. It’s true, and perhaps is the reason quite a few Blues fans hold some level of disdain for the Cardinals. They stare down the street at Busch and want to puke. I get it. We all do.
The truth is no one bleeds blue, but in our dark hearts, we wonder if this team will ever give this town a Stanley Cup celebration, let alone a Stanley Cup Final game victory. Is it truly folk lore or is it realistic?
Will I see their first? Will my son see it? Try and tell me yes with a straight face. I’ll be over here sipping bourbon.
Why do I tell you to buy more bourbon? If you are a Blues fan, you need it.
Go Blues. Don’t break my fucking heart again.