This story first appeared on Page 5 (The Five Hole) of the Jan. 7, 2020 edition of the St. Louis Game Time paper, sold outside of every Blues home game. For more information or to subscribe, email firstname.lastname@example.org
We on the Game Time staff reveled in Chicago’s misery when they were here on Dec. 14. Page after page, with merciless poignance and wit, we took the piss right out of them. The paper’s headline was truer than ever. The front-page column called them “a disaster that’s only getting worse.” On page 2, fearless leader Brad let a Chicago fan dig his own grave. Yours truly quoted Darren Pang comparing the atmosphere at the United Center on Dec. 14 to that of a preseason game. Thin Mints said Chicago is absolute shit, and that it’s “good for the soul.” Justin Dubya said “Troy fucking Brower broke your stupid asses.”
That was all good fun, but as Front Page Jeff has pointed out, fans of his (and my) generation grew up ambivalent toward Chicago; they were never good enough to warrant hatred. And while, yes, Fuck Detroit, those Red Wings teams of the late 90s and early aughts were dominant and stacked with hall of famers, so the hatred for them was tinged with resignation and grudging respect.
But when the rivalry with San Jose began in 2000, the Sharks were still a new franchise. They played in a non-traditional hockey market, they wore a shrill shade and their fans came up with a predictable, uncreative (not to mention stolen-from-the-University-of-Florida) way to celebrate a power play. Sounds like the Predators, to be honest.
Three times in four years — 2000, 2001, and 2004 — the Blues and Sharks met in the playoffs. They’ve also met thrice in the past seven postseasons. They will not meet in this year’s playoffs, though, because the Sharks stink. We’ll have more chances to kick Chicago while they’re down, but let’s not pass up any chances to kick San Jose, too.
The beauty is that their position way, way down there in the standings, is entirely on the shoulders of their longest-tenured employee, a man who a little over a year ago was being praised as one of the shrewdest GMs in the league. To his credit, Doug Wilson wrangled one of the best defensemen of all time out of Ottawa. He also inserted himself into the Mike Hoffman nonsense and skulked away with a second-round draft pick. He convinced 56-point scorer Kevin Lebanc to sign a $1-million contract.
But inexplicably, Wilson watched his goaltending tandem of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell torpedo a good team all of last season. The Sharks put up 101 points in the regular season despite Abbott and Costello routinely sharting themselves in bed, then rubbing their wet, brown asses all over the freshly-laundered sheets. (Jones scrounged up half a roll of one-ply TP and managed to plug his anus for two playoff rounds before the toilet paper gave way and he splattered the sheets with a fresh coat of brown in the Conference Final.) Heading into this season, with a roster of skaters again capable of a deep playoff run, Wilson elected not to replace either Jones or Dell. The foul odor emanating from their goalie pants comes as no surprise.
tks are done. Erik Karlsson and Brent “They’re Saying Boo-Urns” are aging. Joe Pavelski ain’t walkin’ through that door. Thornton is washed. Lebanc has to be furious at management. And all they got from a decade-plus of Pacific Division dominance and championship-caliber teams were six Cup Final games. Four of them were losses.
The Sharks also lost four — actually, let’s call it 4.5 — games in the Western Conference Final last year. In this space we usually count to five, but tonight it seems fitting to remember 4.5 bad goals that Jones yielded to the spectacular, wonderful, stupendous team in blue and white. I’m sorry, Mr. Jones, it’s time.
1. Robert Bortuzzo’s forehand, backhand, shelf Game 2 winner. Yes, that Robert Bortuzzo really did make Jonesy look like an ECHLer.
2. David Perron’s slapper from the blue line in Game 3. Forgotten amid everything that happened later, Perron gave the Blues a lead with an unscreened shot from far out. Keep your eye on the puck, Marty!
3. Ivan Barbashev’s bouncer off a stray stick to open Game 4. Tough goal to give up for any goalie, but those fluky ones sure seem to happen often when Number 31 is in net for the Sharks.
4. Jaden Schwartz’s tap-in to make it 2-0 in Game 5. The Martin Jones School of Rebound Control: Still accepting applications!
4.5 Vladimir Tarasenko’s penalty-shot goal. Jones didn’t do anything poorly on this one, he was just thoroughly outclassed by an elite shooter.
On the strength of these (and plenty of other) goals, the Blues won the series. They advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, which, by the way, they also won!
If you enjoyed this story — and even if you didn’t — you should check out my book, Ticketless: How Sneaking Into The Super Bowl And Everything Else (Almost) Held My Life Together.