Blues Season Ends
OK, so I admit, I am a big ’80s rock guy. Van Helen? Love them. Rush? Seen them many times. Motley Crue? Oh yes – I could feel those solos in my bones. Metallica, AC/DC, even a little band called White Lion – I sheepishly admit, I know their stuff.
Well, the St. Louis Blues have finally imploded for good now. There’s no more chase for the Cup. The pipe dream of overcoming the Colorado Avalanche (and their dirty deeds, as AC/DC sang) have become part of our St. Louis rock ‘n roll fantasy (Bad Company .. love them).
But now it’s over. Like the Canadian pop/metal band Loverboy sang. “I’ve had all I can take, I can’t take it no more, I’m gonna take my life and Flyyyyyyyy My way .. or it’s no way at all …,” is how the lyrics go (misheard lyrics maybe, but still …).
Well, it’s over. Hard to believe. So many late nights trying to get to sleep because the Blues kept me on the edge of my seat (mostly in losing efforts but a few dandy wins too). The shock of losing to the Avs is mitigated by a whole host of facts.
But, as the Blues will certainly learn, nobody cares. They are out. They are never coming back. All the fans who chirp about the refs, about Craig Berube, about Vladimir Tarasenko, about Mike Hoffman, about Torey Krug .. well you have an entire offseason to make your point. To exactly who I am not sure because nobody outside of the 270 loop gives a crap. The 2020-21 St. Louis Blues will go down in history as exactly what they were.
Losers to about the 12th degree.
Mean? Sure it is. but I am having a hard time digesting this loss, and this series loss. Again, I hate to be Captain Buzzkill on a date with Debbie Downer who gets shut down in the West Port Plaza parking lot, but let’s all remember this: THE BLUES JUST GOT SWEPT IN THE STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS.
Let that sink in.
That is the cold, hard reality. When we needed them to fight, they became “fragile” as their coach would say mid-season. We missed DP57 – David Perron – who we will never know if he would have been the difference-maker or not. I, for one, had my eye on him for an MVP award should the team have advanced on a miraculous postseason rally.
But in the NHL, this storyline was not one for primetime, and the Blues got shelved in favor of the league’s marquee players in Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog. There is little doubt, based on some of their very dubious calls and more so, the non-calls, that ended up costing the Blues two key defensemen in-game. St. Louis lost Justin Faulk – a clock-eating defenseman, and Robert Bortuzzo, a Stanley Cup champion.
Why that would happen – with Nazem Kadri barreling into Faulk to eliminate him from the series, and Tyson Jost with a controversial elbow into Bortuzzo’s skull that rendered the D man useless the rest of the series. Kadri got a paltry eight games for his hit, as STLFanReport.com reported
— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) May 20, 2021
I say the Blues are losers to the 12th degree because it’s not like they did not have their chances to right this wayward ship this season. They peeled off an eight-game losing streak, barely seemed to be bothered by it, and only eked into the playoffs. Let’s be honest here – because the Arizona Coyotes are absolute crap and handed the fourth playoff spot to the staggering Blues – is the only reason why we were here, to begin with. Berube’s troops sure didn’t “earn” the playoff spot by their stellar, consistent play, in my eyes.
But that was part of the plan. Get in and win. That’s what we heard for two to three months. General Manager Doug Armstrong even said the team’s depth and skill players, he felt, were enough to stand pat at the trade deadline when he had assets to deal. The Blues were missing a big, heavy defenseman, and even with someone like Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell probably available, the Blues did nothing to secure the back-end help. Little did he know that would be the Blues’ bugaboo this year. The defense became so decimated, that first-timers and taxi squad all-stars Mitch Reinke and Steven Santini were forced to play in the playoffs.
Armstrong bankrolled this season on the success of sniper Mike Hoffman, who he brought in for training camp and let him fight for a spot in the lineup. Presumably, this was to help Hoffman play for his next big contract. By the Blues passing on the opportunity to deal the winger, some fans wonder if he is a piece of the future here. He was counted on to make up the goals left on the table for Game Four “hero” Vladimir Tarasenko, who scored his first and only two goals of the playoffs in the season’s final game.
The disappointment collar has been firmly placed on this Blues’ high-priced star, who has been streaky in his return from shoulder surgery in the offseason. Tarasenko has been applauded by some for the fact he has improved his forecheck and has become more of a complete player in Berube’s eyes.
He has never been known for his defense, and it is admirable, but in my opinion, we are paying him to score goals – not play defense. I’ve been beaten, stoned, and stabbed on this very site for my views, but like the viral Leprechaun in the Tree story – “I Want Da Gold” meaning I want the goals. Period. The back of the net has been more elusive than the Alabama-based leprechaun … in a tree. Yeah.
As far as the Avs, I realize some drunk loudmouth gets on the fan boards and starts yapping, and this series has been no different. Avs fans have trolled our boards – showing the world how true front-runners they are with their team (hot now, but Vegas will crush you. They will). So I suppose I don’t understand the squawking and chirping from that side.
Hey bravo, bro. You beat a decent Blues team that was without their leading D man (Faulk) and points leaders (Perron) who still managed to get stout goaltending from our $36 million goalie Jordan Binnington. I get good old jeering and bravado, but the gall of some of these Avs fans showed, they really have no class. I realize Blues fans can be accused of this too, however in my experience, our fans police themselves. So if a shitbird pops off inappropriately, the other fans are there to cut him down. It’s our code. And it is admirable and classy. Nobody can take that away from us.
What kind of code do the Avs have? They got MacKinnon but that Vegas D will pound him down – even. more than the Blues did. Remember, the Blues got to Rantanen at one point. Maybe the Avs aren’t so invincible as they want you to believe.
That’s why I will be able to manage life with the Blues bowing out. They made the playoffs – by hook or crook as they say – but I do expect more. This is a team that is just two years removed from a Stanley Cup run. I do not expect to get SWEPT in the first round. That, to me, as a fan is unacceptable.
Who stays? Who goes? Will Berube make it past Christmas as the Blues coach? What becomes of assistant Steve Ott and Mike Van Ryn? I think one of them or maybe both of them will suffer the fall as Berube will be forced to throw one or the other under the proverbial bus. The future of goalie coach David Alexander will surely be under close scrutiny, as both goalies had their struggles this season. The question, is, who out there is better?
So, wrap up this season. Strap in for the rest of the playoffs. As a hockey fan, I will watch the games regardless. It’s hockey and it’s good.
Let’s not berate these guys for failing to get through the first round – yes it is embarrassing and needs to be discussed and it will, I am sure. But these lovable losers gave us some great moments when we were all locked into our homes with little enjoyment in life. We do owe them that.
I can still see the cross-ice passes from Krug to Thomas, or Ryan O’Reilly willing the team to a goal against these very Avs in the regular season to erase a 2-0 deficit. Hoffman provided a handful of game-winners and his snipes were a thing of beauty. Once he was used properly, he sure did flourish.
Expect changes to this D core. It has to begin there. Now, the answers can be had – we did end up missing Alex Pietrangelo, but the loss of Alex Steen, Jay Bouwmeester and then Carl Gunnarsson was actually a kick in the balls for this team Try as they might to deflect the harm this did to them, it did become THE problem this year. And in the end, David Perron, their leader, ended up on the COVID list. Go figure.
Weird year, but there are plenty of teams to root for NOT NAMED THE DIRTY BASTARDS AVALANCHE. (Did I say that out loud? I was just thinking it.)
You gotta love the heart that the Carolina Hurricanes are showing and the fight the Nashville Preds are putting up. How about Connor McDavid and the Oilers trying to regain Edmonton’s Cup glory after all these years. Leon Draisaitl is his partner and they are not getting it done yet. The Winnipeg Jets are a stout team and have stunned McDavid’s Oilers three games to none. And don’t sleep on the Habs – the Montreal Canadiens, They are playing more than a trip to the second round – they are playing for Canadian pride against the storied Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s the Canuck version of Yankees-Red Sox, Cardinals-Cubs, Dodgers-Giants.
So .. the Blues are gone but don’t give up, there are plenty of other great series, great players to watch, and great games ahead. Let go of your anger about this season and just enjoy some playoff hockey.
Enjoy the memories but move on and enjoy the beautiful game of hockey. Together. As fans.
Thanks for reading!
Now, back to full strength …
A St. Louis Blues blogger, NHL podcaster, and writer, and contributor for the STL Fan Report.