Here Come The Blues

 

And here we go…

The time for talking is almost done and the 1st Round of the Playoffs begins for the defending Champions tonight in Missouri.  I know I wanted this matchup, but I guess it’s a “Careful what You Wish For” situation. The Blues look to be returning to (nearly) full health and have had some time to regather themselves after losing the last six games of the season.  An awful lot of media outlets seem to be picking the Hawks in six, and such an outcome wouldn’t surprise me but, really, anything goes here.

Word from the Hawks is that all are present and accounted for, even though Patrick Kane is wearing a knee brace (that he’s been sleeping in to get acclimated). It certainly appears that Morin and Regin are on the outside looking in from the practice line-ups. Other than that, it’s Saad with Toews & Versteeg, Hossa-Handzus-Sharp, Bickell-Shaw-Kane and Bollig-Kruger-Smith. Corey Crawford, of course, gets the nod in net.

For the Blues, TJ Oshie and Patrik Berglund are still out, although they did take part in the morning skate. Tarasenko draws back in, and he’s one to watch. OK, we know what to expect. This isn’t going to be pretty.

Finally, I fired some more questions in the direction of Tyler Atwood from SLGT and he was kind enough to answer them! So take it away..

 

CTA: Last time we spoke, the mood around the Blues was pretty ebullient.. since then it’s been a catalogue of disaster on the ice. Are folk in St Louis climbing onto the ledge or are cooler heads prevailing?

TA: Right now, I’d say the Blues’ fan base are a pretty good mix of people basically ready to end the season in a sweep, jump off the Poplar Street Bridge and just end the insanity . . . and those who think the darkest hour is just before dawn with this team. The problem is that there really IS no middle ground. Bovada didn’t help matters by picking the Blues as their Western Conference favorites, because seriously, it seems every time people want to latch onto the Blues bandwagon on a mainstream basis, we as fans want to dissuade such chicanery because, I mean, Jesus Tapdancing Christ, look at this franchise’s fucking history! That all said, the team got three days off at the end of the season (THANKS, MILEY CYRUS!) enough to possibly get some players back from injury ahead of the series. They also, for better or worse, DO have home ice advantage in this series. I’ve seen dumber things happen than a team losing six straight ahead of season’s close then tearing through the postseason.

CTA: Obviously, the big story is the injuries.. but one of the striking things about the Blues’ recent run has been the very poor form of Ryan Miller. He seems to be fighting it lately, and, of course, there have always been question marks about his temprament under pressure. Do you think he’s going to shrug it all off or are we likely to see Brian Elliott being asked to step in at some point?

 

TA: The only way you’re going to see Brian Elliott in the playoffs (aside from the inevitable camera shot of him and his handsome face wearing a baseball hat on the bench) is if Ryan Miller, like, dies. While I’ve suggested in the past week that Miller has possibly been fighting something (even maybe an injury as opposed to horrible confidence), there’s no damn way anyone but him goes down with this ship . . . if, in fact, it DOES go down like everyone seems to be bracing themselves for. So it’s on him to find the groove that he had with the Sabres for most of the season . . . or maybe the mojo he had when he was in Vancouver in the 2010 Olympics. Or, even, just enough to stop perhaps one or two out of every 25 shots like he HAD been doing before the big slide. And Ken Hitchcock is going to give Miller EVERY opportunity to get out of this, because THIS is precisely what he was acquired for . . . the playoffs.

 

CTA: I know it’s a cliche about the Blues and their temperament, but recent events (the PIMs against the Avs, Steve Ott getting himself tossed with the bench already shortened against the Wild) are playing up to it. Do you think, under the weight of expectation and pressure, this squad will be capable of reigning it in while still playing in-your-face Blues Hockey?

The last two seasons’ series against the Kings were a real eye-opener for the Blues players still hoping to advance further. They learned that they need to play physical but not to the point of being a complete shithead. This is why the acquisition of Steve Ott in the Miller trade was rather confusing. The Blues already had, like, eight guys on the current roster and 30 guys in the system just like him. And it didn’t turn out to work, at least for the balance of the regular season. That said, guys like him have playoff experience (although limited) and now the Blues have plenty of players with experience in the playoffs, although not much of it positive. Whether or not they can turn that past experience into a positive by building some of their own momentum might be the main determinant as to whether they can move on. Well, that, and scoring some fucking goals.

CTA: I guess we all, deep down, wanted this matchup (maybe not in the 1st Round, though!) Where do you see the main threat from the Hawks (and maybe some less-obvious ones) and where do you think the Blues can gain the upper hand?

TA: Corey Crawford scares me, not because I think he’s an excellent goaltender (I actually see him as overrated, compared to what he’s being paid), but because none of the Blues have been finding the back of the net lately and even an average goaltender can look great against team that can’t shoot to save their damn lives. Bryan Bickell basically earned his overloaded contract in last year’s postseason, and I don’t expect him to disappoint. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are back at it, and no matter how Joel Quenneville manages to “fuck up” the lines (the man fucks up nothing, and I can say that as a guy who roots for a team he used to coach), they will both be dangerous. Things don’t line up well matchup-wise for the Blues no matter how you look at it, and really, this whole Blackhawks roster scares the shit out of me because, I mean, they’ve been there and done this before and the Blues have not.

 

CTA: Finally, I know you don’t like predictions, but care to make one anyway?

TA: I predict that many livers on that stretch of Interstate 55 will be pickled by the time this series is over, even if it only ends up being a 4-game sweep. I refuse to publicize any predictions past that.