Being from Chicago and a loyal Blackhawks fan, what the St. Louis Blues accomplished tonight by no way at all pains me.
Congratulations to the city of St. Louis, the Blues and the wonderful product on the ice. and tying for first place in the Western Conference.
In September, Center Ice Chat had picked the Blues to round out the playoffs with the No. 8 seed, and help represent the Central Division quite nicely. Here’s the link.
But alas, the Blues did not start the season according to plan. Which, in the grand scheme, was a blessing in disguise. Then Ken Hitchcock came into the picture, and the critics, well, criticized.
But enough with the chatter. Here’s five quick facts about the Blues, and why they’re relevant this year:
5. Under bench boss Ken Hitchcock the Blues are 21-5-6. Numbers do not lie. Prior to the new Hitchcock era, the Blues went 6-7 to start the season. Not bad, but the talent wasn’t living up to full potential.
4. The Blues’ 1-0 win was significant because it was against Hitchcock’s former team: the Dallas Stars. Hitchcock won the Stanley Cup as the bench boss of the 1998-99 club. (Brett Hull’s controversial goal against the Buffalo Sabres is a staple of that Stanley Cup Finals.)
3. Home record: 19-3-3. An NHL-best the Blues have been able to compile. There’s no place like home, especially in the post-season.
2. T.J. Oshie. The first-round pick of the 2005 draft is paying dividend. He scored the only goal in Monday’s significant win, and is on pace for a career-best season. With 14 goals and 16 assists, he can shatter his 48-point season he set two years ago.
1. Goals against: 94. That’s the fourth-best ranking in the NHL for goals against, and the best in the Western Conference. In the West, the San Jose Sharks a mere second with 99. This is key because goals for is only 116. The Chicago Blackhawks lead the pack with 150 in the West, and the Boston Bruins lead the NHL with 153. Brian Elliott, at 15-5-1, has allowed just 36 goals.
From the past: In the 1999-2000 season, Ken Hitchcock returned to the Stanley Cup Finals with the Dallas Stars. However, the Blues won their first Presidents’ Trophy that year, but didn’t advance far. The eighth-place San Jose Sharks bumped the Blues, and the Stars went on to get trumped by the New Jersey Devils in the finals.
The Blues have the makings to return to the prestige 12 years ago with the bench boss who was busy coaching Stanley Cup-caliber teams.
Is this year the year?