Blues defeat Sharks, move past round one for the first time since 2002

Written by Laura Astorian on .

One down, three to go.

Pending tonight's Canucks/Kings game, the Blues will either know their opponent for round two (the Los Angeles Kings) or not, but that's not seeming to matter too much to Blues fans. You know what? It shouldn't. The Blues made it to the second round of the playoffs last night for the first time since 2002. For reference, George W. Bush was still in office and American Idol was still watchable.

That was a long time ago.

It was too long ago. Ignore naysayers, Blues fans. Ignore everyone calling our town and team "mid-market." Ignore folks who are fixated on the next round's ratings. Ignore Wings (and possibly soon to be Blackhawks) fans who are trying to make themselves feel better by pointing out that the Blues've been in those teams' spots before. No kidding -- every team who has made the playoffs have been, and that's ok. Disappointments happen, and the Blues have had their fair share. That doesn't mean that this season, just because a disappointment might have happened here and there in the past, means any less because it's *not* a disappointment.

Keep your head on straight, and realize that there are two more rounds before the big dance. The Blues are; none of this "celebration after every playoff round" fuss that baseball teams do. They're focused on the big prize; the fans are too. But you can get happy about division championships and winning playoff rounds. The organization has been cultivating the team that is currently on ice for years. Be proud about it. Be happy. Buy division championship gear, and tell everyone you know that they're moving to the second round.

Just make sure that you keep your eyes on the Cup, because theirs are there too.

Reflections on the 2011-2012 NHL season

Written by Laura Astorian on .



Today is the one year anniversary of the last Atlanta Thrashers game, so I figured it'd be appropriate to reflect briefly on this season sans a team in my backyard (sorry, folks - Duluth is not my backyard, Duluth is Outer Mongolia) and on a season where the Blues've exceeded my expectations and made me the happiest hockey fan in the state of Georgia. These bullets aren't in chronological order, and some of them might not even make sense, but here they are. Dodge them if you dare.

Blues face San Jose Sharks in first round of Stanley Cup Playoffs

Written by Laura Astorian on .


Candygram!

The Blues've picked the safer bet between the Sharks and Los Angeles Kings, not that there was much picking involved. The Sharks're a tough team -- not like there're any creampuffs in the playoffs -- but their goaltending can be exploited. The Blues went 4-0 over them this year, as opposed to the 1-2-1 that they did over the Kings. No one in their right mind felt comfortable facing Jonathan Quick. He's the Hollywood version of Pekka Rinne.

Time to go take our Jennings Trophy and show those Sharkies what for. But a polite what for, especially if you head over to Couch Tarts or Fear the Fin. Those're some awesome people over there. 

Blues managing to end season on low-note

Written by Laura Astorian on .


YES! They have soft pretzels in the pressbox tonight! WOOOOO!

It's great to see how a year of hard work has come down to four fizzling losses in a row (possibly five by the time that you read this) by a team that has done nothing but bust its butt. What's causing the Blues to lose? Relying on skill. How... motivating. Thank you, Mr. Hitchcock. Hard work >> skill. Duh. So, what's continuing to happen? The "skill players" have taken up root on the ice, while the hard workers are chillaxin' up in the press box. 

Ian Cole, Chris Porter, Jaden Schwartz, B.J. Crombeen, Scott Nichol, and Kent Huskins have had extended time in the press box as of late. What's something that these guys have in common? The need to bust their asses. Schwartz (and Cole, to a degree) also have some skill, but right now the want to work is stronger than their abilities. Nichol and Huskins play hard hockey every time they're on the ice. Chris Porter is lacking in the skill department, but is part of an outstanding fourth line, two thirds of which have been relegated to the press-box. What Hitchcock is stating is obvious, but what he's doing is confusing. Why are you insisting on playing your skill guys who don't seem like they give a rip? Why put guys out there in positions that they're not well qualified for so you can get your skill guys out there on a fourth line that they don't belong on? 

I hate saying this about guys with as much ability as Chris Stewart and Matt D'Agostini, but they need to be in the box. They look apathetic, and they flat out look like they don't belong out there. Big hits that don't do anything, or retaliatory hits that don't make sense: these things do not equal playing hockey.

Give them some time in the pressbox for the season finale, and then work the hell out of them in the next practice or two. If they still don't respond, give them some pressbox time to start the playoffs. Right now, there are some supremely talented players out there who aren't giving the Blues the oomph on the ice to win. What good is that? 

Blues clinch eighth Central Division title

Written by Laura Astorian on .

Well, that was certainly backing into a division title if I ever saw one. I think I heard the back-up beeps with about a minute left to go in Saturday's horrid 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. If a game proved that any opponent is tough and that they don't care about your home record, tonight did that.

But hey, I can sit and mope around about a crappy game against the worst team in the NHL all night, but why would I want to? For just the 8th time since the Blues' first season, there will be a new banner at Scottrade Center on opening night. Yep. The Blues've clinched the Central Division title with a God-awful loss thanks to the Chicago Blackhawks of all teams. With the Hawks holding on to take out the Nashville Predators 5-4, the Blues got the right amount of points necessary for them to clinch. Is it the most awe-inspiring way to get a division title? Heck no. Is it a division title? HECK YES. It's something to be very, very proud of for fans and for the team.

It's easy to get caught up in the moping, but it should be even easier to get caught up in the celebration. Let's look at NHL.com to see what they have to say about...



Oh. Well, never mind that. If you want to get caught up in the fun, go to St. Louis Game Time. I mean, after all, they are the ones who first asked "What about the St. Louis Blues?"

Well, tonight let's amend that to "how about the St. Louis Blues?" 

Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy tradition continues in Winnipeg

Written by Laura Astorian on .

A common complaint from fans of the Atlanta Thrashers after their move was that the history's been whitewashed both
by the new owners and organization and by Atlanta Spirit Group. To someone with a history background as myself, I realize that history's written by the winners, but it doesn't do much good to me to rationalize how eager everyone seems to be to forget that the Thrashers ever existed. It might very well be one of the worst parts of the relocation. 



The Jets are remembering a very important piece of Thrashers history. Fans stressed that the Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy absolutely had to be continued. Snyder was killed in a 2003 car accident, when the Ferrari that Dany Heatley was driving crashed into a gaurdrail on Lenox Road in Atlanta. That season, the Thrashers began the annual tradition of honoring Snyder with the Memorial Trophy, which was awarded to a player "who best embodies perseverance, dedication and hard work without reward or recognition so that his teammates might succeed." 

John Manasso from FoxSports South reported Wednesday that the Jets will continue the tradition after the conclusion of their final home game against the season on April 7th. Current Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was the GM of the Chicago Wolves, then Atlanta's AHL affiliate, when Snyder played for them. It would seem that Cheveldayoff wanted to honor his former player, but it also gives Thrashers fans one thing to be glad about. The franchise's greatest tragedy and the player they lost will still be remembered. This isn't something most Thrashers fans would say to the Jets organization, but it's appropriate here: thank you.

Fun facts about last night's Blues win

Written by Laura Astorian on .

Raise your hand if you expected to see Brian Elliott's mug smiling back out at you from three of the four spots on NHL.com's goalie leaderboards.

As it stands, it looks like one of those "One of these things is not like the others..." segments from Sesame Street. Brian Elliott more than belongs. Last night's 3-0 shutout over the Nashville Predators set both Elliott's and the Blues' best length of a shutout streak at 186:33. You want more fun facts? As I was reading Jeremy Rutherford's account of last night's game, they popped out at me left and right.

  • The Blues've tied the post-expansion shutout streak of the '69-'70 Chicago Blackhawks. One more win and they set it.
  • Last night's win set a home win record for the Blues of 20 games
  • In case you missed it, Hall and Plante's shutout record got broken a few games back
  • Elliott broke Hall's shutout record with his 9th -- Hall had 8 in '68-'69
  • The Blues have 105 points with five games remaining on the schedule

Not mentioned in the artcile (but mentioned in the comments section at Game Time), the Blues were even mentioned on Sportscenter of all places last night with a "you might not know this, but the Blues are the top team in the NHL." Well, duh, ESPN. Of course no one knows this. You cover hockey for three minutes a day, and for some weird reason the media thinks that STL is a small market (witness the fact that no broadcaster gives a flip that the Cards won the World Series) that isn't worth talking about.

Well, everyone -- why not the St. Louis Blues?

Winnipeg Jets' Jim Slater still a class act when it comes to Thrashers fans

Written by Laura Astorian on .

You might've heard that the Winnipeg Jets visited the Nashville Predators Saturday night, and a couple, oh, hundred or so Thrashers fans showed up. It was cathartic for some, depressing for others, and definitely a conflict in interest. Even though I didn't go this time around, the fans interviewed in this article for FoxSports South summarize how I felt: love the players, but the Jets are just another NHL team to me. 



One of my absolute favorites while the Thrashers were in Atlanta was Jim Slater, who is also now a fan favorite in Winnipeg. He's one of the hardest working guys in hockey and has more heart than anyone else in that locker room with the exception of Chris Thorburn. While other players on the Jets (looking at you, Andrew Ladd and your "we'd rather play on the road" comment) haven't really said many nice things about being in Atlanta, and some have just had nothing to say at all (Enstrom and Bogosian especially, unless you count Bogo's criticism of coach John Torchetti), Slater had this to say about seeing all of his old fans again:

"I'm looking forward to it," Slater said. "I don't think it was ever really the fans that were the problem in Atlanta. The fans were great. They were loud, they traveled on the road with us. They're really passionate about the game and they gave pretty much everything they had every night and that's definitely a positive memory from Atlanta."

Thank you, Jimmah. I'll forgive you a little for the grief you gave me for being from STL at the photo meet and greet. You get a free pass on that one, Michigan man. 

I Don't Know What This Is, But I Like It

Written by :LeNoceur on .

A few weeks ago, I was actively encouraging the Blues to semi-tank, in hopes of obtaining a more favorable playoff matchup than Nashville. Well, mission over-accomplished!

This whole President's Trophy, No.1 seed, home-ice-throughout is just mind-boggling. I don't pretend to understand how the Blues keep winning, and are about to set some sort of goal-prevention record, except that I'm sure it has something to do with Alex Pietrangelo. Instead of Nashville, the Blues will get to face one of the West's lesser lights, such as Dallas, Phoenix, San Jose or Los Angeles. Of that group, only the Kings give me any sort of pause, entirely due to Jonathan Quick.

With Alex Steen and (hopefully soon, even though I begged him to retire--don't ever follow my advice, kids) Andy McDonald returning, the Blues have an embarrassment of forward riches. You've got to be salivating over 10-42-74, 20-21-57, 15-44-25, and 17-12-9. (If fifth lines were allowed, 26-32-75 is pretty serviceable.) It's likely that none of them will have scored 60 points by the time the playoffs roll around, but that's just wave after brutal wave of guys who can score AND check. 

McDonald's beneicial presence on the power play is obvious, but in my mind the team's offense gets a scary extra gear when Patrik Berglund is playing with heart and determination--something which has been lacking so much throughout his frustrating career, but which has shown signs of appearing on a mostly-regular basis over the last six to eight weeks. I don't think he has really understood how talented he is.

On D, Kris Russell is healthy; is it too much to ask for Roman Polak, too? I'm not 100 percent sold on Kent Huskins, but he hasn't done anything alarming. Pairs of 27-5, 22-6, and 28-4, even without the big Czech, are nice to have. It's a Ken Hitchcock mantra, that this group is extremely well suited to carry out, to exit the defensive zone as quickly as possible. It seems simple, because it is, but: puck possession is the most effective defense possible.

I don't envy Hitchcock's decision in goal...do you go with the guy who has pitched shutouts in a quarter of his starts, or the guy who has been playing the bulk of the recent games with an unmistakable swagger? My advice (which, again, it is unwise to follow) would be to not choose, and to play both of them. I can't imagine that the team feels less confident in front of one than the other. They've both earned it.

All in all, it adds up to a strange feeling. One I've really had to dig deep to recall. Genuine Blues Playoff Hockey Excitement.

Thrashers jerseys tossed on ice at Jets/Predators game.

Written by Laura Astorian on .

Let me preface this by saying I totally get the anger behind this. I'm still angry, too. I'm horribly angry at the mismanagement of the Atlanta Spirit Group that cost me my second favorite team, and I'm horribly angry at Gary Bettman and the NHL, even though economically I understand the decision. I'm also going to preface this by saying that I'm not going to tell people how to mourn or show anger, but personally I don't know if I'd do this:

 
Thanks to @spectr17!



Those jerseys, while expensive regardless of if they're Reebok or KOHO or CCM, are worth more than just money. My Thrashers jerseys are about the last connection I have left to a team that I watched for 11 years. So much of the memorabilia is still hard to look at -- the autographed pucks and even my Johan Hedberg autographed goalie stick are put away. But the jerseys remind me of the game experience more than the team, and that was my favorite part about going. I miss my routine, I miss wearing those jerseys, and I miss the hell out of the Thrashers. I just don't know if this is how I'd choose to show it. 

Those things belong on nice cedar hangers like the ones in my closet I bought especially for my jerseys. They keep their shape better that way. Ice is no way to take care of a jersey.

Thanks to @big_momma2 for the screen grab!

 

EDIT: From my good friends @lsthrasher04 and James Wood, here're the photos of the jerseys thrown on the ice. It is a shame that no one really could read them, because the one on the right is 100% spot on. I did hear that there were some thrown into the Jets' penalty box that there specifically directed at Bettman. Does anyone have a clue what they say?

 

And, is there a billboard near ASG offices? Having the text in the above photo staring into their windows every day would be swell.

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