The Law of Hildy; or, why I feel a little guilty about the Blues' success

Written by Laura Astorian on .

One of my friends and another former Thrashers compatriot shot me a tweet last night that kind of highlighted an idea that'd been mulling around in my head for a bit: "I suppose this season is a perfect example of the Law of Hildy. Blues on their way to most points and we don't have a team at all."

For those of you unfamiliar with the Law of Hildy, it stated that the Blues and Thrashers were not allowed to win games in the same night. Last season, it was surprisingly accurate. Eerily so, frankly. The Blues and Thrashers only lost on the same night nine times out of 43 games. They both won on the same night only five out of 43 tries. Let's face it, this law existed -- any way for the hockey gods to further illustrate my effect as a walking jinx on teams that I like, well, they sieze upon it. This was probably the most obvious way that it could have been shown... until now.

I'm not sure that the Law even exists any more. I haven't been keeping track of the Jets/Blues same night records, mostly because I really could give a flip. But my friend's comment is pointed in its truthfulness. The Thrashers are long gone for the friendly confines of the MTS Centre, and the Blues're sitting atop the NHL with 100 points -- the first team to clinch a playoff berth. They haven't played hockey like this in more than a decade, and I'm thrilled. But there's still a pang of guilt in there. Here I am, revelling in the Blues being the best team in the NHL, while I have a lot of friends who can't bring to even turn on a game anymore, or who are trying to figure out a team to like since theirs was snatched away by massive incompetency. It's almost unfair, really. But still, if this isn't a chance to recruit a Blues fan or a hundred, well, what is? 

St. Louis Blues Hockey: where ownership issues aren't quite as terrible. Come for the blue collar work ethic, stay for the best under-the-radar hockey ever. 

The NHL's new "Because It's the Cup" campaign features the Blues' David Backes

Written by Laura Astorian on .

Puck Daddy revealed some of the premises of the NHL's new "Because It's The Cup" campaign today, and it involved a very pleasant surprise. The ad campaign, which is replacing their outstanding "History Will Be Made" one, apparently will feature all of the teams in their own commercials. Since the Blues might be the first one to clinch tonight, maybe their ad'll come out shortly.

The print/media ads are already coming out (the ads debut tonight during Sidney Crosby's return against the Rangers on NBCSN), and readers of PD were treated to this:

I don't know about you, but seeing David Backes in a print(ish) ad for the Stanley Cup Playoffs really made the reality of this season hit home. The Blues're going to be in the playoffs after potentially having the best season in franchise history. It's all seemed so unreal to this point, but now? 

It hit me like a ton of bricks: it's real. I couldn't be more excited. 

You Can Play fan project started by Pension Plan Puppets

Written by Laura Astorian on .

I wrote about the Burke family's You Can Play Project on Puck Drunk Love a little while ago. It's a great program, getting support from all thirty NHL clubs, to further the idea of tolerance on and off the ice. The You Can Play Project supports LGBT athletes in their endeavors to play on a team like anyone else -- which is more than their right. I'm of the opinion that it's sad that people have to start projects and make PSAs to raise awareness about just accepting someone for who they are, but as progressive as society has become, it's not *that* advanced. The Project aims to also raise awareness regarding casual homophobia in the locker room -- things like "that's so gay" meaning that something is stupid, calling other players derogatory names, and things of that nature.

The effort's branching out to women's sports and some of the the AHL teams are recording their own PSAs, while others are airing the Project's PSAs in their arenas. Pension Plan Puppets, SB Nation's Toronto Maple Leafs blog, has set up their own initiative: If You Can Record, Others Play. Here's the gist: record your own personal message of support or just you saying "If You Can Play, You Can Play." Toss on any jersey you might have -- Blues, Thrashers, whatever -- and lend your voice. E-mail your finished video to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , and they'll take it from there.

Heck, I HATE the way that I look and sound on video, and I might even do it.

Halak or Elliott? Blues' goaltending for the playoffs doesn't concern me a bit

Written by Laura Astorian on .

I'm pretty sure that there're a lot of teams who would kill for the "problem" that the Blues are having. I really haven't heard of anyone saying "oh, gosh, poor St. Louis -- they have the top goaltending tandem in the league. That must be so tough for them." 

It could be worse. This card could be titled "Money For Nothing"*

Frankly, it's not. Brian Elliott has lost his last three (possibly four by the time of publication of this) games, but not through any fault of his own -- the team couldn't score. Jaroslav Halak has won seven games in a row and has allowed just ten goals during that stretch. Halak's getting more self confidence as he plays. He's starting to really go for the spectacular save, instead of the usual cool and collected, almost robotic at times, saves that he specializes in. It's been fun to watch the team during this whole season, but it's been a joy to watch Halak grow and Elliott rebound into the NHL's best success story.

Elliott and Halak are numbers one and two on the NHL's leaderboards for GAA, with a 1.63 and a 1.86 respectively. They each have six shutouts and Elliott is leading the league still in save percentage (.937; Halak is sixth at .926). The Blues feel comfortable putting either guy in net, so both of them are fresh when needed; fans feel comfortable with either guy in net, because they know that they'll give the Blues every single chance to win possible.

That's why the kerfluffle over goaltending for the playoffs doesn't phase me. With the regular season almost over, attentions have shifted to the postseason at the earliest time since before the lockout. Who gives you the best chance to win during the postseason? As usual, the same guy who does during the regular season. Either choice that coach Ken Hitchcock makes is a good one. 

I think that some of this issue stems from people assuming that Halak is the starting goalie, and that Elliott is rocking the boat somehow as the upstart backup with the stellar stats. It makes it much easier to handle when you approach it as Halak being the 1A goalie and Elliott being the 1B. Has Halak been playing out of his mind recently? Yep. Has he been playing on the same level as he did when he led the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010? You betcha. Is he the gimmie for Hitchcock to go to? Unless he melts down this last stretch, he'll be the starter. If something happens, Elliott is more than capable of getting in there without disrupting the confidence level of the team. When you have two guys in net setting records for the team, either choice is a good one.

Halak will start in the playoffs, I bet you a dime to a dollar. But if you see Brian Elliott trotted out there at any point, don't worry -- he's got it covered too. 

*Dire Straits, people. Sheesh. 

Blues lead the NHL while media snoozes.

Written by Laura Astorian on .

Who *are* these people?? (via averagejoe)

Gallagher over on St. Louis Game Time wrote an op-ed that absolutely captured how I feel about the news media and the Blues' playoff push. Go on, keep ignoring it. Keep fawning over how well the Rangers are playing, or keep fixating on that absolutely fascinating race for the final playoff spot in the East that no one seems to want. Go on and promote hits and shots and whatnot on, go on and focus on the Cardinals, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Honestly, the only places that I've seen actually mentioning how well the Blues are playing are fellow hockey blogs (not all Blues blogs, of course) who actually pay attention to the whole league, and not just the usual TV-ready squads from the Eastern Time Zone (and Chicago). Words like "teamwork" and "team effort" always seem to work into these articles, mentioning how Brian Elliott being the Blues' only representative in the All-Star Game was super indicative of how the team is all chugging along together to the playoffs. It's true, you know. The Blues don't have an uberstar like Crosby, or Ovechkin, or Malkin. They don't have *that guy* who captures headlines, or that guy that when he's on the ice you know he's a big, flashy difference-maker.

The whole team is the difference-maker. Unfortunately for the Blues and fans who'd like some sort of recognition, they're also a team's team that plays in a market in the Midwest that isn't one of the bigger cities. David Backes, while he damn well should be, isn't known from coast to coast as a gritty powerforward who leads by example. David Perron, T.J. Oshie, Alex Pietrangelo, and Kevin Shattenkirk are basically unnoticed, especially in Norris Trophy voting amongst press for the latter two. I understand the frustration at them not being the lead feature on NHL Live every day, but as readers on Game Time have noted, this just helps the Blues' awesome ninja skills. Sure, they're under-estimated by fans who don't know about how great they are (and who apparently never look at standings), and they're still a teeny bit underestimated probably by some in the league, but Blues fans know. Oh yes, we know: they're good. They're damn good. And they're coming for you.

What we also know, however, is the history of our team and the fact that the Blues're third on the list for record for the most consecutive years making the playoffs at 25, and have 35 appearances overall. We're aware of the President's Trophy won in 2000, and we're well aware of that sweep by the Sharks. Basically, we're aware of the fact that the team's got a pretty nice history behind it even without a Stanley Cup. Fans were accustomed to success up until the lockout; it's only been the past six seasons where frustration's reigned, except for that one time where the Blues squeaked in in 2009.

That knowledge makes it frustrating then to see the Blues recent success not only treated like a fluke, but like a freak occurrence. When the media does notice what the team's doing, fans get to read things like this

When the St. Louis Blues were a game under .500 in November at 6-7-0, dreaming about a playoff spot would have been far-fetched. Thinking about being the No. 1 team in the NHL would have been a pipe dream.

But after a coaching change, the Blues have done virtually nothing wrong in four months -- and here they are, atop the of NHL standings.

But even though the Blues are in uncharted territory, they seem to be humbled by the whole scenario.

Ok, good lord, media. Fine, ignore the team -- please ignore them -- because you treating them like perennial cellar dwellers who've finally made good is a bit insulting. These aren't the Bad News Bears. This is a team that could've made the playoffs the last two seasons had they not been near the top of man games lost each of them. This is a franchise that made the Stanley Cup finals their first three seasons. Being first in the league might be new and exciting for most on the team, but it's not for the franchise.

And really, one game under .500 after 13 games does not mean your team's a failure and will finish outside of the top eight. Calm down, I'm not saying cover the Blues 24/7 -- please, don't do that -- but don't imply that they were a bumbling team wandering through the wilderness until Ken Hitchcock came to town. Granted, the Blues don't have the glamor of the Penguins, or the powerhouse status of the Red Wings, but my goodness. Welcome them back to this standing if you're going to mention it at all.

Which, frankly, we'd rather prefer that you not.

Finally: A Charitable T-Shirt With A Pointed Message To Atlanta Spirit

Written by Laura Astorian on .

Who says charity always has to be squeaky clean and feel good? In an attempt to get some cash drummed up for the Dan Snyder Neurotrauma Fund at Emory University here in Atlanta, former Thrashers fan club board member Jim Carruthers has whipped up these fine duds to remind people that Thrashers fans aren't bitter, we're just still really missing our team and don't really care for the gentlemen who facilitated their exit from Atlanta.

Take special notice that it lays blame squarely where blame should be: Gary Bettman and the incompetent Atlanta Spirit Group that drove the team out of town. Not on Winnipeg, not on True North, not on Mark Chipman, not on Jets fans -- on the Atlanta Spirit Group who so horribly mismanaged a decent squad into the ground that the mascot had to steal a zamboni to get folks to come to games. I'm still convinced Thrash came up with that idea on his own.

Also, the logo on these spiffy shirts is a mash-up of the Thrashers' and old school Jets colors. I think it serves as a good reminder of the team's history, especially to broadcasters and sportswriters who insist that "The Jets are back!" No, they're still in Phoenix. These are Jets v2.0, and I'm a big believer in honoring your team's history. You know, like rocking a Nordiques jersey at an Avs game, or breaking out a Colorado Rockies one at a Devils game (NOT the Kovalfoul that was on Puck Daddy a while ago).

It's for a good cause, it calls out Atlanta Spirit, and it looks good. If you're interested in one, hit me up at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I will get the order info to you. They're $20 each, covering the cost of the shirt, shipping and the donation to the DSNF.


BTW, whoever did the mashup is outstanding. I love the Jet as the Thrasher's eye.

David Backes is like bacon to Blues fans.

Written by Laura Astorian on .


(For those of you viewing where Tumblr might be blocked for some reason, the second photo is of David Backes holding a puppy. Both photos elicit the same response in me. I'm sure that's normal.)

I know. It sounds like a terrible comparison, doesn't it? A cut of meat and a hockey player really shouldn't elicit the same reaction from people, should it? Think about it for a second, though. When you see a recipe on-line that involves bacon, what is your reaction? When I link to bacon-bourbon brownies, or bacon chocolate chip cookies, or even something absurdly easy like bacon wrapped water chestnuts, gauge your reaction. For a decent portion of you out there, men and women, your reaction is a variation on "squee." I know that it is -- don't fight it.

Now, think about your reaction when you see David Backes mentioned in an article where you least expect him. Today on Puck Daddy his name was tossed in with some others as dark horses for the Hart MVP trophy. Wysh admitted that it's not about the stats, it's about the content of his game. Some people are really pushing for Steven Stamkos to be awarded the trophy, and if the Lightning make the playoffs then he should be in the running. But a guy like Backes is the heart and soul of the Blues and nearly everyone's favorite player on the team. He doesn't quit -- he works his ass off. He's unassuming, his style of play can be described as a little salty sometimes, and whenever he pops up somewhere that's not St. Louis based media, what's your reaction? Yep. "Squee."

He's the man guys freely admit having a mancrush on, and he's the player that a lot of lady puckheads who pride themselves on not fawning over players fawn over. He is the perfect microcosm of the Blues. When you think of Blues hockey, you think of how David Backes plays. When you think of a pig (i know, I know), you think of the best part of it -- bacon.

Both of these things, along with frosty cold adult beverages, are what I consider to be the most brought up topics on Gameday Threads over on St. Louis Game Time.  Don't believe me? Make a post about a random bacon recipe tonight and see the reaction.

Heck, when this ad came into heavy rotation on FoxSports Midwest, several folks started thinking about the legality of it and how they could pull it off:


Atlanta tops most miserable sports cities for 2011.

Written by Laura Astorian on .

A-S-G!! A-S-G!!

This is my sad face.

Can't see it? Fair enough, because it's not there. The loss of the Atlanta Thrashers (something that mayor Kasim Reed pretty much said would have noooo impact on the local economy whatsoever -- just ask the concession workers, Team Gear store employees, and ushers inside of Philips let alone the CNN Center restaurants, Dantannas employees, and Taco Mac bartenders how awesome they're doing now) has bumped Atlanta to the top spot of most miserable sports city for 2011, according to Forbes Magazine. 

Fine, I do take some personal glee in this, because the Braves' epic implosion let the Cardinals into the post-season en route towards their 11th World Series Championship (remember, drunk dude at Turner Field, 11 World Series wins >> whatever the hell the Braves failed at in the post-season... just FYI). What I most enjoy, however, isn't the failure of the Falcons, as I dislike football. The failure of the Hawks? Yes, I do take pleasure in that considering who owns them -- and considering owner Bruce Levenson actually admitted that getting them to the second round of the playoffs was good enough for Atlanta Spirit, well, they're probably ok with everything too. No, the thing that tickles me the most is that the loss of the Thrashers to Winnipeg this past summer sealed the deal. Who would have thought that the loss of an NHL team -- again -- would make Atlanta miserable?

Congrats, Atlanta Sprit. You've really outdone yourselves. When's that name-change coming again? 

Blues Trade Ben Bishop To Senators: Why I'm Uneasy

Written by Laura Astorian on .

Those of you who know me, or who read what I write here or anywhere else that I do work, know that I'm a bit of a pessimist. I prefer the term "pragmatist," but no one ever seems to agree with me. Maybe it's because with the exception of the Cardinals, my sports teams always seem to find some way to shoot themselves in the foot. Actually, subtract those recent World Series, and the Cards could be included. I had a feeling Albert Pujols was gone, and I have a terrible feeling about Yadier Molina. Hockey-wise, one team drug me through the dirt for eleven years to make the playffs only once, and of course get swept out. Then, to add insult to injury, they trade the best two players the franchise has ever had. Just to REALLY make sure that they've hurt me enough, they skip town and go to Winnipeg.

The Blues? Oh, they've been kicking me since I was little. Cujo? Shanny? Mike Keenan made them both cry before he shipped them out. Trading Adam Oates? Brilliant. Scaring Wayne Gretzky away when it was apparent that he wanted to retire in STL? Sure! Why not? Oh, and let the franchise's most recognizable player ever walk as a UFA without compensation? Throw that in there too.

Don't even get me started on Chris Pronger.

The Blues've had successes -- Presidents Trophies and a professional sports record 25 years in a row in the playoffs, sure. Have they won the big prize? Not yet, but many feel that the way that they've been playing this season is an indication that they could be ready to contend. A big chunk of that comes from their GAA leading goaltending tandem of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Halak was heralded as the first actual franchise goaltender since Curtis Joseph, and it was always assumed that big Ben Bishop -- all 6 feet 8 inches of him -- was going to be the goalie of tomorrow.

"You've replaced me with who? Elliott? The kid who dances?"

He's the goalie of tomorrow, all right... for the Ottawa Senators. The Blues traded him on February 26th to the Sens for a 2013 second round draft pick. Pretty good return, but how'd Bishop get expendable? Jake Allen's been playing very well for the Peoria Rivermen, the Blues' AHL affiliate. Brian Elliott, who surprised many by winning the back-up job out of camp, recently signed a two year deal as a reward for his NHL-best numbers. 

Bishop suddenly became extra weight. Great extra weight to have, but there wasn't a place for him in the org anymore. He knew it, the fans knew it, everyone knew it, so now he gets a much deserved chance to shine in Ottawa at the NHL level.

I'm still kind of worried. This might be my pessimistic nature coming out to play, but Bishop is too good of a prospect to have shipped off for a pick. He could have been grouped with other parts for an offensive player that the Blues need right now; many teams need help, and the Senators -- while they do -- weren't on many people's list of teams that needed it now. If you're going to send away your next best goalie, you better be sure in what you have now.

Blues GM Doug Armstrong seems to be confident in Halak and Bishop, and while I've been impressed with both of their numbers this year, I've watched enough of Elliott over the seasons to be concerned. I remember watching him play the Thrashers as the young young up and comer for the Sens, and I was impressed. Then he started putting up numbers like this.

You have to assume that a bit of that has been him playing on some terrible teams. This year's Blues squad is generally very good defensively and has certainly helped both Elliott and Halak's numbers out. But what happens if Elliott regresses to the mean, or below it? Where do the Blues turn? Allen's not ready for the show yet.

Here's hoping that regression never happens. The little nagging voice inside of my head isn't so sure.  Still, turning a third round pick into a second round one's an upgrade. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that second rounder works out.

Upcoming Stretch of Games Plays Perfectly into Blues Postseason Straegizing

Written by LeNoceur on .

The next seven games provide an opportunity for the Blues to turn a weakness into a strength. They've got the defending Cup champions Boston at home, followed by a six-game road trip against the archnemesis Predators, Jets, Flames, Oilers, Canucks, and Sharks.

It's no secret that the Blues have been, shall we say, uninspiring, on the road this season. Will this be the magical stretch where they turn it around, and suddenly prove that they are legit contenders? I sure hope not. Not yet.

Right now, the Blues sit in fourth place in the West. Their first-round matchup would be...Nashville. The Predators (or, at least, Pekka Rinne) appear to hold the mortgage on the Scottrade Center this season. That matchup reeks of a first-round exit. Slipping to fifth, and giving the Preds home-ice advantage in that matchup, would only make the situation worse. To get into "better" position, the Blues would need to catch the Dead Things, which they currently trail by five points. An amazing road trip might--MIGHT--accomplish that, and give you a first-round matchup against the likes of Calgary, LA or Phoenix.

But how about this: a sixth seed, and first-round matchup against the Sharks? The Blues have played very well against the Sharks this season. To "fall" to sixth, the Blues would need to spot the Blackhawks eight points. This seven-game stretch could go a long way in that direction.

Boston figures to be a tough game, even on home ice. I'll go out on a limb and predict a loss at Nashville. Winnipeg and (especially) Edmonton are bad enough that even the Blues should manage to win those road games, but the Flames are playing very well, and the Sharks and Canucks are two of the top teams in the West. This could easily be a four-points-in-seven-games stretch. Over that same time span, the Hawks have home games against Detroit (toss-up) Dallas (win) and Toronto (win), with road games in LA (toss-up) Anaheim (win) and Ottawa (win). Nine to ten points is not an unreasonable expectation out of those games for Chicago.

Your instinct as a fan will be to panic. Hold fast. Let the Hawks play six bruising 1-0 or 2-1 games against Rinne in the first round, while the Blues take the opportunity to humiliate Joe Thornton and Co. Better yet, this sets up a SECOND round series against the Canucks, while the Hawks and Wings beat the crap out of each other. I'll take my chances against the Sedins over Datsyuk/Zetterberg. How amazing would a Western Conference Final against either Chicago or Detroit be? (Answer: pretty fucking amazing.)

Am I being defeatist? Is it disloyal to meekly accept, if not actively cheer for, your team losing? I would argue no. It would be stupid, of course, for the BLUES to think this way--all of us should be pretty worried if the team starts to accept losing. But as fans, I think it's helpful to regulate our emotions, take a deep breath, and think positively for the long term. Your thoughts?

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