RECORDS: Hawks 12-14-6   Blues 19-8-6


TV: NBCSN Chicago


We never thought this day would come. But nothing lasts forever, especially anything good and beautiful. So for the first time, the Hawks will walk into any arena in St. Louis that houses the Blues and see a championship banner hanging above the ice. And you can be sure that any traveling Hawk fan will be made acutely aware of it repeatedly. Godspeed, you weirdos.

Things haven’t gone all that smoothly for the Notes since they swatted away the Hawks at the UC with laughable ease in the first game of the month. They’ve lost three of four, getting brained by the Penguins, Leafs, and even Sabres. They recovered somewhat by beating the Knights on Thursday, though that was more of a case of better finishing as they were on the back foot for most of the night.

Injuries have been something of a problem. Vladimir Tarasenko has been a long-term casualty, and some depth forwards like Zach Sanford, Sammy Blais (TO BLAIISSSS, WHICH WE ALL KNOW MEANS TO BLUFF), and Alex Steen have been out, though Steen will return tonight. While the Blues have useful players up and down the lineup when healthy, they don’t have a ton of depth scoring, so when Perron, O’Reilly, Schenn go cold as they have of late, the goals dry up. Thus their four goals in those three losses mentioned above.

And Jordan Binnington has dipped of late. While the Blues hold down attempts among the best in the league, the chances among those attempts flow a little more freely than they’d be comfortable with. He was better against the Knights but pilfered by the Penguins and Leafs, and the Blues need superior goaltending to get by at the moment. Sadly, Jay Gallon has picked up the slack in that vacuum, as life as a backup seems to suit him pretty well.

As for the Hawks tonight, the only change will see them swap goalies again, so Matthew Highmore will stay in over Dylan Sikura to do whatever it is he does and not do whatever it is the Hawks think he does. With the injuries around the defense sort of picks itself, and complaining about Dennis Gilbert over Slater Koekkoek is akin to two children fighting over a damp and putrid sponge. What the fuck does it matter?

When these two teams last met, the Blues found it very easy to keep their hands on the Hawks’ forehead and let them swing their arms lightly. If there’s one thing the Blues can do is follow a plan when necessary, and they chose the path of just standing up at their blue line, forcing the Hawks to dump the puck in, and wait for the chances they knew the Hawks would present. It worked to a T, and will again if they stick to it tonight. At home they might be tempted to unleash the forecheck more, which can also work against the Hawks, but it does leave the Hawks the one window of finding some space in the neutral zone if they can get through the initial wave (Narrator: They can’t).

Not that games in St. Louis were ever pleasant when the Hawks were good and the Blues were not. These were something of a Super Bowl to the Blues, and the bullshit ran high on the ice and in the stands. You were happy when they were over, no matter the result. That remains the same, but this is now the entire Blues Nation to rub the Hawks’ nose in the new arrangement of things. And they can also consign the Hawks even deeper into the muck, and one wonders if the Hawks look embarrassing against in both games this weekend just how much longer Jeremy Colliton‘s stay of execution will last.

Let’s get through it together.


As we learned here to varying degrees, championships come with their own questions. Most are pleasant and even fun, but others are tough and can dictate just how long you remain in the sun. How much do you weight sentimentality? Value age and production? The Blues will face all of these with Alex Pietrangelo the rest of this season and the summer.

OrangeJello used to be a figure of fun around these offices for years. While he was the Blues #1 d-man for years, and somehow connived his way onto Team Canada in 2014, we just didn’t get it. He never pushed the play at much above the team-rate and was sometimes below it. He scored enough, somewhere between 40-50 points consistently, but wasn’t quite a dynamic offensive performer from the back either. We didn’t even think he was that good defensively, and he didn’t move as well as many other #1 d-men in an ever-quickening league.

Of course, then last year’s playoffs happened, where Pietrangelo piled in 16 points in 20 games, was simply everywhere most nights and looked to have found a snap to his game we hadn’t seen before. Also didn’t hurt his cause that he was the first Blue ever to raise the Cup.

Not much has changed this year. Pietrangelo is on pace for a career-best 57 points. His individual metrics–shots, attempts, chances, expected goals–are miles ahead of his career numbers. He’s been unleashed as a purely offensive d-man a lot of the time, and it’s clearly going down well with him. Hi relative numbers to the team in Corsi and xG% are stratospheric compared to what had come before.

Which is handy for him, because it just so happens he’s an unrestricted free agent come this summer.

Which definitely puts the Blues in something of a quandary. At this rate, Pietrangelo is an $8M or $9M player. And as this is probably his one chance at a big contract, he’s going to want as many years as he can get. The Blues just handed Justin Faulk the same $6.5M per year that Pietrangelo makes now, but he’s not the captain and #1 d-man on a defending champ. Clearly, unless he’s extremely charitable, Pietrangelo is aiming higher. And if he were extremely charitable, he’d probably already be signed now.

He also turns 30 next month, so it’s fair for the Blues to ask how many peak years does he have left? His game should age ok, but this is probably as good as it will be. Do they really want to lock him in for six, seven, or eight years when he definitely won’t be this?

The Blues are also locked in for a good amount of money for next year already. At the moment they’re estimated to have only about $7M in space next season. Maybe they can move along some combination of Schwartz, Bozak, Bouwmeester, Allen, or Steen in some fashion to open up space. But Schwartz isn’t going anywhere, no one is likely biting on Bouwmeester or Steen other than retirement. So there just might not be space.

And the Blues may just conclude they’re buffeted for Pietrangelo’s departure. They have Parayko, they have Faulk, they have Dunn who all provide flair and dash. They’ll need to find some free safeties, but those are easily scraped up. Could the Blues actually just wave their captain goodbye and thank him for his service? It would be the prudent move. But as we’ve learned up here, that’s not that easy of a lever to pull.



The Loss Of Our Superiority – Let’s face it. For most of the Blues-Hawks rivalry, it was just two of the remedial class brawling over who gets the Flinstones phone. While both had brief snippets of being a contender (Hawks early 90s, Blues early 00s), mostly they were just cannon fodder for the Wings or earlier the Oilers. And a lot of the time, both sucked deep pond scum. So it was a rivalry that a good portion of the league probably looked at with quizzical if not dismissive expressions.

But the Hawks rising from the ooze in 2009 or 2010 gave us a surefire upper hand. It wasn’t just being better than the Blues. It was ascending to a higher plane. Leaving them in the muck, where nothing they could say really mattered because they couldn’t enter the levels the Hawks had achieved. The Hawks were playing a different game.

And nine years of that is a long time. Maybe it’s why you felt like it would go on forever. But it doesn’t feel that long now, does it?

They did find the key. They did get out of the muck, never to return, at least not in our lifetimes. And sure, they’re on the same level now, and we’re used to that. We did it for decades. But damn wasn’t it nice to look down? If only for a while? That’s gone now, and thanks to the recent incompetence, there isn’t much to look down on now.

Hope you got the most out of it you could.



RECORDS: Blues 17-5-6   Hawks 10-11-5


TV: NBCSN Chicago

GOOD GOD DON’T GO THERE: St. Louis Gametime

Like any adversarial relationship, or really any relationship that goes for a long time, there are different phases to it. The Hawks and Blues have had theirs. They were scraping for bottom of the barrel rewards in the 80s together. They were playoff rivals in the early 90s, each with hopes of breaking through the post-Oilers scene (never did). Both were hapless background pieces to the Wings, either in the mid- or late 90s. Both have been unequipped batting practice for the other at times, for instance the Pronger-era Blues were far ahead of the Hawks and obviously what came before here not so long ago. Both have been mud people at the same time.

We thought we’d permanently left them behind this decade. That’s the arrogance that comes from multiple championships. But you can never leave something like this behind. It’s always there, even if you have to squint, and it’s always a reminder of what you truly are. It feels like getting hit with a large fish in the face when you realize that, but here we are. Last spring was a reminder that some things are always like this, no matter how it might look.

And now it’s reversed. The Blues are in the sunshine, seemingly clicking everywhere, seemingly have figured out when everyone had assumed they never could. That it would always be that way. And the Hawks are the ones with their shoes tied together, valuing all the wrong things with an inability to take any step forward. Oh sure, maybe it’s only been two seasons like this, instead of the seven or eight we enjoyed laughing at the unwashed down I-55. But it’s gone now, isn’t it? Oh yes, yes it is.

So the Blues will show up for the first time this season tonight, with their unfathomable champions pedigree and their first place standing now and the added arrogance not just of having done all that, but of having done it when no one ever thought they could. These aren’t the Blues you remember, and it’s likely they will never be again. We’ve lost something. They’ve gained something, and that is truly world-shattering. They’re 15 points ahead of the Hawks.

The Hawks are 15 points behind, five points out of a playoff spot, and one point ahead of the basement of the entire damn conference. Has anything moved forward? Does it feel like it will anytime soon? Aren’t the questions all the same as they were before? The lack of answers sure are. This is supposed to be them. It was them. And we figured it would be them forever. Because it felt like it would be, when it was and we weren’t. We had all the answers before there were questions. And then in a flash it reversed, and now we’re the laughingstock in the relationship. “Look at how far behind they are,” they crow, and rightly. The gap is bordering on a gorge.  Cruel world.

Anyway, on the ground, the Blues are in first but in some ways they’re a lot like the Hawks. They’re not a great possession team. They get great goaltending and they’re getting some fine finishing from more sources than the local outfit. They’re still pretty good defensively, in that they hold down attempts, shots, chances among the better teams in the league. They don’t create much, but with the way Jordan Binnington is playing they don’t have to. The more you suppress shots and attempts the more games come down to a moment or two. And when your goalie is better most nights, you’ll win most nights. When you allow chances and attempts to flow like and Elvin-conjured river, you make it more likely that results will match what the teams are. That’s how you get the Hawks, no matter how good the goalies are.

Of course, the Blues are here without their main sniper in Vladimir Tarasenko, who might not play again in the regular season. They’re also without Alex Steen, which doesn’t mean much these days, and Oskar Sundqvist, which is somewhere in the middle. In their absence, Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, and Brayden Schenn have fucked off just like they did last spring that landed us in this mess. Alex OrangeJello seems intent on having a true free agent year, and Jayden Schwartz is actually healthy. Imagine what happens when Justin Faulk actually gets comfortable. Fuck this life.

Anyway, to the Hawks, who will be without Duncan Keith, Dylan Strome, and now Robin Lehner as well as Andrew Shaw tonight. Lehner has the flu, which is a strange code for telling his teammates they suck on the bench and being given a day or two to calm down, even though he’s right. Without Keith, and he really shouldn’t matter this much, the Hawks roll out an AHL defense behind Connor Murphy. And we already said Connor Murphy shouldn’t matter this much either. Oh, did we mention they’ll have to do the same against the best line in hockey Thursday? On the road? ONE GOAL.

Because of all of this, the Hawks will skate one player short due to cap constraints, with the recalling of Kevin Lankinen putting them up against it. Real tight ship, here. A cap team that’s one point above the West basement. Everything’s fine. They have a process. They know what they’re doing. Everything is on course.

It won’t take more than four minutes for Pat and Eddie to comment on the Blues “grit” and the forecheck the Hawks apparently want to emulate without realizing what they’re actually talking about. The Blues can get in your shirt because they’re actually really quick. It’s not just about dressing psychopaths, which used to be their M.O. They upgraded the speed, and with Pietrangelo, Faulk, Colton Burpo, they’re mobile enough on the blue line to not worry if their forwards occasionally get beat. They defense can just step up behind it. The Hawks d-men can’t. So you get what the Avs did to them, which is streak to an odd-man whenever they felt like it. And failing that, they could just wait for that moment when four Hawks were trying to find the Big Dipper in their own zone and tralalala their way down the slot. The Blues are no more stupid than the Avs are.

The season is almost certainly already toast, but it’s for sure going to be if the Hawks don’t ace December. They can rant and rave all they want about where the Blues were on New Year’s Day last year, but that team was built to contend and needed to fire a coach who was clearly a moron and everyone knew it to get where they were supposed to be (say there’s an idea). This might be where the Hawks are supposed to be. Starting the month off with the two Finalists isn’t exactly cherry. The rest of the slate isn’t either.

The difference between the two might not any clearer after tonight, or at the end of the month. You’ll just have to wait for the day when the relationship shifts again. It might be a long way off.

Everything Else

I’m not even gonna give it a name. You know what we’re doing here.



Goalies: So the question isn’t whether you believe in love after love…well, I mean it kind of is. If you believe “love” is Jordan Binnington being able to repeat what he did over the final 32 games last year. And really, his regular season was a huge January and February, as he was rather ordinary in March and April, By then it of course didn’t matter. And he was good enough in the playoffs without being spectacular, as a .914 is not spectacular. In his first full season in the NHL, you can probably expect something like Matt Murray has gone through, which is very up and down and overall probably just ok.

If it’s anything worse, somehow Jay Gallon is still here. Perhaps this is what he was always meant for, with no pressure as a backup. He can probably fill this role well. It would be hilarious and a market correction if both Binnington and Allen both stained the sheets (in the bad way), but most likely the Blues are looking at no worse than solid if not song-worthy goaltending. FUCK YOU.

Defense: What really fucking sucks is that Justin Faulk, whom the Hawks should have been after for two goddamn years, is a major upgrade on Joel Edmundson, who was a rock-headed fuckstick that was over-worshipped by the inhabitants of the IQ desert down there. Now that they’ve let Alex Pietrangelo off the hook, the Blues have yet another puck mover, to go along with another season of growth from Vinnie Dunn Bag O’ Donuts Ovah Here! I’m still sure Colton Parayko is a disaster waiting to happen, except I’m still waiting. Jabe O’Meester and Robert Bortuzzo for sure are something that needed to be cleared with vinegar and baking soda, but it was enough once. If O’Meester is a healthy scratch a fair portion of the time, they’ll sadly be fine. FUCK YOU.

Forwards: Boy it must really piss the Predators off that the Blues stole their act of having only one genuine top line forward (Tarasenko) and a bunch of tweeners after that and went somewhere the Predators never have and never will. Sure, Ryan O’Reilly did a fine impression of a genuine #1 center in the playoffs, and took home the Conn Smythe as a demonstration of that. But we know what he is. But with him, Brayden Schenn, Tyler Bozak, and if Robert Thomas sees any time in the middle, they basically have three or four guys who slot between 1-2 or 2-3, so it’s just about the same thing. This corps is actually short on fuckwits and dipshits, which you would think would be illegal in West East St. Louis. But it’s young, and it’s fast. Thomas gets another year, as does Sammy “TO BLAIS, WHICH WE ALL KNOW MEANS TO BLUFF, SO YOU WERE PLAYING CARDS…”. Fabbri Robby or Robbri Fabbi or whatever is back before something else goes snap. Jordan Kyrou is going to get a full look after a pretty impressive half-season in the AHL last year and a cameo at the top level. Other than maybe Zach Sanford, the Blues are going to boast speed on all four lines. What the fuck kind of world is it when the Blues are sporting a lineup chockfull of speed both at forward and the blue line and the Hawks make the same sound as your car stuck in the mud/snow? FUCK YOU.

Prediction: With Winnipeg looking an absolute train wreck-in-waiting, the Predators possibly slipping back or at least going stale, there is no reason the Blues don’t win the division. Maybe Colorado is ready to take that big of a leap, but we’re talking about a leap of 15-20 points, which is asking a lot. Especially out of a team that has an iffy blue line, as the Avalanche kind of do. Yeah, the Blues might not have a lot of top end scoring. But they might have a wealth of second-tier scoring to make up for it. They might not have any top-pairing d-men, depending on what your opinion of Pietrangelo is. But they might have four or five 1B or second pairing guys to make up for it. The only hope is the goaltending completely drops out, but under Craig Berube their metrics were so good they can mitigate the goaltending to a point if they have to.


Everything Else


GAMETIME: 7pm Central 


PISSHEADS AND CHOWDAHEADS: St. Louis Gametime, Stanley Cup Of Chowder

If it feels like this goddamn Final has gone on for two months, you’re not alone. While the added day off for travel makes sense and should have been instituted a while ago, it does add four days to the series so you go from two weeks to two and a half, and it makes a difference. Hockey on June 12th is just dumb.

Or maybe it feels like it’s been this long because it’s two teams you’d rather not see win, and we spent all that time staring into the abyss that St. Louis could actually pull this off. Those two days felt like 70. And they still could, clearly, but a Game 7 on the road doesn’t much seem in character for them. Then again, being here at all doesn’t seem in character for them, so everything we knew and built our foundations upon is rubbish. Good way to live.

So it comes to this. Analyzing one hockey game can be futile, because anything can flip it. A bad call, a missed call, a delay of game penalty, a too many men penalty, someone falling on their ass, really anything.

Also, if Tuukka Rask plays as well as he did in Game 6, it isn’t going to matter much anyway. He is the reason the Bruins traipsed to the Final, and the layoff clearly took him down a level (down was the only way for him to go), but he may have found it again.

What Blues fans will be watching intently is if Jordan Binnington is going to revert to Blues traditional goaltending after letting in Brandon Carlo’s double-play ball through him and into the net. BABIP Kung Fu Treachery can come to hockey too, people. You would imagine the Blues aren’t going to get this with a middling goalie performance as the Bruins will make the Blues work at least on the power play, and Rask isn’t going to let the bottom fall out either. You know what we’re betting on.

Again, it’s a bit silly to pinpoint one player, because any fuckwit can come up with two goals and have his name live forever. Remember Max Talbot scoring twice in a Game 7? That dude was just a live action Pepe Le Peux. Still, most will focus on the Bruins top line. If they score, the Bruins tend to win. They hadn’t really until Game 6, with Marchand pulling a Jagr and only showing up when his team was on a two-man advantage and then Pastrnak got one in the third. The narrative has been that Bergeron has been getting pushed around in this series, but I don’t know that I buy it. He’s only been in the red in both attempts and expected goals in a game in Game 5 and Game 2, so he just hasn’t gotten the rub.

You would expect Bruce Cassidy to continue to keep Bergeron’s line and the Chara-McAvoy pairing separate, mostly to keep Chara away from Schwartz-Schenn-Tarasenko which he simply hasn’t had the mobility to deal with. That still leaves O’Reilly’s line as the assignment, and he’s obviously been going off of late. One feels if the Blues get this, it will be from that line. If anyone else dents on either side, then it’ll be their night.

It’s hard to see the Bruins losing three straight home games. The Blues have the bigger questions in goal and on special teams, which is not where you want to be in a Game 7. But again, it’s one game, where anything stupid or inexplicable is possible. But hey, at least it will be over come 11pm or 12am, right?

Everything Else

“If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

That was the text compatriot Matt McClure sent us before puck drop last night, fearing that we were about to cross the rubicon and face our worst fears. But what we should have remembered is…this is the St. Louis Blues.

So of course they were going to come out with their ass-hair on fire and run everywhere and over everyone, but of course they would take it too far in front of their drooling, screaming, belching fanbase and take a dumb penalty to ruin it all. Step up and be counted, Brayden Schenn! Then a little slice of bad luck, the only kind they’ve ever known, with ROR putting the puck over the glass, and they’re chasing the rest of the night.

There’s a tendency to push this as a Tuukka Rask game, and he was brilliant and back to the level he had been. But by any measure the Bruins actually controlled this one, dominating attempts, scoring chances, and expected goals. The Blues can’t say they put Rask under the cosh when they only fired 29 shots at him. Yes, they had good chances, but not a fountain of them. Considering the condition the Bruins are in, they should never be able to hold the Blues at arm’s length for a game like this. But essentially, they did.

Let’s clean it up.

The Two Obs

-The Bruins were able to do what they do because their best players were their best players again. The Perfect Line was all over 60%, as was Charlie McAvoy, who I might not get but he was magnificent last night. When in control and not trying to Leo Messi everything, he is the perfect antidote to the rabid dog forecheck of the Blues because he’s quick and shifty enough to simply evade it. David Krejci actually appeared last night, which gave the Bruins a second line of threat.

-For all the huffing and butt-chugging of Ryan O’Reilly last night by the broadcast and his magical faceoff abilities, his line got their head kicked in by McAvoy and Chara, which shouldn’t happen at all because Chara was a complete liability last night. All the action happened around him. He looked like when Ant-Man enlarges himself at the airport and Spider-Man and Iron Man are just flying around him. He couldn’t get to any loose puck, and when he did he generally turned it over. And other than his non-consequential goal, ROR’s line did nothing about it.

-Bruce Cassidy, in a change, kept Chara-McAvoy separate from Bergeron’s line, and let the latter simply nullify the Blues top line of Schwartz-Schenn-Tarasenko. They carried an 85% possession mark against them. You would expect to see this a lot on Wednesday when Cassidy can also choose the matchups, and wonder why maybe New Genius Berube didn’t try something else?

-I’ve always liked John Moore, but recognize that both Devils and Bruins fans hate him because he really has become past sell-by date milk the past few years. That said, in a third pairing role last night he had a very strong game which could have been a weakness the Blues exploited.

-Boy, it wouldn’t be a true Blues balls-up without a really bad goal, huh? Thanks for sticking with tradition, Jordan Binnington. It looked exactly like Sharp’s goal against Ryan Miller in Game 6 in ’14. Brought back so many memories. They’ll be replaying that one for a while if the Blues don’t come out on top on Wednesday. I’m here for it.

-So I’d love to pronounce the Blues dead, but it hasn’t worked that way this spring. They biffed both their home games against the Jets but then took another win in Winnipeg after that. They were down 3-2 to the Stars but came through that. They recovered from “that call” against the Sharks. Yes, this feels like where it should come undone and you can’t really fathom the Bruins losing three straight at home, especially if Rask is going to play like this. But if any Blues team is different, and I’m not sure they are yet, it’s this one.

You could also see them giving up three power play goals in the 1st period on truly moronic penalties and all of us giggling and frothing at the mouth on our couches. Should be fun.

Everything Else

Maybe it’s better this way. Maybe it’s the better way to accept your fate. Or maybe this is just setting up for what will become the ultimate Blues moment. There are your two roads. Resignation or the road to hope. I have no idea. At least the Final tossed up a decent game for once…except it got completely overshadowed by more NHL brilliance. Let’s run through it.

-Let’s get it out at the top. The non-call on Noel Acciari is a result of the NHL’s and hockey’s antiquated and downright stupid, “LET THE PLAYERS PLAY!!” attitude. That only gets exacerbated by the NHL bus-tossing their refs when they do make a call that is seen as harsh. NHL refs are already terrified or outright refusing to call penalties that are obvious late in games, and it’s been that way the entire time. And we know better. Then they see what happened to Vegas, and that only intensifies it. Even if those refs were wrong, the NHL can’t allow an avenue for teams and coaches to exploit, which they have. Protect your refs.

We can accept that in some ways. What can’t be accepted is the repeated hits to the head last night that the refs bent over backwards for to not call anything. You even had Eddie NoCheck (it’s what he was known as during his career) trying to justify one or two by talking about technique and changing levels of the other players’ heads, as if he would know the first thing about it. Whenever the NHL gets serious about getting rid of this, if it ever does though it may be forced one day, it’ll instruct its refs to err on the side of punishment and not leniency. Hockey doesn’t need hits to the head to be hockey. But in the playoffs, and these especially, the refs have been neutered. This is what you get. And I’m sure it’s what you’ll continue to get as the NHL remains more terrified of a Don Cherry rant about the softening of the game than anything else.

-Anyway, to the teams. The Bruins did more than enough last night to win, but were just the victim of the first Jordan Binnington game of the series, especially in the first period. That happens, it’s just a shit time for it for the Bs.

-The story of this series is going to be how Patrice Bergeron’s line has disappeared. Bergeron is probably hurt, which is good enough. What’s Marchand’s excuse? Oh right, that he’s pretty much always been a Bergeron passenger and when the driver of the bus isn’t there, he goes nowhere.

-The funny thing is that Zdeno Chara had his best game as far as possession goes in this one, which is something the Bruins probably have to win. The first Blues goal wasn’t even his fault, as much as I would have liked it to be to punch holes in this stupid Willis Reed narrative, but it was McAvoy who went chasing behind the net with Chara and it was his alley that ROR went running for. But then again, McAvoy sucks in his own end which we already knew.

-It’s still frustrating to watch the Bruins go through phases of play where they simply have to carry the puck through two or three Blues defenders at the line, instead of getting it deep where the Blues have proven they can’t consistently escape. There are times for both, but the Bruins haven’t been able to diagnose when those are outside of Game 1, really. I’m making Gunnarsson and Edmundson and Bortuzzo prove they can pass or skate their way out of trouble, because I know they can’t.

-I’m not being fair to the Blues, who have played at a pace for two straight games I didn’t think they could manage. It’s really hard to harass retreating d-men and then get back to make life hell at your own line, but they’ve done it.

-The Bruins could use a Tuukka game Sunday. They haven’t really gotten one yet.

Everything Else

I mean, take your pick. The hockey hasn’t been terribly enjoyable, there’s yet to be a good game, both fanbases would do the world a favor by leaping into Sarlacc, no matter who wins we’re all going to be sick, and add to that the narratives or stories around these teams are so stupid and wrong. The feeling of relief when this is over will be akin to  the stiff shit that takes five minutes to get out. A metaphor more apt than we should take too much time to consider.

With Zdeno Chara unlikely to make the bell tonight (and I’m still convinced it doesn’t matter much other than numbers), you can be sure Blues fans are going to be pumping that their HEAVY style is the reason the Blues are where they are and very well may pull this off. It’s been what they’ve been pushing for…oh, 25 years now? 30? Their entire existence? I’m not sure, but the Blues have always had to define themselves by how much they make their stained-jersey wearing fans snort and belch and cheer itchy trigger-fingered cops. Never mind this team is actually built on its speed and newfound finish and creativity, because that doesn’t fit into how St. Louis has to portray itself and the hockey media is all too happy to go along with because it’s either too lazy or too drunk to do much else.

And to be fair, it’s the same for the Bruins, who got here thanks to sublime goaltending and having the best line in hockey, along with a very mobile defense that the Leafs, or Jackets, or Canes simply couldn’t catch enough or force into mistakes because they always find space.

So let’s review, because it’s going to come up during the broadcast the next two or three nights. Here is the list of “victims” for the Blues and their supposed torturous style:

Erik Karlsson – carried a groin injury since February that caused him to miss 26 games that got worse, wouldn’t you know, by playing every other day in the most intense form of the game for a month straight.

Tomas Hertl – Illegal hit to the head

Matt Grzelcyk – Illegal hit from behind

Zdeno Chara – puck to the face

So yeah, the Blues GRITHEARTSANDPAPERFAAAAART had exactly zero to do with any of this, unless we’re counting illegal and dirty hits as an actual tactic now. Which they very well may be in St. Louis. I suppose the real fear is with Tom Wilson getting a ring last year, teams are just going to sanction whatever nutters they have on their team to make a couple runs at someone per series, and they’ll deal with the consequences as long as the other team’s defenseman misses time. After all, you have more forwards than they have d-men. And before you shrug that off as an impossibility, remember this is hockey and anything can happen, and the dumber it is the more likely it is to.

Physicality is part of playoff hockey, no one denies this. Sorry, let me get that right, NO ONE DENIES THIS! But seeing as how everyone is trying to be physical and shrink time to make plays and cause turnovers and mistakes and get the puck back deep in the offensive zone with everyone out of position, it’s not really a “strategy.” The defining part is how you cash in when you get those turnovers, or how you set your team up to avoid them. The forecheck and physical play is a given. It’s like saying in football that having five offensive lineman who will definitely try to block people is a strategy (unless this is the Cutler-era Bears, who definitely didn’t have that nor try to do that).

The attrition of playoff hockey has always struck me awkwardly (then again, what doesn’t? I’m gawkier than the ace of spades!). I know the length and “Wreck Of The Hesperus” nature of it makes it a true test, and what a lot of people love. Which is fine. Still, if the playoffs are all that matter, and we’re using this to decide who the best teams are (which it doesn’t always but whatever not the point), it would be a truer test if these teams were closer to full-strength. Depth is certainly part of the hockey equation, no doubt. But I don’t know that having these things settled by third liners and eighth defensemen is the best showcase of the sport. And we have 82 games to test depth as well, including when top players simply go through slumps.

There is no answer of course other than shortening the season (I can’t stress my 76-game schedule when Seattle arrives enough, knowing it will never, ever happen), which is a nonstarter. So we’ll just have to live with this, as wrong and misguided as it may be.


Everything Else

Ok, so remember when the Hawks used to kind of just do enough to win a series? Like, they’d let a road game slip because they already got one to even out home-ice and they just didn’t feel like matching the intensity for six or seven straight games? Like the Nashville series in ’15. Or even the Final in ’15, really. They’d save it for the end. That’s what I want to believe the Bruins are doing. Except they don’t have nearly the pedigree, and might only have enough energy to really give it a go every other game. Which would be enough. Or maybe not. Maybe losing Grzelcyk is a real problem. Maybe this is the same team that did get knocked around a fair amount by the Canes for the last two games but had Tuukka Rask to bail them out, and he’s not playing at that level right now.

Maybe the gods just hate you.

Anyway, let’s clean it up:

The Two Obs

-I don’t know whether hockey coaches outthink themselves, or they and teams just forget, but I can’t for the life of me figure out where the Bruins got the idea that carrying the puck over the offensive blue line every time was going to work or was the more advantageous route. When they’ve been good in this series, they’ve thrown the Blues game right back at them. That is, get the puck deep, get on the still very slow and very dumb and very brick-handed Blues defense, and watch the turnovers ensue. Especially in the second half of last night’s game, I must’ve watched Krug or Marchand or McAvoy try and traipse through three or four Blues and just lose the damn thing. Yes, this worked in Game 1 when the Blues were out of position chasing their own forecheck and the Bruins could enter the zone at odd-mans or at evens all the time. That wasn’t last night. It was too complicated by half.

-I realize Zdeno Chara is a Hall of Famer, and the second best Bruins d-man of all-time. He’s also been a sloth in this series, constantly getting his head churned into margarine by the Blues top line or even their second line. It is just not that big of a deal for the Bruins to be without him, even though McGuire and Olczyk were convinced it was. Yes, being without two d-men now is a problem, but that’s a numbers thing no a name thing. McAvoy’s numbers with John Moore, who everyone hates, were just about the same. And again, though Berube wasn’t really chasing matchups all that much, the fact that he’s happy to have his top line go out there against Chara tells you what you need to know.

-Two pretty choppy rebounds from Rask and that’s basically the difference here, even though the Blues carried the play.

-At least Bergeron’s line looked like Bergeron’s line for most of the night without scoring, carrying the Bs best possession and expected goals numbers.

-Boy if Berube ever figured out to play Vince Dunn more than Bouwmeester and Gunnarsson, then we could be in real trouble.

-Grzelcyk is looking a real loss, because at the moment only McAvoy and Krug can get out of trouble and they were off color last night. Maybe Carlo but it’s an awful lot to ask of Clifton. Back at home you can shelter him more and the Bruins will have to.

This is going to be an awfully bumpy ride from here.