They won in 6 games by taking the last three in row.
Now they go back to the Stanley Cup finals, best of seven, for the first time since 1970. And, ironically, they face the same opponent they faced then. In 1970 the Blues lost four in a row to Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, and the Boston Bruins. In the fourth game I nearly died when, in the sudden-death overtime, Bobby Orr flew through the air like a bird and put the puck into the net to kill any hope of the Blues winning a single series game.’
They have never won the championship of hockey. They have never drunk wine from Lord Stanley’s Cup. Now they have the chance again for the first time since I was 13 and utterly disappointed.
Yesterday the St. Louis Blues hockey team beat the San Jose Sharks 5 to 0 in game 5 of their best-of-seven playoff series. They are one win away from the Stanley Cup finals again for the first time since the 1960’s.
Once again Jaden Schwartz scored a 3-goal hat trick to lead the scoring. The reliable Vladimir Teresenko scored as well, while goalie Binnington scored a shut-out on the Sharks.
As the Stanley Cup playoffs proceeded, my team, the St. Louis Blues, took on the Dallas Stars, my hometown team. Of course, I couldn’t really lose in this playoff best-of-seven, because I love both teams. But the way it turned out was a super-win for the good guys.
The Stars won their first-round playoff based on the magnificent play of Goalie Ben Bishop. His play recalled for me the days when the Great Glenn Hall won the playoff MVP award for the Blues in the Stanley Cup final that the Blues lost to the Montreal Canadiens in 1968.
The Blues, led by leading scorer Vladimir Teresenko, have been the hottest team in the second half of the NHL season. They came from far back in the pack and out of the playoff picture into the playoffs, winning against the favored Winnepeg Jets in the first round.
And the series itself could not have been more amazing. The Blues finally won the deciding seventh game in the second overtime on a goal by Left Wing Patrick Maroon. It could not have been more exciting. Especially after the Blues had playoff hopes dashed in the first round so many times in recent years. Now, if the Blues can only beat the hated San Jose Sharks, they will be in the Stanley Cup final again for the first time since 1970.
I am, of course, not a sports reporter. I am a loony Blues fan who never gives up even though his beloved hockey team has never won the big prize.
Game one of the second round playoff with the Dallas Stars went to the St. Louis Blues. Tarasenko was a hero again. This is already a good year with the Blues fighting back from so far down in the standings, making the playoffs in an incredible hot streak that hasn’t cooled off yet. We won one series already, and surging towards a second. I am happy.
I have watched the Blues play the Dallas Stars numerous times at the American Airlines Center (or whatever corporate name the Dallas arena has at the moment). But with my current state of health and finance, there’s no way to see a game live now. Still, I am happy. The Blues are winning again.
It has always been a hopeful sign for me when my favorite sports teams do well in the playoffs. The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series in 2011 and the blossoming of my novel-writing career began right after in 2012. The Arizona Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl in 2008, and though they lost, they came extremely close to winning, losing only in the final minutes, presaged my successful shift to the ESL teacher position at Naaman Forest High School in Garland, Texas. And now the St. Louis Blues hockey team won a first round playoff series for the first time in a while, against a top-ranked team that was supposed to beat them, and set themselves up for a deep playoff run that might turn into their first ever Stanley Cup championship of the NHL.
Jaden Schwartz, a Blues scoring star, got three goals in one game, called a hat trick in hockey, in the final game against the Winnepeg Jets this last weekend. They are on the road to more victories, and even if they lose going forward, it is still a positive sign for me at a time when I desperately need something positive to happen.
Today’s post should probably be titled with “raspberries” rather than “strawberries” because of the alternative meaning of strawberries being a red abrasion or scrape instead of the double meaning I actually need. But I had strawberries from Walmart to serve for breakfast, not raspberries, so that totally ruined the potential metaphor.
I tend to like to watch the news while I cook breakfast for the kids. Hence the need for raspberries. I mean, the angry orangutan in charge of my news-related happiness or horror is on a real tear about now because he can feel the law and the news media zeroing in on every crime and criminal thought he has been playing with for decades, intending to prosecute both him and those who support him. Like several of the speakers at Senator John McCain’s funeral, I have no need to directly blow raspberries at him. The oblique and carefully worded ones will do fine. But I do have nothing but raspberries for him. The things he is doing to health care, education, the environment, and international relationships have either undone the good the government has previously done or made the made the matter much worse.
Of course, the Pumpkinhead in Chief is not the only evil, bloodsucking monster in the news that makes me blow raspberries at the TV screen during breakfast. I will specifically try to sort out my voter registration problems so that I can register a vote against Grandpa Munster… err… I mean, the Zodiac Killer… err… well, you know, that guy whose name I do not wish to invoke at the moment to protect my children and virgins everywhere. It is a problem because I let my voter registration lapse as a Jehovah’s Witness, and now the State of Texas won’t let me renew it by mail. I have to find the proper registration office to sit in for hours being glared at by Republican officials who see on the paperwork that I was a registered Democrat more than two decades ago.
I also blow raspberries at Republican hard-heartedness that still hasn’t reunited children with their immigrant asylum-seeking parents out of fear of letting too many brown people into their “white” country. Raspberries also for conservatives that talk about Democrats being violent and chaotic people as they post threats of shooting deaths for liberals on social media.
I’m sure you have probably already concluded that having the TV on during breakfast makes for rather rootie-tootie-fruity breakfasts around our house. And you wouldn’t be wrong.
I also have raspberries to give the Chicago Cubs this time of year as they try to beat my Cardinals out of the playoffs once again. They deserve lots of fruit. Particularly pineapples thrown at their prissy blue helmets during late innings of games they are winning.
But, fear not. My dietary health is safe for now. I am getting fresh fruits. I am fortified with vitamin C. It happens that we are eating STRAWBERRIES, not raspberries for breakfast. And strawberries are good for you, even if the morning news is not.
You have probably gathered by this point that I like Albert Pujols. Of course, that would be the wrong conclusion for you to draw. I LOVE Albert Pujols. And I am not alone. Not only did the man take my favorite team from the doldrums of the 90’s to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011, but he did it with a work-ethic, a grace, and a power that restored my faith in a sport that had been rocked by scandal and steroid use. He restored my faith in humanity. He is not only a sports hero. He is a really great human being… a super hero. Did you watch the 60-Minutes’ piece? There isn’t anything more to say about that. Humility is part of the equation.
I got my love of baseball from listening to games on the radio with my Great Grandpa Raymond. We listened to the Minnesota Twins take on the baseball world on KGLO Radio in Mason City, Iowa. I heard Harmon Killebrew smack homers and Tony Oliva get key hits in crucial situations. I followed the exploits of Rod Carew. And then, the St. Louis Cardinals took over the 60’s. They were in the World Series three times and won it twice. Bob Gibson was pitching. Lou Brock played Left Field and stole bases. It was miraculous. I would go on to live and die with the Cardinals every baseball season, even though I could only follow them through the newspaper and occasionally when they played the Cubs on TV. Tim McCarver, Ted Simmons, Willie McGee, Tommy Herr, Ozzie Smith, Jack Clark, Mark Macgwire, Scott Carpenter, Scott Rolen… If those names don’t mean anything to you then you are not really a baseball fan, and you probably didn’t read this far anyway.
Anyway… he did it. 600 home runs. He is now part of an elite group in the record books. And there is no doubt he is one of the best baseball players that ever lived.
Yes, we are out of the playoffs. Even though we won the last game of the year against the evil Pirates, we fell one game short. The evil San Francisco Giants beat the hapless Dodgers. No, that’s not quite right. The EVIL San Francisco Bullies With a Glandular Problem beat the worthless Dodgers whom you can never depend on when you need them to win! And so, believe it or not, I must now root for the Cubs to win it all in the National League. Yes, the Cubs, even though they took the Cardinals out of the playoffs last year during the Cards’ 100-win dominant season, are the least detestable team still in the playoff hunt for the World Series. Donald Trump may be the next president of the U.S. The Fukushima nuclear plant has irradiated the entire Pacific Ocean. Global warming is out of control. And the Cubs might win the World Series. Humanity is doomed.
But it gets worse. I am also a loyal Arizona Cardinals fan (a condition I have suffered since they were the St. Louis Cardinals, before evil billionaire Birdy Bidwill moved them to Arizona in a petulant fit about stadiums and sky-boxes).
Last year the Cardinals were poised to be Super Bowl contenders. Even though they lost last year to the Panthers, they were favored to be one of the teams in the big game this year. But then they lost a squeaker to New England in the first game of the season. They lost last week to a suddenly potent Buffalo defense. And yesterday, the EVIL Rams not only snatched victory away in the 4th quarter, they wounded Carson Palmer again, this time with a possible concussion. At one win and three losses, this will have to be a come-back season… if it is not lost already. Maybe the world needs to end to put me out of my misery.
Since the 1970 St. Louis Blues’ Stanley Cup Final where they lost to the Boston Bruins in 4 straight games, I have waited for the chance to return and have one more shot at rooting for my team to win their first hockey championship, their first Stanley Cup. We were in the finals and we had beaten the two best teams in hockey to get there. But hockey playoffs are more grueling than any other sports playoffs. We lost in 6 games. I am a dedicated fan. And I will be one for life. And I will root for them again next year. And they will very likely lose again this time of year next year. But that’s not the point. They will always be my team.
It went to seven games just like the Chicago Blackhawk series. I was fully prepared to see the Blues lose and be out of the playoffs… again. But it didn’t go quite that way this time. Hope has returned to roost in the heart of this Blues fan.
The Blues are going to the Conference Championship series for the first time since 2001. It will be a chance to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1970. The Blues have never won the Cup. Now that the string of first round playoff exits is ended, I have reason to hope that some of the endless frustrations are coming to an end. The next round will either be against the Nashville Predators or the San Jose Sharks. The Blues have already defeated much tougher foes in the first two rounds, the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks and the division champion Dallas Stars. But I am, of course, aware that either team is capable of upsetting the Blues. I am mentally prepared for a loss. However, there is reason to hope.
St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott stretches just before the start of the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on January 14, 2016. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
The reason to hope is goalie Brian Elliot. He stood up to more than 30 shots on goal in last night’s game. Only one got past him. The other side was not nearly so lucky… or so skilled. Combined with the scoring abilities of Vladimir Tarasenko and Paul Stastny they should be unstoppable. I know I am rattling on with my own self-absorbed fascinations and ephemeral joy at last night’s victory. And I know it may not be any more than a moment’s flicker of light and hope and happiness… but that’s what being a sports fan is all about.