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?