Welcome to the first edition of Sports Saturday at Gaming Rebellion. Each week we’ll be talking about our favorite sports teams and general sports news. Hopefully we can convert some of you huge gaming geeks over the the side of SPORTS!!
Last season, the St. Louis Blues ended their season in a third round loss to the San Jose Sharks. It was an emotional loss, with former captain David Backes visibly shedding tears at the loss. Despite the failure to make the Stanley Cup Finals, this was a huge step in the right direction for the snakebit franchise. Blues fans have long coveted a Stanley Cup win, and they were just that much closer. Fans were actually satisfied with the result of the season and dreamed about what was to come…but unfortunately, several of the biggest contributors to the team’s playoff run success were on their way out. Backes, Troy Brouwer, and Brian Elliott, each playoff heroes for one reason or another, departed the Blues for new opportunities elsewhere. The identity of the hard working, bruising, tough to play Blues was shaken, and the team had to find a new identity.
The team struggled with their identity, fired their longtime coach Ken Hitchcock, endured goaltending slumps by both starter Jake Allen and backup Carter Hutton, and traded away powerplay quarterback defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk for what seemed like a less than stellar return. But after associate coach Mike Yeo stepped into Hitchcock’s shoes, and goaltending legend Martin Brodeur taking over for fired goalie coach Jim Corsi, the team broke out with a long string of wins and a new vigor we hadn’t seen all season (despite a losing streak mixed in there). After a tough season with just as many, if not more, downs than ups, the Blues are settling into their sixth straight postseason.
This year, the Western Conference is not quite set in stone. The Blues could see several different opponents in the postseason, and drawing any of them do not seem particularly fun to face.
#1 – Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild are the most likely candidate for a first round playoff scenario. The Wild are currently sitting in 2nd place in the Central Division, with the Blues sitting in third. The Blues keep putting up wins and the Nashville Predators, only a few points back, haven’t been playing well. As long as the Blues maintain their current pace, they’ll end up meeting the Wild at the Xcel Energy Center in a few weeks.
The Wild have done a good job this season, with goalie Devan Dubnyk playing worlds better than his days in Edmonton. Eric Staal has quietly had a good season as well, scoring more than he has since 2011 (he’s one point behind his total of 61 in 2013-14, and will likely pass it within the next 5 games). Bruce Boudreau is leading the team that Yeo was fired from a season prior. The team also has great assets in defenseman Ryan Suter, captain Mikko Koivu, and forward Zach Parise. Mikael Granlund has also been having a good year.
Minnesota has actually been playing under their potential for the last few weeks, with more losses than wins. Some speculate that they’re just maintaining pace and taking it easy before the REAL season begins, ready to show their true potential once the first round starts. The Blues lost to the Wild in the first round two seasons ago, and Mike Yeo would be playing against his former team. This could actually be an incredibly fun round of playoff hockey to watch. Lots of storylines and emotion in this potential series.
#2 – Chicago Blackhawks
The Blues hate the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks hate the Blues. The fans all hate each other. It’s always an exciting game when these two match up. If the Predators end up overtaking the Blues in the standings, it’s likely the Blues will fall into the second wildcard slot, drawing the team that is perennially “the team to beat” in the West.
Chicago has had another great year, and their core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith are still just as much a threat as anyone else in the league. Last year the Blues upset the Blackhawks in game seven on a goal by Troy Brouwer. Brouwer is no longer in the lineup, and the Blues have a completely different look than last season, so this series wouldn’t end up playing out the same way.
#3 – Any of the Pacific Teams
The Pacific teams oh who am I kidding, I write about video games, not sports. April Fools. Go play some Zelda or Mass Effect or something.