What to Like in Shortened Blues Hockey Season
The powers that be in the National Hockey League finally got together, pulled their collective heads from their collective asses, and got a new collective bargaining agreement hammered out. (You like the repeated use of collective there? That's the kind of topnotch journalism you pay for with the RFT sports department, baby.) It's a good thing, too, since the NHL season has pretty much passed us by already, and I know of at least a few people who have lost interest completely in the sport. It's a shame, but that's kind of what happens when you just...go away occasionally.
Anyhow, the hockey pageant is back on, and the Blues' season will begin on the 19th of this month, at home, against the hated Detroit Red Wings, right here in the friendly confines of the Scottrade Center.
Hey, it might be a couple months late, yes. But, you can't really ask for a better start to the season than that, right?
In the coming days, I'll try to get a full season preview done, with looks at all the major players and storylines we need to watch for with this team. Suffice to say, this is one of the more intriguing seasons I can ever remember, one that should be eagerly anticipated by anyone with any kind of interest in this team, and I frankly feel more than a little bit cheated that all we're going to get out of it is a partial season. Ugh.
I'm going to do my best to swallow my frustration, though, and just be excited we'll finally get to see this Blues squad take the ice.
Some schedule highlights:
- We'll actually get seven games in the month of January, condensed into a twelve day period, which is just slightly insane for hockey. An ordinary schedule for an NHL team seems to include stretches when you don't see them play but one, maybe one and a half games a week, seven games in twelve days is crazy. And, well, kind of a good argument for the lockout...
- The schedule is 48 games in all, with 7 games in January, 12 in February, 14 in March, and 15(!) in April. Oh, and that's in just 27 days of April, too. In other words, this season is going to be tightly packed, with the team playing 48 games in just 98 days. Again, that's an insane pace for a hockey season, and I do wonder if we're going to see fatigue and injuries crop up in ways we don't ordinarily.
- The Blues play the Red Wings three times in their first ten games, and the Nashville Predators (who also have Hated status, I think; or, at least, Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber do), twice. They travel to see the Blackhawks right off the bat, too. If there's anything to the Orwellian power of hatred to unite a people, Blues fans should be one united bunch by the second week of February.
- Playoff rematch alert: The Stanley Cup champion Kings are in town the 11th of February. The Blues don't really see the Kings often enough for there to be any kind of rivalry, but I think most fans would go with me in saying I would love to see Jonathan Quick on the receiving end of skate to the groin. (Figuratively speaking, of course; neither I nor anyone at the RFT wants to see the L.A. Kings' goalie mutilated. I cannot stress that point enough, according to our legal department.)
- The Blues actually finish the season with seven of eight at home, the lone road game being at Colorado as the first leg of a home-and-home. That sort of stretch to close out the season could be huge if this team is in position to try and grab some sort of high playoff seed. (I won't even entertain the notion they might not be in contention.)
- The Blues have three games on the big NBC, and five more on the peacock's sporting network. Add in four games on the NHL Network, and this team should actually get a fair amount of national exposure, such as it is in the hockey world.
- Toughest stretch of the schedule: probably an early April run which sees the Blues play four of five games on the road, at Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit, and Nashville, in that order. That's a gauntlet, to be sure, as the Central looks to be the 800-pound gorilla division again (though the Atlantic doesn't appear to be a picnic either), and the Wild was one of the tougher draws in the league last year for much of the season. The opening stretch isn't easy, either, with Detroit and Nashville plastered all over the schedule.
Or, more to the point, the Blues are back. I can't wait.
And, since I'm sure the team, and the league, will take all the shameless shilling they can get right now, go buy some tickets; single game tix go on sale today at noon. I couldn't blame anyone at this point for just not caring about the league anymore, but I'll put the plug out there anyway. Plus, hey, this is going to be a really, really good team. You're going to want to see what they do this year.