While looking through the Blues home Schedule, I had some things that caught my attention. I thought I would put together my top 10 list of reasons that I will be going to the rink this year.
10 Renewing the Rivalries: The Blues this year will have some veteran leadership, and this will allow them to play stronger against the toughest division in the Western Conference. The Blues have struggled against the likes of Chicago and Detroit over the last couple years, but by adding the likes of Jamie Langenbrunner, Jason Arnott and Scott Nichol the Blues are hoping to have a better showing against the more elite teams in the division.
9 Big Ben: Don’t ask for whom the bell tolls, because this Big Ben moves with Swiss Motion Precision. Ben Bishop is the tallest goalie to ever play in the NHL. Bishop stands a towering 6′ 7, and weighs in at 215lbs. He is battling long time NHL goalie Brian Elliot for the back-up roll to Jaroslav Halak. Bishop, who grew up in St. Louis, attended Chaminade College Preparatory School, was a member of the St. Louis Junior Blues, and has spent most of the last 2 seasons with the Peoria Rivermen of the American Hockey League.
8 New Look Islanders: Fans of Hockey will enjoy the game on February 16th, as the New York Islanders bring their band of young talent to the Scottrade Center. The Islanders who have had a long stretch of bad seasons, have a plethora of guys on their team in their 20’s, and they are led by John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Michael Grabner who combined for 172pts last season, including 94 goals. This young team will be fun to watch for years to come.
7 “The Gnat Patrol:” This is the name that was given to the Blues line that will get on the nerves and under the skin of the opposing teams. Scott Nichol, Vladimir Sobotka and most likey B.J. Crombeen will make up this line. This line will be out killing penalties and just doing an overall job of disrupting the play of the other team. This line may be small in size (Nichol 5’9, Sobotka 5’10 and Crombeen 6’2) but they play with more heart and determination than any big line out there. Can’t wait to see them shut down some of the top lines in the league.
6 Edmonton’s Kid Line: The Edmonton Oilers have done some very good drafting over the last few years, and it is showing so far this pre-season. Jordan Eberle, 2008 first round pick — Taylor Hall, 2010 #1 Overall — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 2011 #1 overall, have played in 4 games and have a combined 7 goals, 8 assists for 15pts. Half of their goals have been on the Power play (3) and half of them have been game winners (3). These young Oilers are trying to take Edmonton fans back to the Glory Days, and they are giving all hockey fans something special to watch.
5 Oh Captain My Captain: The Blues have taken the “A” off the chest of forward David Backes , and replaced it with a “C”. By doing this, they have told him it is his team, and he needs to be the leader. Backes has earned the Captain’s “C” by leading by example. He has had two 30+ goal seasons, and two seasons of 100+ penalty minutes. He plays with heart, and he leaves it all out on the ice. One reason he is one of my favorite Blues is because during the 2009-10 NHL season, after he was named to US Olympic Team he went out and tried to fight most of the better players from the other National teams. So not only does he Bleed Blue, he also bleeds Red, White and Blue!
4 The Champs are Coming: The saying is you are the Champs until someone beats you, and right now that is the Boston Bruins. The Bruins who are lead by Zdeno Chara (A Mighty Redwood with the #33 carved in it) will visit St. Louis in February. The Bruins have talent in Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Tyler Seguin, but will it be enough to repeat as league champs? This year there is only one chance to see the reigning Stanley Cup Champions in St. Louis. Hopefully in the very near future we will get to see the reigning champs play 41 of their 82 games in St. Louis.
3 TJ Oshie: I think this could be the year that TJ Oshie brings it all together and shows the fans in St. Louis that he does have what they have been waiting for him to show the last few years. I know Oshie missed almost half of last season due to a broken ankle, and in just over half a season of games he scored 12 goals and added 22 assists, but would he have hit the 20 goal mark if he had been healthy? I think this is going to be a breakout year for the young forward. I think with the experience the Blues added in the offseason (Arnott, Langenbrunner and Nichol) that Oshie will follow their lead. I think he will score 24 goals and break the 60pt plateau this year, but only if he stays healthy.
2 50 goal scorers: The Blues will play host to a number of 50 goal scorers this year when the Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks come to town. These teams will bring with them Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby, Teemu Selanne and reigning goal scoring champ Corey Perry. This group of guys have been giving goalies all over the league fits, and I for one want to see how Halak and the Blues Defense will handle them.
1 Playoff Hockey Returns to St. Louis: That’s right, I am saying it right now. Barring injuries, the St. Louis Blues will be back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and will go far. I think they have what it takes to get at least to the Western Conference Finals. Again, this is all barring injuries. Here is why I feel this way. Last year the Blues started the season with a franchise best record of 9-1-2. Then the injury bug hit, and a lot of key players were out of the lineup for most of the rest of the season. The acquisition of Christ Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk last year for Eric Johnson and Jay McCLement really bolstered the scoring of the team, as Stewart had 15 goals and 23 points in the 26 games he played with the Blues. Once you add in the fact that Oshie has something to prove, Alex Pietrangelo is quite possibly the best defenseman this team has ever had, David Perron will be back most likely a month into the season, and the team leadership changed from Eric Brewer (who never lived up to the fact that he was traded for Chris Pronger) to Backes, Langenbrunner, Arnott and Nichols, this team is ready to start making some noise. I can’t wait for the regular season to start, and if you bleed blue as much as I do, I am sure you can’t wait either.