The St. Louis Blues were once an expansion team, long ago. People did not take them seriously and look what ended up happening.
When the St. Louis Blues took on the Vegas Golden Knights for the first time, back in October, it was somewhat of a novelty. It was one of 31 firsts the Golden Knights would have throughout their year.
Even for Blues fans it was more of a fascination rather than a normal game. Even if you did not make the trip to Vegas, it was more a question of how hockey was working in the desert than taking the contest seriously.
Of course, there were ridiculous questions about whether slot machines would be in the arena or if the show girls would be intermission entertainment. However, as that game and the season have gone on, the Golden Knights cannot be taken lightly any more.
During their first encounter, the Blues jumped out to an early lead off a Magnus Paajarvi goal. Things sure changed after that, both in the game and the season.
Paajarvi only has one goal since then. The Knights scored two quick goals within four minutes in the second period. Coincidentally, former Blues defenseman Brad Hunt set up the second goal.
It took a late third period goal for St. Louis to send the game to overtime. However, the Blues would not spoil this party as Vegas took the house odds and scored with 24 seconds remaining in overtime.
The Blues were riding high at that point of the season. It was only their third loss of the season and first loss in extra time.
At the time, we brushed it off. Let them win since it is their home ice. It was just neat to be playing in Las Vegas.
Both fans and players cannot have that mentality any longer. Vegas is a team to be reckoned with.
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They are not your daddy’s expansion team. They are currently in first place in the Western Conference with 56 points, despite playing 2-4 games fewer than the teams chasing them.
They have the second most goals in the conference, behind Winnipeg. Only San Jose and Los Angeles have allowed fewer scores than Vegas too.
Gerard Gallant has this mishmash of talent playing like a team and playing like a contender. St. Louis cannot afford to take them lightly as they try to regain traction in the Central Division.
We have reached the point where Vegas cannot be assumed to hit a wall sometime. It might happen, but at this point, even if they do, it seems unlikely they are not a playoff team.
They’ve cleared just about every hurdle. When Marc-Andre Fleury went down with injury, people figured that was the end of their run.
When they finally fell out of first place in the division, most across the league said that was the signal of their end. They kept winning and jumped back into first. The Golden Knights are here to stay.
Like the Blues of the 60’s, they are not the expansion teams of the past. They were given every advantage and a new set of expansion draft rules to supply just this sort of jumping off point.
Nobody expected them to be this good this fast. However, they’re doing it and are going to be tough to deal with the rest of the season.
The Blues have found their footing a little bit, winners of their last two. This is not the time to breathe a sigh of relief and think you’re playing an expansion team.
St. Louis has to go into this game thinking they’re playing the top team in the conference. The Blues typically play up to their opponent, so they have to see what Vegas is, not what we thought they’d be.
Vegas has four 30 point scorers and five players with double-digit goals. Stopping them won’t be easy.
They’re winners of their last eight and 9-0-1 in their last 10. They haven’t scored fewer than 3 goals since December 14 either.
It’s up to the Blues to keep their roll going. However, even if the Blues play their very best, we have to come to grips with the idea that it might not be enough.