The St. Louis Blues are in an odd position going into Game 7 against Dallas. They have home ice, but the situation has become tenuous between the players and fans.
The St. Louis Blues have always enjoyed a tight bond with their fan base. That is one of the biggest reasons why so many former players ended up staying in the area once their playing days were done.
However, things have grown a bit strained over the past few days. The reaction to the effort level in Game 5 against the Dallas Stars has driven a rather large wedge between players and fans and also between fans themselves.
The divide between fans seems to splinter in many directions. There are those that believe what the players were selling and the team played fine in Game 5 and was the victim of bad luck and a hot goaltender.
If you have read my articles, you know I do not fall into that category. I think it was one of the worst games they have played in the past two or three months and Ben Bishop was never forced to make more than a handful of good saves, regardless of how many shots the scoreboard showed.
The other splinter division of fans believes there is no room for the reaction those in the arena gave to the team. In their eyes, there is no scenario where it is alright to show your displeasure with the team in a unified voice, i.e. booing the players and/or their efforts.
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That very topic was broached on 101 ESPN’s afternoon show, The Fastlane. Randy Karraker and Reed Low made the point that the players can sense the vibe in the building and if/when the fans turn on players, it puts them on their heels instead of spurring them on.
I get that. Feeling unwanted or unloved can make you shrink from the occasion just as often, if not more, than it driving you to prove people wrong.
However, when things are as bad as they were in that game, I do feel people have a right to let the players know it is unacceptable. I’m not here to bring money paid or years of service into the equation. I don’t think that gives anyone a right more than those that are at home. I do think if a team’s performance bothers you that much, you have the right to voice it as long as you are not using vile or over the top language in the process.
I don’t have a major problem with that attitude, but it does feel like those fans are on their high horse at times. Not everyone takes that mentality, but some just come off so high and mighty about how they would never boo their own team and they cheer for them no matter what.
We all love the Blues and just do it in our own way. I do not think I would have booed, but I would not be against those that did. The team gave them absolutely no reason to cheer. So, how are they supposed to take this imaginary high road in an attempt to be a positive force for the team when there was absolutely nothing to cheer?
The players see things differently. David Perron was professional in his response to the booing, but felt it was harsh.
“I mean, it’s not ideal, for sure,” forward Perron said in the Post-Dispatch. “I think, also from where we came from to this, it was tough to hear for sure. But it is what it is right now. We understand that our power play wasn’t good enough and it is what it is.”
Again, he’s taking the high road, but that comes off like he realizes one aspect of their game was not good but they’ve given the fans a lot so they do not deserve boos. It seems a bit whiny to me, but I’m not the one getting booed.
Jordan Binnington was also on the high road, but clearly thought it was unneeded. “It happens,” said Binnington, as reported by Tom Timmermann. “They were unhappy, I guess.” The I guess tends toward the feeling they did not have the right to react that way, but you can’t say that. I’m not with him there, but again, everyone sees it differently.
The point being, we have reached a sort of chicken and the egg scenario. The Blues apparently need a completely positive atmosphere to play well at home. However, the Blues need to play well at home to get a positive atmosphere – i.e. chicken or the egg.
For me, the team has to give the fans a reason to cheer. I’m as hardcore as it gets with always hoping for the best, but it truly is hard to cheer if the team is making mistake after mistake and you feel any goal scored would have been pure luck, as would have been the case in Game 5.
Game 7’s are a different animal. It’s win or go home, so the atmosphere should be different and hopefully fans won’t fill the building with anxiousness.
That said, the players have to give that building something to get on their feet about. No amount of organ music or prompts on jumbotron, aka AVA, can make the fans react the way actual good play can.
So, it’s up to the players. Yes, you want to feel the good vibes and have thousands of people behind you, and they will. The players are still the ones that need to draw everyone to their feet and keep them there.