The St. Louis Blues are one win away from making it to a place they have not been to for 49 years. However, the players cannot take that into account when they step onto the ice for Game 6 of the Western Conference Final.
The St. Louis Blues enjoyed more success than any other team in their first few years of existence. Today’s fans marvel at how good the Vegas Golden Knights were right away, but they forget the Blues made it to three-straight Cup Finals.
Of course, you will have the naysayers that say the Blues played in an all expansion division, so it was easier. There were still far fewer slots available for the top pros, so you were still getting the best of the best.
Unfortunately for all of us that bleed blue, there has not been a return trip since those early glory years. We thought maybe in 1986, but Calgary was just too strong. It looked like the Blues year in 2000, but they choked in the first round.
2002 and 2016 saw the team go to the conference finals, but they came up against much stronger opponents. Now, in 2019, they are one win away from going to that next step. 49 years of emptiness could evaporate in 60 minutes – maybe.
The problem is San Jose will not go down without a fight. Do not expect them to be as reckless as the end of Game 5. They are smart enough to know that if physicality is their only goal, a win is not going to happen and they must win to stay alive.
However, the Blues do not need to focus on the Sharks. When the Blues have played to the best of their abilities, they have been the dominant team. This series should be over if the Blues could have held on for one more minute at the end of Game 3.
But now, they know this is an elimination game. They know they can make it to the final with just one more win.
That is all they need to concentrate on. As fans, we can sit around and talk about all the franchise’s failures in the past and that this would be the first trip to that final round in most of our lives.
The players cannot worry about that. I do not doubt this team would be able to shoulder that responsibility, but they don’t need to.
Like many fans, nobody on this team was even alive when the Blues last went to the final. Even head coach Craig Berube was only 4 when that happened.
If or when they win that last game, then we can all talk or write about how they lifted the city up and took on that challenge. They cannot actually let any of that seep in though. Worrying about winning a big game is burdensome enough without the weight of multiple generations of expectation and heartache.
Anyone who thinks players do not feel any burden never paid attention to the Chicago Cubs. We can all talk about curses and what not, but you are putting on blinders if you don’t think all the great players in Wrigley, over the years, heard the whispers in March grow into deafening roars by the time October rolled around and it affected them. Players are human after all. I don’t envy the crushing weight of responsibility any team bears when the franchise they play for has not won.
Don’t give that team any hope. Snuff it out right away and the players will never feel the nerves of the fans. Even if San Jose somehow scores first, they have to only focus on that ice and that bench, not the anxiousness of the thousands in the stands and millions at home.
This is the team that can do it. The city believes, but we are cautious because we have been burned before. This current roster is not the one that has burned us, so they need not worry about any other failures because they have yet to fail.
All they need to worry about is that last step and that’s big enough. Us fans will take care of our own worries.