The St. Louis Blues are still defending Stanley Cup champions, until they are not. That does not mean everyone sees them as the most credible of threats.
When the St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup, of course there were doubters and haters. No matter who wins the Cup, there are always detractors, but most of it is just sour grapes.
Blues fans were too excited and joyful to notice much of it. They were buried deep within the warm embrace of Gloria, too much beer and the euphoria of being a champion for the first time in franchise history.
Part of what we did not notice was the outsiders talking about how the Blues were one of the weaker Cup champions in recent history. How you judge those things is completely subjective, but we all do it.
Sadly, much of the time it boils down to market. If a city is not deemed credible, then the team cannot be any good.
You get that a lot from fans in cities like New York or Boston. How could any team stand up to their behemoths, what with their large coffers of money?
Even when Blues fans started becoming more aware of this perception, they brushed it off. The team helped them out quite a bit by being in first place in the Western Conference for much of what was played in the 2019-20 season.
However, even after all that – after being a champion and beating one of the perceived best teams in the NHL and being the best team in the conference in the standings – the Blues are still not seen as a team capable of being dominant. In fact, their low points are seen as normal by outsiders.
Thomas Drance of The Athletic falls into that category. While he gives the Blues full credit for being a hard team for anyone to play against, he is of the opinion that the Blues played well in Game 1 against the Vancouver Canucks.
Drance is no slouch. He’s been covering the game for years, for various outlets, working his way into an NHL gig with the Florida Panthers doing PR and communications before returning to Vancouver to cover the Canucks for The Athletic. He knows his stuff.
Nevertheless, he contends that the Blues brought it against the Canucks and threw a good punch, even if not their absolute best.
Every person is entitled to their opinion. As an outsider who only sees the Blues a few times per season and only highlights after that, perhaps he honestly thinks that was close to the best the Blues have to offer.
The worry is it is as much about perception as anything. If Vancouver was playing Chicago after they won a Cup or Pittsburgh and those teams played the exact same way and the score was still 5-2 Canucks, would someone like Drance or anyone with similar thinking say the opponents brought it?
We should have no issue with Drance praising the game of the Canucks. They actually brought their game.
They came out, grabbed the game by the scruff and took it in the direction they wanted. The Blues did not. Vancouver did not let them, but just as important, the Blues did not really do enough to force Vancouver to let them.
That is more the issue. The Blues were not at their best and that was nothing close to their best punch.
As mentioned in previous articles and Twitter, the Blues have improved, but not enough yet. They have graduated to regular season hockey after playing exhibition hockey in the round-robin. Vancouver is playing playoff hockey and the Blues have not matched that yet.
The Blues have relied far too much on goaltending in the Edmonton bubble. Jordan Binnington was not unflappable in Game 1 against Vancouver and the Blues expected him to be. Their game demanded he be perfect and he was merely human.
Drance was not completely wrong. Vancouver was the better team in Game 1.
However, from a fan’s perspective, it feels like disrespect (even though it isn’t) to say Game 1 was a good performance. The Blues were not good, other than in flashes.
To have that described as coming close to their best punch just reinforces the misconception that those outside St. Louis don’t pay attention to this team and don’t see them as a dominant champion. It is up to the Blues to prove that right or wrong now.