When the St. Louis Blues lost to the Florida Panthers on December 4, 2021, the radio crew brought something up that stuck with me. While the Blues are not considered a top team this year by most analysts, they are not as far off as the social media throng would have you believe.
Fans – you, me, everyone – tend to view things too minutely. We see a bad result, form an opinion and let that opinion dictate how we see the next handful of games.
We then twist the outcome of those games to fit our own narrative. More often than not, the truth does not fit into that narrative.
That’s why you see so many people jump on Vladimir Tarasenko or say Jordan Binnington has lost it. They don’t want to acknowledge that Tarasenko is on pace for a 25-plus goal season because they only see seven goals at the quarter mark and wonder why it’s not 10 or 15 or 20 already.
They don’t want to acknowledge that the Blues have won plenty of games, or hung into plenty of games, due to saves made by Binnington. They see lower numbers than they think a starting goaltender should have and dismiss all the reasons that could be.
This applies to the team too. Nevermind that St. Louis is still second in the Central Division and fifth best in the entire conference despite not having their entire team together for an entire game all season so far.
Beyond just the numbers of wins and losses, you have to look at how the Blues have fared against the “best” in the league. I use quotes because best is subjective, i.e. I don’t personally trust any of the top three in the Pacific Division to actually win that division. We shall see.
To the point, the Blues have done very well against the perceived top teams. Regardless of a win or a loss, they play up to their competition just about every night.
Despite their current standing in the middle of the Central, many still have the Colorado Avalanche as their prime Stanley Cup pick. The Blues are 1-1-0 against Colorado so far, with eight goals for and seven against.
Fans go gaga over the Edmonton Oilers and their plethora of skill. While the Blues did lose their one game so far against Edmonton, it was a 5-4 loss that was never out of reach.
The Florida Panthers are one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference. It was not always pretty throughout the 60 minutes played, but the Blues took a point against the top team out there and had the lead three different times too. We can discuss why they did not hold it, but that does not take away from the fact they found a way to compete toe to toe with another Cup contender.
As mentioned, we can debate whether the San Jose Sharks are for real, but they’re currently in the same point range as the Blues. Despite this, St. Louis has bested them twice and outscored them 9-4 overall.
Tampa Bay has won two-straight Stanley Cups. The Blues split the season series, had a come from behind win after trailing 3-0 and were only outscored 7-6 over those two games.
Two other conference opponents that are sexy picks to win it all are Winnipeg and Vegas. The Blues have three wins in three games over those two teams, two of which came against the Golden Knights. Amazingly, the Blues have outscored Vegas 8-3 in two games and beat Winnipeg 3-2.
The bottom line is that the Blues can and will hang with anyone. List any team in the league that you think might win the Stanley Cup and the Blues are going to compete, they’ll get their wins against that team and we still have not seen the best this team has to offer yet.
We are treated to glimpses here or there. You’ll get a game or two with an almost healthy lineup or maybe even a period where everyone that was supposed to start the year actually plays.
Then, injuries or protocols take hold. The Blues still find a way to hang in there more often than not.
Ultimately, that actually makes things more frustrating. Five days into December, the Blues have lost two in a row and are a middling 4-4-2 in their last 10.
We all still focus on the minutia. We still wonder why this guy isn’t scoring or that goal went in or why this line or that player sees too many important minutes despite mistakes.
Yet, when you stand back and view the painting from afar, you’ll see that the Blues are right there. If nothing else, they may be one of the more dangerous teams in the mix because nobody is picking them, which could put a chip on their shoulder, and they’re clearly capable of hanging with all the best teams.
We can debate whether that’s sustainable over a seven-game series. You cannot debate that the Blues are right there with all the top teams from a compete level.
The one main thing holding them back is that just as they play up to their opponent, they play down too. They’re dropping too many points to bottom feeders and maybe that’s why they don’t get the recognition they deserve.