Published on October 1st, 2013 | by Samantha Hoffmann, Staff writer
St. Louis Blues: Games to watch in the upcoming season
After a lockout resulted in both the 2012-2013 season becoming strictly 2013 and the 82-game schedule being reduced to 48 games, fans all over were anxious to see the upcoming season’s schedule that features the newly redesigned conferences and divisions. This season, each team will play a home-and-home two-game series against every team in the league in addition to extra games against division rivals. The Blues are a member of theCentral Division along with the defending Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets. Below outlines the most interesting games in the Blues’ schedule to watch.
October 9: Chicago Blackhawks
On October 9, the Blues play the first game in a five-game series against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. The Blues and the Blackhawks used to have a much more serious rivalry, one where every game was a hard-fought battle for the victory. Recent seasons have seen the rekindling of this rivalry. Last season, the series was almost split, with Chicago winning three games to St. Louis’ two.
After some slight changes to their roster this offseason, the Blackhawks have come upon another rebuilding year similar to the one they faced after the last time they won the Stanley Cup in 2010. However, this time the changes were not as drastic, leaving them with a similar corps of players to the one that went all the way last year. On the other hand, the Blues have made great improvementsin regards to their weaknesses by signing Derek Roy and Brenden Morrow and resigning Chris Stewart. This makes the Blues much more of a threat this coming season, as they have been more and more dangerous as years have passed under coach Ken Hitchcock’s tooling. If they are able to take this game and this series, they position themselves as a serious Stanley Cup threat.
November 9: Pittsburgh Penguins
The first of two games the Blues play against the perennial Cup favorites falls luckily at home, where the Blues had the majority of their successes in the post-season. This game will feature a lot of skill from the Eastern Conference runner-up, but the biggest question is which team will bend to the will of the other? Both were plagued with this critical fault during the playoffs which led to the dashing of both of their Cup hopes. A dastardly team to play against in the regular season, the Penguins have proven time and time again that they can win easily even in the absence of All-Star Captain Sidney Crosby who will be healthy to begin this upcoming season. If the Blues can handle them, they can handle almost any team the Eastern Conference may throw their way.
December 2: Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings have eliminated the Blues from the postseason each of the last two years, going on to win the Stanley Cup the first. This last postseason series against the Kings was extremely hard-hitting, with each team trying to force the other one to make small mistakes. Unfortunately, the Blues’ defense seemed to pinch at the wrong times, giving up too many odd-man chances on their own net. This season, if they hope to win, the Blues need to focus on both tightening up their defense and allowing fewer giveaways. Their issue did not lie so much in the face-off circle or in the hit realm as it did small slip-ups that the quick (pun intended) Kings were able to capitalize on.
February 26: At Vancouver Canucks
This game is the first one back after the much-anticipated Olympic Break. It was not announced until late this summer that NHL players would even be allowed to participatein the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Like every team, the Blues have a few players who hope to crack their respective country’s Olympic roster. This means that teams that have a lot of Olympic athletes may become exhausted during this time period.
The Canucks will most likely be sending a few of their star players to Russia, meaning that the team that faces the Blues in late February will most likely be a tired one. All the better for the Blues- if they can play strong post-Olympics then they will be able to capture many points from teams that are rebounding from the Games. The Canucks are known as one of the toughest teams to play against in the Western Conference, so if they can beat them, then surely no team could stand in their way during their quest for the Cup.
On the other hand, if the Blues also send many players to the Olympics, a quick rebound may prove the difference between a team that wins the Cup and one that makes silly mistakes due to exhaustion. Expect this game to be indicative of how the rest of the season may go for the Blues at this point.
While these four games are only a handful of the 82 games the Blues play this season, do not expect these to be the only exciting ones. Oftentimes a game may surprise you, especially against “less-powerful” teams such as the Florida Panthers or Colorado Avalanche. Sometimes it is the game one most expects to be boring that is the most gut-wrenching and heart-pounding to watch.