But I can't help falling in love with these Blues.
That little voice in the back of my brain tells me that I'm just setting myself up for a heartbreak. "Remember last season?" the voice whispers. "The Blues came into 2011 on a roll, and crapped the bed in January? Do you remember how that felt?"
Well, to be perfectly honest, I do and I don't give a damn. Such is love. Love is blind, and stupid, and completely impervious to logic. I LOVE THESE GUYS (well, most of them--more in a minute). They're not at all like last year--THEY'VE CHANGED. This time, I know it's for real.
Oh, boy, if a fall comes it's going to be hard. But in the great human tradition/survival mechanism, I will now rationalize my irrational love, so that the logic side of my brain will shut up for at least a few minutes.
Last year's squad petered out mostly because they ran out of bodies. Perron, Oshie, Polak, Jackman, McDonald...for long stretches of the season, a third of the Blues' roster was filled with AHL players and fringe NHLers. Only two players--David Backes and Matt D'Agostini--played all 82 games, with two others--Patrick Berglund and BJ Crombeen--playing 80 apiece. And, let's face it, Crombeen doesn't exactly soak up minutes. On the other hand, Tyson Strachan, Chris Porter and Adam Cracknell all got to get away from Peoria for significant stretches.
"Hold on a goddamn minute!" Logic says. "McDonald is out AGAIN. Alex Steen (maybe the most important player on the team) is concussed for who knows how long. Kris Russell is hurt. Jackman can't keep getting hit in the head every other game without consequences. HOW MANY GAMES ARE CHRIS PORTER AND EVGENY GRACHEV GOING TO PLAY IN?! HMMM? HMMMMMMMMM?
"And please don't tell me how Chris Porter is a young kid who is developing into a solid NHL player. He's 27, and playing 9 minutes a game. He's a warm body that won't screw up too much. NEXT POINT."
You just don't get it, Logic. You can't get it, and I feel sorry for you. You don't know what it's like to see Kevin Shattenkirk's eyes light up as he dances around a forward and unleashes a shot. You can't feel your heartbeat quicken when Alex Pietrangelo plays effortless, amazing positional defense, and then perfectly times jumping up into the play. I swear to God, if he cocked his slap shot back to the rafters he would be Al MacInnis. Have you even watched Perron stickhandle? It makes me feel funny in special places.
I'll grant that they're not ALL lovable. Jamie Langenbrunner could retire this afternoon and I'd be happy for (admittedly replacement-level) Porter to get more ice time. Berglund is, once again, the most invisible 6'4" 220-lb guy on the planet. And, as a father, I think Andy McDonald should never play hockey again, so that he can actually reminisce about his career with his kids some day.
But if you've watched Blues games this season, you should have seen that on most nights, Backes and/or TJ Oshie are the best players on the ice for either team. Jason Arnott still has something left in the proverbial tank. Chris Stewart is showing signs of (finally) going on a hot streak. The power play, thank God, is showing a pulse. Let's be honest: fluttery feelings aside, these guys are GOOD. Maybe not Chicago good, or Boston good, but a legitimate playoff team that other teams don't like to play. When's the last time you could say that about the Blues? (Hint: We still had a Number 44.)
So let go, Logic, just for a bit. Sit back and enjoy the ride. Stay, it won't be a sin. Like the Mississippi River flows to the, uh, Gulf, so it goes. Some things are meant to be.
LeNoceur used to have his own hockey blog, until the pressure of all the fame and fortune forced him to retreat from the public eye. Now, he is grateful to Thrashing the Blues for the opportunity to occasionally blog about his favorite team.