Tonight, hockey resumes. Ready or not, the puck will drop and the 2013 NHL season begins.
Though attendance around the league is uncertain, there is no doubt the Scottrade Center in St. Louis will feature a sold out crowd with the Detroit Red Wings in town.
Blues fans are optimistically excited for the season, and rightfully so considering the giant leap the team took a year ago. The once “Baby Blues” manhandled a veteran San Jose Shark team in the first round of the playoffs, the organization’s first playoff win since 2004.
The growing process took time. We saw Mike Kitchen, Andy Murray and Davis Payne come and go behind the bench before ultimately attracting Ken Hitchcock, whose twice led a team to the Stanley Cup Finals, winning one.
The young nucleus of talent led by captain David Backes returns with a new pair of exciting prospects in Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko. Alex Pietrangelo has asserted himself as a top defender in the league, and the Blues benefit from an All-Star goaltending duo in Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot.
Everything on paper screams destiny, including predictions from big-name network analysts. The rigorous, condensed schedule appeals to the Blues’ offensive depth and dual goaltending system. But, as Hitchcock is quick to point out, it’s all talk until they prove it on the ice.
Though taking down the Sharks was nice, the second round of the playoffs turned disastrous. The eventual Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings swept the Blues in dominant fashion. The Blues were constantly pinned in their own zone, and lost the physical battle — something the team rarely did all season.
No test seems as appropriate than opening against the hated Detroit Red Wings. The Blues finally get to raise a Central Division banner, something they’re used to seeing at the Joe Louis Arena. Detroit begins its quest for a 22nd straight playoff appearance; the Blues are trying for two.
After winning the first two contests last season, the Blues went 0-3-1 while being outscored 12-5 over the last four meetings with the Red Wings last season. Detroit has earned points in eight of the last nine meetings in St. Louis.
The Blues are trying to reach an echelon with the Detroit’s, Vancouver’s, and San Jose’s. Winning tonight won’t bring home Lord Stanley, but it would erase the sulfuric taste left from the LA series. No one knows what to expect this first week with so little time to prepare, but a fan base starving for success would love nothing more than a Detroit beat down.
Should be fun. Enjoy the game, and LET’S GO BLUES.