Hello, and welcome to all Winnipeg Jets fans. Greetings from sunny St. Louis, where the high today was a balmy 76 degrees. I sure hope the snow up there isn’t too deep!
Okay, now that the playful teasing is out of the way, let’s get down to business. You’ve come here to find out everything you need to know about the St. Louis Blues, and we’ve got you covered! We’ll give you the history, the season, and the players you’ll love to hate, and we’ll have a little fun on the way, so sit down, buckle up, and let’s get started.
(P.S.: We’re borrowing this idea from our awesome team writer, Zeke, who covers the San Jose Sharks, so be sure to check out his detailed guide to his squad, even if you’re not a Vegas Golden Knights fan.)
St. Louis Blues History
The Blues entered the NHL in the original expansion of the league, joining the ranks along with the California Seals, the Los Angeles Kings, the Minnesota North Stars, the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The inaugural season for this group of teams was the 1967-68 campaign.
Because the expansion teams were gathered into one conference, the Blues achieved the unique honor of being sacrificed to the Eastern Conference champion in the Stanley Cup Final. They lost to the Montreal Canadiens each of their first two seasons, followed by the Boston Bruins, when Bobby Orr scored one of hockey’s most famous goals in the process.
Though the Blues have not been back to the final since Orr’s famous flying goal, they have made the postseason all but nine times in franchise history. The organization and its fans are desperate to bring their first Stanley Cup home to the Gateway City, and they’re hoping to do it this season.
St. Louis Blues Season
Considering the season the Blues have had, it is remarkable that fans can still cling to that hope. As Jets fans, you may remember the hopeless, feckless, and disorganized Blues that you trounced 5-1 on the opening night of the season. After that, you beat them two more times: 5-4 in overtime on Oct. 22 and then 8-4 on Nov. 24, an absolute drudging in which Patrik Laine scored five goals (a full 16.6 percent of his season total).
Though the Blues would salvage one victory, a 1-0 shutout on Dec. 7, it’s safe to say that the Jets thoroughly dominated St. Louis during their four games in the first half of the season.
Unfortunately for Winnipeg, the team that played in the first half is not the Blues that you’ll see on Wednesday. On Jan. 7, rookie goaltender and presumed Calder Trophy finalist Jordan Binnington debuted with a shutout against the Philadelphia Flyers, and neither he nor the team has looked back.
Since Jan. 1, the Blues are 30-10-5, where the Jets are 22-18-3. There’s no question which team is hotter entering the playoffs, but with an unproven rookie goaltender leading the charge, it’s hard to predict the future.
Players to Watch
You’re probably familiar with some of the Blues stars, like Vladimir Tarasenko, Colton Parayko, and relative newcomer Ryan O’Reilly. But here are a few of the players you might not yet know:
The young goalie has been simply incredible this season. He’s posted a record of 24-5-1 and has not recorded back-to-back losses a single time. His save percentage sits a .927, and his 1.89 goals-against average leads the league. Despite only starting 30 games, he has an impressive goals saved above average rating of 13.74. Have his stunning numbers this season left him nervous?
No, not the Matchbox Twenty singer. Robert Thomas entered the season as the Blues number one prospect, and he has not disappointed. Despite a bit of a rocky start, he’s finished the year with 33 points and an impressive 51.3 Corsi for percentage. Thomas has found great chemistry late in the season on a line with Tyler Bozak and the revitalized Patrick Maroon. That third line could be a major thorn in the Jets’ side.
If any player is likely to step his game up to a whole new level in the playoffs, it may be Vince Dunn, the defenseman whose game has steadily improved through the 2018-19 season. He is now an integral part of the Blues’ defensive core, and could easily lead that group in points in the playoffs.
Reasons to Hate the Blues
Blues fans are a bit like Rocky: no matter how many times they get punched, they keep coming back for more. Anyone with half a brain who had endured this much suffering would surely have jumped ship by now. But that’s not the way Blues fans operate. Gross.
The Quiet Ovechkin
Only two men in the National Hockey League have scored 30 or more goals each of the last five seasons. One is Alex Ovechkin. You’ve probably heard of him, he’s the fellow who got to hold that big, silver thing we both want last season. The other is the Blues’ very own Tarasenko.
He’s consistent, he’s thoughtful, he’s got an infectious smile. He’s even been on the cover of a video game because of a fan vote. There’s no evidence of this, but he’s probably a little TOO happy, right? “Smug.” That’s the word you’ll want to use. And boy will you love to hate him.
That… Darn… Towel Guy
The Blues have one of the unheralded great traditions in sport, and its name is “Towel Guy.” Towel Guy (real name Ron Baechle) has been to ever game in St. Louis since time immemorial, and he has this nasty habit of waving his towels around and throwing them when the Blues score goals.
Of course, as he’s waving the towel around, a giant bell sounds in the arena, and the fans count off the goals. It’s a nightmare for opposing teams and fans alike. It’s a bit like the chants the Nashville Predators’ fans aim at their opponent’s goalies after goals, but a lot more original!
Winnipeg vs. St. Louis: Best of Luck
In the coming week-plus, you’ll learn to hate Towel Guy, Tarasenko, and everything else associated with the Blues. But here’s hoping you learn to respect them, as well. This series has all the ingredients for a playoff classic, and it should be one to remember for a long, long time. Best of luck to both sides. Wednesday night can’t get here soon enough.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.