St. Louis Blues: 5 Games in Shortened Season You Can't Miss
The NHL and NHLPA have signed the memorandum of understanding, and the NHL has released each team's shortened schedule.
It's official. Hockey is back.
The Blues were the feel-good story of last season and are determined to prove it was no fluke. They welcome the target on their back.
In the shortened season, each game is going to matter more than ever. The Blues can't afford to make many mistakes.
As a Blues fan, the following five games are ones you don't want to miss. They could define the season. Win these games and the Note could be back in the postseason. Lose and they could be on the golf course in May.
But, for sure, you do not want to miss these games.
Jan.19: Home vs. Detroit Red Wings
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It's the season opener, what more did you expect?
The Blues and Red Wings will face off on "Rivalry Day" to open the season, Saturday night. The game will be played in St. Louis, which is huge for Blues fans. Scottrade Center should be rocking and ready to go come puck drop.
For the Blues, this will be the best way to test themselves right from the start. The Red Wings have become the gold standard for success in the Western Conference and have been the face of the Central Division for several years. As reigning champions of the Central Division, the Blues can show that last year was not a fluke and that they are now the team to beat in the Central.
The Red Wings will have to figure out who will step up to replace Nicklas Lidstrom as the unquestioned leader of the team. Goaltender Jimmy Howard will be looking to solidify himself as an elite goaltender in the NHL, so fans should be treated to a great goalie battle.
The Blues and Red Wings could not be a better start for both clubs. This game will be gritty with flashes of pure brilliance. A matchup to watch is Vladimir Tarasenko vs. Pavel Datsyuk. Both are extremely skilled goal-scorers and should light the lamp.
This game will have everything hockey fans have missed.
Feb. 17: Away at Vancouver Canucks
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By this time in the season, both teams will have gotten into a groove. This is what makes this game so important.
The Blues will have to travel into Vancouver on the last game of a three-game, six-day road trip, spanning all four time zones. Meanwhile, the Canucks will have been at home for the previous three games before welcoming the Blues. This will be a true test for the Blues.
If the Blues are the top team in the conference, that will show against the Canucks, who will want to show that they still are the team to beat. This is a marquee matchup and will have all the makings of a true classic.
The Canucks and Blues have always played each other with lots of intensity. This first meeting of 2013 between the clubs will have that and probably more.
March 10: Away at Anaheim Ducks
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While the Canucks will be a game circled on the Blues' schedule, the Anaheim game may not be. But it should be.
The Blues will come into Anaheim on the back end of a five-game road trip, the team's longest of the season. With such a long trip, the Blues may not be paying as much attention to the Ducks as they should be. It's the perfect trap game.
In order for the Blues to truly be a Cup-contending team, they will have to beat the teams that they are supposed to beat. One of those team is the Ducks. The Blues are clearly the better team, but the Ducks figure to come out blazing.
The games occurs right when the playoff picture should start to clear, and Anaheim could be a bubble team. Beating the best team in the league would add a lot of legitimacy to the Ducks' season. If the Blues lose, those two points could be costly.
This will be a gut-check game for the Blues and will be a test to see if they can close out games that they should.
April 11: Away at Minnesota Wild
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One of the most underrated rivalries in the NHL is Wild vs. Blues. Both teams play the same gritty style. With Cal Clutterbuck and David Backes leading both sides physically and emotionally, this game will set the playoff atmosphere for both teams.
The Blues will go into Minnesota with a general idea where they will be in the playoffs. But if they are still battling for a playoff/division spot, this could be the biggest game for both sides.
The Blues will look at this game as a playoff game, as the talent on the Wild is of playoff caliber. The Blues will make sure their defense is ready for postseason play.
The Wild will want to show that adding Zach Parise and Ryan Suter was the final push to make them a playoff team. Playing the Blues will force them to find a way to score against an extremely stingy defense. If they can't, it will show them what they need to work on to make the playoffs.
Both teams will use this as a tune-up for the playoffs, as fans will be treated to a playoff atmosphere in early April.
April 27: Home vs. Blackhawks
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The season finale will be one to remember. The Blues and Hawks will face off in St. Louis for what could be the game that decides the Central Division title.
No matter the seeding, the Blues will want to beat the Hawks. These teams play each other five times during the regular season, including three times in April. This means there is likely to be bad blood between the teams, making this the best possible game before the playoffs.
The Blues don't have the best scoring, but the type of pressure Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford will face could be exactly what he needs to get accustomed to the pressure of the postseason.
Both teams will not only be looking to win the division, but also to make a serious Cup run. These teams are expected to be first and second in the division and could be in the top four of the conference.
This game will be a dream season finale. Fans will love this matchup as a precursor to the postseason.