ST. LOUIS MO - JANUARY 18: St. Louis Blues fans celebrate a goal by Patrik Berglund #21 of the St. Louis Blues against the Los Angeles Kings at the Scottrade Center on January 18 2011 in St. Louis Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
The Blues've accomplished something that has been uncommon over the past 45 years: a division championship banner. Let the team -- and its fans -- have their moment.
The Blues winning the division title doesn't happen often. Frankly, it only seems to happen once in a blue moon -- and not since the 1999-2000 season has it happened to the Blues. For the first time in 12 years, the Blues have won the division championship, albiet under the least auspicious of circumstances. That's not a commentary on the season by any means -- it's a commentary on how disappointing the 5-2 loss to Columbus was. It was a game that should have been won, and the loss strangled the team's chance to really celebrate their division title.
Some fans, as evidenced by the comments over on the celebratory thread at St. Louis Game Time, felt the same way as the team. Yay for the title, but the game itself was such a hinderance to a celebration that folks couldn't get going for it. It's understandable to a degree -- the Blues have played two terrible games back to back after three shutouts in a row from Brian Elliott. They look a little tired, and a little confused by getting so many players back from the injured reserve at once. The line combinations were off, and the team's mental sharpness was toast. That's no reason for anyone to ignore the accomplishments of this season.
No one expected the Blues to win a division so long dominated by their rivals. Playoffs? Sure -- between the sixth and eighth seed, probably. Maybe win a round or so, get the kids some experience, and say what an improvement this year was. That's all that the Blues and their fans probably expected from this season. But winning the division? It carries a whole other bunch of expectations. With three games left, there's still a chance for the Presidents' Trophy. The kids have been playing like grown-ups, and the grown-ups have been guiding this team like Obi-Wan Kenobi. Win just one playoff round? Please. Win two. Get to the Conference Championship round, and win that. Win a Cup for all we care, just keep winning. That's what the expectations have shifted to now -- which explains why the fans are so disappointed with how the team got their division title.
Frankly, who cares? They have played excellent hockey all year long, set team and personal records, challenged NHL records, and have turned themselves into the sleeper cell of the NHL. Minimal press, minimal fuss and muss... no one expected this, and no one still does. That's what makes it so special. Not only did the Blues overcome the odds this season, they've overcome being that mid-market team in middle America that's not all shiny and pretty with superstars and media packs following around them like half-starved wolves. The Blues care about themselves, and the fans care about the Blues. That's all that matters.
That's why we (and the team) should be so proud. The Blues did it for themselves, sure -- but they did it for us. They didn't do it for ESPN or NBC or any of the other national media outlets. They're our team, and this is our championship. Be proud of it, and be proud of whatever comes in the playoffs. They deserve it.