posted on May 03, 2013 05:00
Barret Jackman has seen the highs and lows of the St. Louis Blues. When he broke into the league as a 21-year-old rookie in 2002, Jackman was playing alongside a couple of Rolls Royces in Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger. He went on to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's best freshman.
When former Blues owner Bill “I'd rather have an NBA team” Laurie decided to gut the team like a fish after the 2004-05 lockout, Jackman saw the luxury cars go bye-bye as Pronger was traded to Edmonton and MacInnis ultimately retired. The Blues replaced the two superstars with stalwarts such as Steve Poapst and Eric Weinrich.
For years, Jackman has been the target of many fans who have compiled a laundry list of compaints. They have ranged anywhere from he wasn't a real member of the bald community to he actually had the audacity to breathe the same air as the towel man.
I could care less what the naysayers think. I know I'll have the one guy who will tell me Jackman sucks and I'm an idiot because said jackass played recreational roller hockey in an abandoned Kroger parking lot and he knows how to play sound positional defense better than Jackman. Good for you. Jackman has been the best defenseman the Blues have had this year. He had one of the finest seasons of his career this past regular season. So how appropriate was it that his first NHL playoff goal was the game winner last night?
Jackman sent a crowd of 18,681 into a mad frenzy after snapping a shot past Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick with 51 seconds left in the third period. The goal not only won the game for the Blues, it also gave them a very important 2-0 lead over the defending Stanley Cup champions in the best of seven Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Blues owner Tom Stillman was so excited I thought he was going to summon the ghost of Rodney Dangerfield and blurt out “Hey everybody! We're all gonna get laid!”
The series now shifts to Los Angeles and the Staples Center; a place the Blues have not tasted victory in since March 17, 2011. The Kings were stingy at home this year bragging a 19-4-1 record. The Blues on the other hand aren't intimidated by enemy territory as they had a 14-9-1 record on the road.
The Blues could just as easily be down 2-0 instead of the other way around and they know that. This team looks completely different than the version that showed up against the Kings in last year's playoffs. This season's model is matching Los Angeles pound for pound inch for inch. Whereas last season they were taking undisciplined penalties and putting themselves behind the eight ball, they are now letting the Kings do the task instead.
Case in point last night was the faceoff where Kings forward Jordan Nolan kicked Adam Cracknell and then proceeded to slash him multiple times. Cracknell stood his ground and never retaliated while Nolan got sent to the box for two minutes. Last year, the Blues would have sought revenge instead of playing smart hockey.
The Blues remind me of last year's Kings. Like Los Angeles, the Blues made a couple of slick deals that strengthened their team. Defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold have brought stability to the backline which wasn't there before their arrival. Bouwmeester in particular has seemed to help Alex Pietrangelo as now he doesn't feel he has to be Bobby Orr, Scott Stevens, and Paul Coffey all rolled up into one. Brian Elliott has been a recipient of the improved defense as well. Since returning to the lineup on April 1, he is 13-2.
This series is far from over but I certainly like the tenacity the Blues have brought to the table thus far. Before the trades of Bouwmeester and Leopold, it seemed like anytime the Blues got down a goal or had the opposition tie the game like LA did in game 1, they would play not to lose or give up on their game plan altogether. Now, they fight tooth and nail until the final horn. Kings fans, this ain't your mama's 2011-12 St. Louis Blues. Like your team, they came to play. Prepare for a fight.