I spent the better part of Wednesday afternoon trying to talk my co-hosts Brad and D’Marco off the ledge in regards to the Blues. Echoing Lt. Frank Drebin, as he so ably pointed out in the first “Naked Gun” movie, I said, “Please disperse. There’s nothing to see here. Move along.”
Indeed, what the Blues are dealing with is nothing that previous Stanley Cup champions haven’t gone through. Last year, as great as the Blackhawks were in the 48-game season, and after failing to lose in regulation in the first half, they lost three of four games between March 20-29, falling at Anaheim, and losing to Los Angeles and Anaheim at home. Of course, the Hawks were great during the playoffs and won their second Stanley Cup in four seasons.
Turning to full seasons, you’ll remember that the Stanley Cup champion Kings of two years ago made the playoffs on the second-to-last day of the season, losing three of their last four games. Not only that, but the Kings suffered through a stretch in which they lost 10 of 14 between Jan. 19 and Feb. 22. They dropped four straight from Feb. 16-22 to Phoenix, Calgary, at Phoenix and at Colorado. They also suffered two separate five-game losing streaks. Once the playoffs started, the seventh-seeded Kings rolled past the second-Seeded Blues in the first round and went on to win the Cup.
In 2010-2011, Boston lost four games in a five-game stretch twice, and 10 of 15 between Dec. 11 and Jan. 8. They lost four of five from Feb. 5 through Feb. 15. As the season wound down, the Bruins dropped six of seven from March 5 through March 19. The Bruins took off in the playoffs after falling behind 2-0 in two of their series, and won the Stanley Cup in seven games over Vancouver.
The 2010 Blackhawks, who won their first Stanley Cup since 1961, lost seven of nine between March 13-30, including two three-game losing streaks. They had another three-game skid that stretched from Jan. 30-Feb. 5. Of course, that Blackhawks team won six in a row before resting players in their finale, then didn’t go seven games in any series in winning the championship.
The 2009 Penguins lost six of seven during the holiday season, and then six of nine during a stretch from Jan. 30 to Feb. 16. They also lost the first two games of two separate playoff series, but won the Cup in seven games over Detroit.
The other problem people appear to have with the Blues is their goaltending, which has accumulated a 2.31 goals-against average through 49 games, good for fourth in the NHL. Brian Elliott is fourth in GAA, and Jaroslav Halak is 12th.
Interestingly (to me, at least) the 2010 Blackhawks had Antti Niemi, who was fourth in the NHL in GAA, and their other goalie, Cristobal Huet, was 12th – just like Elliott and Halak are right now. That year’s Hawks were sixth in goals-against at 2.48. Niemi was only in his second year and wasn’t even Chicago’s No. 1 goalie during the regular season. But he got hot down the stretch and played every playoff game and led his team to the promised land.
The ’09 Penguins, who admittedly were an offensive juggernaut, had Marc-Andre Fleury, who was only 23rd in goals-against during the regular season the year Pittsburgh won the Cup.
In ’10-’11, the 36-year old Tim Thomas, in his sixth full season with the Bruins, hadn’t shown any inclination that he’d be a Stanley Cup champion goalie. He had a fantastic regular season, but Bruins fans didn’t have a ton of faith when the playoffs started. But Thomas got hot at the right time, and Boston won it all.
The 2012 Kings were led by Quick, who was spectacular in the playoffs. However, until that season, he had never won a playoff series, getting knocked out in six games in each of his first two playoff years.
Last year, Corey Crawford won the Cup for Chicago, once again taking the Cup after never having won a playoff series before that.
So, to summarize, in the last five years, the Stanley Cup champions have all had major slumps during the season, worse than anything that the Blues are enduring now. And they’ve all had goalies who won the Stanley Cup for the first time, with four of those winning a playoff series for the first time the same year they won it all. Frank Drebin’s description is perfect. There’s nothing to see here. Move on. Let’s worry about something worth worrying about now. If the Blues lose four games in a playoff series, that will be worth worrying about. Not losing four out of six during the middle of January.