Blues have to reach finals this season

Sports Commentary

The St. Louis Blues know a lot about winning during the regular season.

They have mastered that art. The Blue Note have earned playoff berths in 37 of the franchise’s 46 seasons.

St. Louis boasted a 25-season playoff streak (1979-80 through 2003-04) that ranked third in NHL history, only behind two of the Original Six squads in the Boston Bruins (29 years) and Chicago Blackhawks (28 seasons).

The resurgent Blues have entered the postseason the past two years with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations, only to fall short against the underdog Los Angeles Kings both times.

So yes, the Blues can win from October through April. They’ve proven that almost year in, year out.

And what has that got them?

Absolutely nothing.

St. Louis has never won a Stanley Cup, falling three straight times in the franchise’s first three seasons of existence (1967-68, 68-69 and 69-70).

That even comes with an asterisk, as the Blues came out of the conference chock-full of expansion teams, which then matched up with the original conference in the finals.

St. Louis was promptly swept all three times, twice by the Montreal Canadiens and once by the Boston Bruins. That loss to the Bruins provided the iconic Bobby Orr picture, as he’s flying through the air after scoring the Stanley Cup winner in Game 4.

St. Louis has never made it back since then, and hasn’t really come close.

Since the National Hockey League opted for a conference-playoff setup beginning with the 1993-94 season, ditching the old division-playoff setup, the Blues have only advanced to the Western Conference finals once. That was back in 2001, when St. Louis was easily dispatched in five games by the Colorado Avalanche.

St. Louis has a long history of playoff failure when it comes to the stick and puck.

The Blues look like world-beaters during the regular season before choking when it really matters in the postseason.

Well, it needs to end this season.

It’s Stanley Cup or bust for the Blues in 2013-14.

Enough with the excuses. We’ve heard those for too long.

The Blues are young. They’ve learned their lesson. The Kings are a bad matchup. The Blues are ready to take the next step.

The garbage has been spewed by the front office, head coach Ken Hitchcock and the players.

We know the Blues can talk the talk. It’s about time they walk the walk.

This season will be an abject failure if St. Louis fails to advance to the Stanley Cup finals. It would still be a disappointment if the Blues fail to hoist the Cup for the first time.

Yes, the expectations are that high now, as they should be.

The Blues are blessed with arguably the best group of defensemen in the league. Alex Pietrangelo is a legitimate Norris Trophy candidate. With Jay Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold in the fold for a full season, the back line looks awfully tough.

St. Louis has a few capable goaltenders in Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott and Jake Allen. Halak is talented enough to take the Blues where they want to go. He took a less-than-spectacular Montreal Canadiens team to the Eastern Conference finals in 2010 as a No. 8 seed with his stellar play. He can do better with a top-five NHL team in this year’s Blues.

While the Blues don’t possess a top-flight goal scorer, they run out four strong lines that can collectively light the lamp on a consistent basis.

Make no mistake, this is a team that can win the Stanley Cup.

Now it’s time for the Blues to go out and do it.

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