ST. LOUIS - Back in October, if someone had told you the St. Louis Blues would push the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks to a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and that deciding game would be held on home ice at Scottrade Center, would you have taken it?
Dang right you would.
Everyone knew this best-of-7 series was going to be a long one. Everybody knew this was going to be very emotional, with plenty of ups and downs.
The players knew it - they’ve been saying for two weeks that this was going to be a long series.
So did the coaches. Both Ken Hitchcock and Joel Quenneville said they expected to be in this for the long haul.
As fans, we might have gotten a little excited with a 3-1 series lead. But seriously, did anyone think this was going to be that easy?
Of course not.
“It’s been an even contest,” said Blues forward Paul Stastny. “Some games we won, we could have lost. Some games they won, we could have won. You knew it was going to be like that. It’s not surprising. But Game 7 at home, we worked hard to get that home ice and get that extra point or two over Chicago. Now we’ll take advantage of it.”
If the Blues win tonight’s Game 7, it’ll be that much more memorable because the series went the distance.
And why can’t they?
Don’t point at the playoff disappointments of past seasons. Very few of these players have ever had an opportunity like this - in fact, only seven current Blues have ever played in a Game 7 before: Troy Brouwer has played in six, Scottie Upshall has appeared in two and Stastny, Kyle Brodziak, Carl Gunnarsson, Steve Ott and Robert Bortuzzo have all appeared in one.
“The season’s on the line for two teams,” said Blues forward Jaden Schwartz, who will experience his first Game 7 tonight. “It’s going to be very competitive, very exciting. We’ve worked all year to get home ice for Game 7 and it's right here in front of us. Personally, I’m looking forward to it. I’ve never been in a Game 7 but we’re all pumped up and ready to go.
“Want to get off to a good start and our crowd is going to be helping us out. We’ll use that to our advantage.”
ONE LINEUP CHANGE
Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock will make one roster change tonight, moving defenseman Joel Edmundson back into the lineup in place of Robert Bortuzzo.
Edmundson played the first four games of the series before sitting out the last two.
“He’s a young guy. It’s a great experience for him,” Hitchcock said of Edmundson. “He’s looking forward to it, we’re looking forward to having him in. He caught his breath and he’ll be a good player tonight.”
Here's what we'd expect the rest of tonight's lineup to look like:
Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko
Alexander Steen - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer
Robby Fabbri - Patrik Berglund - David Backes
Steve Ott - Kyle Brodziak - Scottie Upshall
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson - Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson - Colton Parayko
Alex Pietrangelo has 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) over his last 11 games (including the regular season).
Jaden Schwartz has points in five straight playoff games.
Tonight will be just the 15th Game 7 in Blues history and just the third at Scottrade Center since it opened in 1994.
Stastny and Upshall have each scored a Game 7 goal, while Brodziak registered three assists in his only Game 7 appearance.
Fans can enjoy live music, beverages and prize giveaways at the Plaza Party, presented by The Bud Light Party, today beginning at 4 p.m. in the Clark Avenue Plaza.