Three years ago, they had a 2-0 lead over the Kings, then lost four straight and were eliminated.
Two years ago, they had a 2-0 lead over the Blackhawks, then lost four straight and were eliminated.
One year ago, they never had a 2-0 lead, but they did get eliminated by Minnesota, a good team, but not great.
Now consider what the St. Louis Blues are facing tonight at Scottrade Center. Not only the specter of a fourth consecutive first-round exit, but also another blown series lead.
This time, the Blues had the Blackhawks down 3-1, plus they had Game 5 at home. Then, after losing Game 5 in overtime, they had a two-goal lead in Game 6. They lost that, too.
Lose tonight and it’s hard to imagine there won’t be significant consequences for this franchise.
Certainly, the consequences will be more significant than last year, when GM Doug Armstrong decided to “live to fight another day” and come back with essentially the same core, minus T.J. Oshie and Barret Jackman.
Most notably, Armstrong retained head coach Ken Hitchcock.
“This is unfinished business for me,” Hitchcock said. “This is a really good team trying to become a great team. I think I have the tools and the expertise to help them along the way.”
Lose tonight and the Blues will have a new bench boss in 2016-17. That’s pretty much for sure.
“Hitch, this is it, man,” wrote the Post-Dispatch’s Benjamin Hochman. “For Kenneth Sanford Hitchcock, his legacy in St. Louis comes down to Monday night. … Lose Game 7 and you’re the coach who infamously had four consecutive first-round-series losses. Lose Game 7 and you’re the ex-coach.”
Lose Game 7 and there will be some ex-players, too.
David Backes is a 31-year-old pending unrestricted free agent; he could be allowed to walk this summer, regardless of what happens tonight.
Kevin Shattenkirk has one year left on his deal; a loss tonight will only intensify the speculation that he’ll be traded.
What of 31-year-old Brian Elliott? He’s only got a year left on his contract before he can go UFA. He was brilliant in Games 1-4, but less so in 5 and 6. What if it goes badly tonight? The Blues don’t exactly have a long, happy history of playoff goaltending.
Now, granted, there is another way all this could go.
The Blues could actually win.
They could exorcise the demons and catapult themselves into the second round, with the knowledge they just knocked off the defending champs, in a Game 7 that everyone was watching for them to lose, with all that pressure on their shoulders.
So, that’s what’s at stake tonight.
Whatever happens, it’s sure going to be something.