ST. LOUIS — After more than four months, we get to watch Blues hockey again.
Sure, the exhibition against the Blackhawks on Wednesday didn't count for anything real, but man did it feel good to see the champs back out on the ice.
The real games start Sunday, as the Blues will take on Colorado. They'll also face Vegas and Dallas in their fight for seeding in the first round of the playoffs.
Of course, we have a global pandemic to thank for this wild summer finish to the NHL season.
But for the Blues, COVID-19 is just the latest bit of adversity the team has been thrown in the past 16 months or so. If we've learned anything about this team in the past two seasons, more adversity has just meant more chances to thrive.
We know what they did last year. At the very bottom of the standings in January with an interim head coach and unknown rookie goaltender, the Blues won the franchise's first title.
They came out on top in a double-overtime Game 7 in the second round of the playoffs, overcame a missed call that put them behind in the Western Conference Final and bounced back from a blow out at home in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final that forced them on the road for the decisive game.
It seemed like they only got stronger as the bad news piled on them.
This year has been different, as the defending champions sat atop the Western Conference for much of the season, but adversity has still remained.
The distractions and possible fatigue that come with being the defending champions didn't even play a role.
The Blues' most dominant offensive player, Vladimir Tarasenko, only played in 10 games this season before being sidelined due to a shoulder injury. To make up for the loss, they spread out their scoring throughout the rest of the roster.
And they saw one of their veteran leaders in Jay Bouwmeester collapse after a cardiac incident on the team bench during a game.
Top it all off with a global pandemic that shuts down the season, erases any home-ice or top-seed advantage the team would have and sends the St. Louis contingent to isolation in Edmonton for possibly months.
No biggie. It's all par for the course for the Blues.
For more than a year everyone has said over and over again just how hard it is for a team to repeat as champion in the NHL. That it's probably the toughest to win twice in a row.
But no matter what adversity has been thrown the Blues' way in the past two years, they've figured it out. I'm not underestimating them in the playoffs, and it would be foolish for the rest of the league to do so.