The 2021-22 NHL preseason is underway which means the start of the regular season is just around the corner. For the first time since 2018-19, the NHL is going to play a full 82 game schedule and most arenas, including the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, will begin the year at full capacity. After a year in the makeshift West Division and only playing those seven opponents all season long due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Blues will make their return to the Central Division. Between rekindled rivalries, reunions with former players, and the introduction of a new foe in Seattle, there are plenty of eye-catching matchups on the schedule, but these five stand out the most.
Saturday, October 30th vs. Chicago Blackhawks
After oddly being separated when the league was forced to temporarily realign last season, the Blues and the Blackhawks are back together again. While the two have historically been great rivals, the hatred between the two sides has gained even more steam since Detroit’s move to the Eastern Conference. After Chicago dominated the first half of the 2010s including winning three Stanley Cups, it has been the Blues who have consistently been the better side the past several seasons, including a championship of their own. Chicago is trending in the right direction going into this season with the return of Jonathan Toews and the arrivals of Marc-Andre Fleury and Seth Jones, which should make this rivalry an entertaining one this campaign. New Blue Brandon Saad playing in his first game on the blue side of the rivalry only adds to the number of storylines heading into this matchup.
Monday, November 22nd vs. Vegas Golden Knights
While the Blues saw a lot of former captain Alex Pietrangelo in the West Division last season, Petro’s first game in St. Louis with a capacity crowd will be must-see television. Blues fans have been known in the past for doing a stellar job in honoring their former players and I can’t think of too many players more deserving of a pre-game standing ovation than the first Blue to hoist the Stanley Cup. Since the Golden Knights entered the league, the games between the two sides have been electric and there is no sign of that changing in 2021-22. The two teams both look to be at or near the top of the Western Conference and ever since Pietrangelo’s blockbuster move to Sin City, the matchups have meant that much more.
Saturday, January 1st @ Minnesota Wild
If it feels like it has been an eternity since it was announced that the Minnesota Wild will be hosting the St. Louis Blues in the Winter Classic, that’s because it has. Along with many aspects of the season that was missed last season, the postponed Winter Classic sticks out as the NHL’s premier regular-season game was sorely missed. Fortunately, the league stuck by their word and kept the game in Minneapolis this season. It will be the Blues’ second outdoor game in their history, the first time being a win over the Blackhawks at Busch Stadium in 2017.
Thursday, January 13th vs. Seattle Kraken
As we all are well aware by now, the Seattle Kraken will begin their inaugural season this year and will play the Blues for the first time in a January matchup in St. Louis. If that isn’t enough to get the juices flowing, it will also be the homecoming of two former Blues as Jaden Schwartz and Vince Dunn will both play in their first games at Enterprise Center as visitors. The duo, particularly Schwartz, will be fondly remembered by Blues fans for their contributions to the team’s first Stanley Cup and much like the return of Pietrangelo in October, this matchup figures to feature some pregame appreciation from the St. Louis fans towards the former Blues.
Friday, February 25th vs. Buffalo Sabres
On the surface, this game probably doesn’t move the needle much for the casual fan. However, if you take into consideration that the NHL is taking almost the entirety of February off in order for players to participate in the Winter Olympics, Blues fans will be champing at the bit to see the Note back in action again. The team’s first game after the Olympic break is at home to the hapless Buffalo Sabres, which should be the perfect game for the Blues to find their form again in preparation for the home stretch of the season.
After a disappointing first-round exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2021, the Blues have reloaded and look to be one of the best teams in the West yet again in 2022. While these matchups stand out the most right now, we all know how fast things change in the world of hockey. What if Vladimir Tarasenko is traded and if so, when will the Blues play against him for the first time? Which team(s) make a surprising jump and wind up competing with the Blues late in the season? While there is so much that is unknown at this point in the season, the one thing we know for sure is we are in for another exciting year of Blues hockey.
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