For the St. Louis Blues and their fans, their greatest rival will always be the Chicago Blackhawks, regardless of where each team sits in the standings. For years, the only other major rival St. Louis had was the Detroit Red Wings, though realignment a decade ago saw Detroit move to the NHL’s Eastern Conference, leaving the Blues without a secondary rival.
While playoff series against Central Division foes like the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators have certainly helped develop those rivalries in their own right, it feels safe to say that the greatest enemy in St. Louis at the moment is the Colorado Avalanche.
The class of the Central Division the past few seasons, these two teams have faced one another in consecutive seasons in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, in two series that have been highlighted by controversial plays and injuries to key players. Throw in the fact that the Avalanche are owned by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, headlined by the most hated man in St. Louis, Stan Kroenke, and you have all the makings of a new rivalry being born.
Kadri and Binnington Are at the Center of It All
The quickest way to develop a disdain for an opposing team is to identify at least one of their players as the “villain”. For Blues fans, the villain is undoubtedly Avalanche center Nazem Kadri. Known for his aggressive playing style, Kadri has found himself suspended for at least one game in each of the last three postseasons, including last year for an illegal hit to the head of Blues defenseman Justin Faulk, who never returned to the ice after Colorado swept the Blues in four games. That incident ultimately led to Kadri dropping the gloves against both Faulk and Brayden Schenn in the regular season and has seen Kadri become enemy number one for Blues fans.
For the Blues, goaltender Jordan Binnington is most certainly the villain of the team and practically embraces the role. Like Kadri, Binnington is known for playing on the edge and getting under the skin of his opponents. In a regular-season game this season, the two crossed paths after a stoppage in play, and Binnington swung his stick towards Kadri, which only furthered the animosity between the two sides.
Fast forward to the current playoff series where Binnington is injured in Game 3 after a collision with Kadri, who was going hard at the net while tangled up with Blues defenseman Calle Rosen. This led to Binnington spraining his knee and he is now listed as out for the remainder of the series, though it was not the last time Binnington would make his presence known. During a postgame interview on television, Kadri had a water bottle thrown at him, which according to Kadri himself, was thrown by Binnington. It would not be outrageous to say that had it been any other Avalanche player, the ensuing reaction would not have been so harsh. However, Kadri’s history with the Blues and overall reputation made him a target in Game 4. The Blues seemed more intent on going after Kadri than trying to create offense of their own, with David Perron and Pavel Buchnevich most notably taking runs at Colorado forward. That strategy ultimately backfired on St. Louis as Kadri scored his first career playoff hat trick and Colorado took a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Will the Hatred Last?
What separates the great rivalries from those that are just a flash in the pan is staying power. With young superstars such as Cale Makar and Jordan Kyrou, the Avalanche and Blues both look to be contenders for years to come. With the NHL’s current playoff format that emphasizes divisional games, it would be shocking if these two teams fail to meet each other again in the postseason in the next couple of years. Both of these franchises lost a storied rival when the Red Wings moved to the Eastern Conference and appeared to have found a replacement in one another.
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