Stanley Cup: Blues Hoist the Hardware for the First Time Ever
It's entirely possible that, this past January, there were only two dudes on the face of this earth who thought the St Louis Blues had a snowball's chance of winning the Stanley Cup.
And he just happened to be in Las Vegas.
At the time, the club whose fortunes they lived and breathed were mired in last place with the NHL's worst record.
Look at the latest addition to Scott Berry's pre-tax bank account now:
This piece of paper, purchased in Vegas in January for $400 is now worth $100,000. Remarkable. pic.twitter.com/l7ffGIgptT— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 13, 2019
His faithful companion Brendan Chapel laid down $200 on that fateful night. He's banking a cool $50,000.
Little did they know that their fate would lie in the glove and blocker of a rookie goalie buried deep in the Blues' farm system. So deep in fact, that the club loaned him out for a while to the AHL affiliate of ... the Boston Bruins.
The way Jordan Binnington blunted Boston's assault on his net in Game 7's first period has already become the stuff of legends in Blues Nation.
How St Louis came outta that period with a 2-0 lead is hockey's latest argument for quality over quantity, except for the fact that the Bruins loaded their side of the stat sheet with quality shots themselves.
It rarely does when a goalie stands on his head.
Meanwhile, the Blues did what so often happens in soccer by using their opponents' aggression against them:
- Ryan O'Reilly's timely first goal came on hockey's equivalent of a counter, and
- Alex Pietrangelo's marker with a mere eight seconds remaining in the first period when Brad Marchand inexplicably opted to end his shift with St Louis in possession in their own end, opening the door for a fateful score.
Not exactly a Too Many Men penalty, and maybe it won't be lamented for decades, but The Line Change was nevertheless a significant moment in this Game 7. pic.twitter.com/JjFZOBdVX7— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) June 13, 2019
With Binnington playing outta his mind, a 2-goal lead after one was a definite buzzkill.
It also meant the Blues would go full-blast into their by-now-familiar heavy hockey mode. They literally body-checked the life outta the Bruins by denying both space and safety the rest of the way.
When he became interim coach after Mike Yeo's firing in November, Craig Berube must've identified with the bulk of the roster he inherited.
With few exceptions -- like O'Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Robert Thomas -- OG probably saw a lotta himself in this squad. This was a buncha grinders and role players, and they were either big, solid, or both. It was a crew he could mold into a tribute to Old-Time Hockey.
Yup. North-South. Up the ice. Down the ice. Off the ice. Toss in the odd diagonal pass to shift the opponent's defense. Score when necessary. Circle the wagons.
He'd been there and done that, mostly with the Philadelphia Flyers. He had cred, and the team bought in.
In January, Berube called up a buried goalie from the Blues' system he knew from coaching their AHL team and figured the kid could use a chance, and why not? The Blues themselves were buried, too, in last place.
And then, they weren't.
Following that act with the spring of springs almost seemed natural.
Still, nothing seemed typical about the way St Louis won it.
Two of their most devoted fans are richer for it, and an entire city -- who came into the NHL as an afterthought back in 1966 -- is going berserk with giddiness. For example:
- The St Louis Post-Dispatch can now re-publish their premature poster;
- Visiting rockers did their bit for the celebration;
- Special fan Laila Anderson is having the ride of her life; and even
- Local bandwagon jumpers have embraced the moment.
Sing it, you mean.
The Blues fan base is a wacky crowd:
- They break out in spontaneous a capella at home games with a tune honoring Appalachia, when the closest they get to there is the Missouri Tigers playing a non-conference game at West Virginia, and
- Their goal-celebration song starts about a minute into, for this purpose, the contrarily-named Turbulence.
So, the Blues' theme song that happened to be a disco-era throwback playing in a Philadelphia bar during that moment when they turned their season around?
It all makes as much sense as St Louis becoming the only team in North America's four major sports to both ...
- Win the Cup after not even making the playoffs the season before, and
- Going from worst record in mid-season to hoisting the hardware.
After a half-century of waiting for a year like this, why not? Whatever they do is right.