The St. Louis Blues finally earned their first Stanley Cup championship Wednesday night with their Game 7 victory over the Boston Bruins, putting an end to decades of frustration and close calls.
Although the Blues theme song this year has been Laura Branigan’s “Gloria,” I couldn’t help but make a reference to the blues classic, “Sitting on Top of the World,” which was later popularized by Howlin’ Wolf, the Grateful Dead and Cream. It was glorious to see my favorite hockey team on top of the hockey world.
As a lifelong Blues fan that has been watching the team since the days of Brett Hull, this year’s playoff run has both been exciting and nerve-wracking. It was also unexpected considering that the Blues had the worst record in hockey entering January.
It was an especially disappointing start since the Blues added Pat Maroon, David Perron and Ryan O’Reilly (who would win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP) this offseason to make a playoff push. This was also a team that had talented veterans such as Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Alex Pietrangelo from past playoff teams.
The Blues turnaround started when they fired head coach Mike Yeo and replaced him with Craig Berube in November. The turning point was when they replaced Jake Allen with an unknown rookie named Jordan Binnington as their starting goalie in January.
Soon after these two key moves, the Blues went on an 11-game winning streak prior to the All-Star Game. That momentum carried over to the second half and St. Louis was able to clinch a playoff spot.
The Blues run in 2019 sort of reminds me of the 1999 St. Louis Rams “Greatest Show on Turf” team that went from 3-13 the previous season to Super Bowl champions. An then-unknown UNI alum named Kurt Warner helped lead that team to stardom in a similar way to how Binnington at goalie helped the Blues win the Stanley Cup.
In the first round, they opened up on the road against a divisional opponent, the Winnipeg Jets. After winning the first two games on the road, the Blues then dropped the next two games at home. St. Louis then was able to bounce back at Winnipeg and won Game 6 at home to advance to the second round.
The Blues then faced another divisional opponent in the second round, the Dallas Stars. It was a hard-fought seven-game series that had the Blues down 3-2, before they rallied to win Game 6 on the road and won Game 7 in double overtime after a game winning goal from Maroon.
In the Western Conference Finals, the Blues faced the San Jose Sharks, a team that defeated them three years ago in the conference finals. The Blues dropped two of the first three games of this series, which included a controversial hand pass goal in Game 3 by San Jose. However, the Blues bounced back to win the next three games to advance to their first Stanley Cup Finals since 1970.
Ironically, the Blues faced off against the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals. Not only was this the team they faced in 1970, the last time they played in the Stanley Cup Finals, it was another St. Louis vs. Boston matchup. This time, there would be no Bobby Orr flying in the air goal.
However, St. Louis has not had great luck against Boston teams in the championship matches. I’ve seen the Cardinals lose the 2004 and 2013 World Series to the Red Sox. I remember when the Patriots upset the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, which led to the downward spiral of the Rams and eventual move to Los Angeles.
The 2019 Stanley Cup Finals was an endurance match. Every time the Blues lost, they bounced back stronger. They dropped Game 1 and came back and won Game 2 in overtime. After a crushing 7-2 defeat in Game 3, the Blues won the next two games. After losing Game 6 at home and failing to win the Stanley Cup, the Blues came into Boston and dominated them in Game 7.
One thing that amazed me is how good the Blues played on the road this postseason. They were 10-3 in road games and only 6-7 at home. The Blues ability to play great on the road and bounce back from tough defeats are two big reasons why they won their first Stanley Cup in their 52-year history.