by Hans A. Carpenter
The Cardinals have 11 World Series trophies. The Rams took a Super Bowl with them to L.A. The Hawks took an NBA Championship to Atlanta. None of those wins compare to last night, not even the 2011 Cardinals’ run that now sits in the shadow of an even more miraculous comeback.
The St. Louis Blues, after fifty-one years of futility, hoisted the Stanley Cup in front of a horrified Boston crowd, in front of the tear-stained jerseys of Brad Marchand and a Bruins team who gave it all but couldn’t put down a team that was once dead last in the league.
In many ways, St. Louis and Chicago understand one another. Cubs fans spent over a century faithfully loving their losers. Generation after generation turned to their children and said “next year”, and the next year, the Cubs found a way to lose.
Against all odds, the Blues did the same year after year. No matter how strong they looked on paper, no matter how much success they found in the regular season, the Blues found a way to lose. In 1995-1996, the Blues had a team with seven Hall of Famers including Brett Hull and Wayne Gretzky…and still lost.
In 2016, the Cubs won their ring, and in 2019, the Blues have their cup.
A who’s who of coaches who range from champions to icons couldn’t get it done in St. Louis. Scotty Bowman couldn’t do it. Joel Quenneville couldn’t do it. Ken Hitchcock couldn’t do it. In the end, Craig Berube could. Berube, interim coach after Mike Yoe’s dismissal, was a placeholder fill-in destined to preside over a lost season. Over the offseason, GM Doug Armstrong would find the real coach.
An early season meltdown from goalie Jake Allen lead to Jordan Binnington, a forgotten, even cast-off organizational filler player getting his first NHL starts in January. By then, the team couldn’t sink any lower. Wednesday night, Binnington took all that a fantastic Bruins team could give, swatting away shot after shot with the grace and speed of a breakdancing ninja between the pipes. Binnington is never more dangerous than after a loss.
In the end, four players scored in Game 7, indicative of Blues hockey over the last few months as the team has found timely, clutch goals from under every rock, be it from defenseman Carl Gunnarson in overtime on the road in Game 2, to hometown hero Pat Maroon in double overtime Game 7 against Dallas.
Jaden Schwartz, coming off a forgettable year, found new life in the playoffs and through sheer hustle created a golden scoring opportunity for Captain Alex Pietrangelo with 7 seconds left in the third period. Schwartz’s Game 5 winning goal with 15 seconds left and hat trick in Game 3 made the Finals trip possible.
Unfairly maligned franchise player Vladimir Tarasenko managed 11 goals 6 assists over the course of the post-season, forever cementing his legacy wearing the Blue Note.
None have had a bigger impact than Ryan O’Reilly, the winner of the Con Smyth trophy. During the darkest points of the season, the one positive on a nightly basis was the hustle and skill of O’Reilly. In the Stanley Cup Finals, he was on another level.
Celebrating a major championship is great…but this is on another level. This is the perfect intersection of a history of trials with a year of the remarkable. This is the nexus of perfect sports storylines. If Brad Pitt doesn’t make a movie about this team, sports cinema deserves to perish. This is the sweetest tasting win in St. Louis sports history. The Cardinals are steady. The Rams betrayed us. The Blues need this. The Blues deserve this.
This is why we bleed blue. Play Gloria.