St Louis Blues Stanley Cup Champions???
Another hockey season has come to an end and the improbable or for some the impossible happened. The St Louis Blues defeated the Boston Bruins in seven games winning their first cup in franchise history. Yes, those same Blues that on January 3rd had the worst record in the league.
So how the fuck did that happened? As many stunned hockey fans and bookies in Vegas were saying out loud.
Back in January, the Blues were a mess and management was ready to blow the team up. But something happened when rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington was pulled from the abyss of minor league hockey. His unflappable play sparked the Blues and they went 26-6-4 making it into the playoffs as a long shot, and I mean a long shot. Vegas had them at 250-1 winning the cup. At the beginning of the playoffs, I didn't give them any thought or a realistic chance of making it far. But they did by grinding it out and defeating the Jets, Stars, and Sharks.
That set up a cup finals with the Bruins. But there were a lot of people thought the Blues could give the Bruins a good fight. I had the Bruins winning in seven because of their depth and experience. The X factor in the series was Binnington who despite having one bad game was stellar the entire series and he single handily won game 7 stoning the Bruins numerous times. The Blues scored twice in the 1st period and I started to sense that this was going the Blues way. The Bruins had no answers until the late in the 3rd period they finally scored, but by then the game was out of reach and they Blues were going to end their 52-year drought. The Plager brothers, Bernie Ferderko, Brian Sutter, Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull, Adam Oates, Cujo, and even Wayne Gretzky couldn't do what a bunch of nobodies did, bring home the Stanley Cup.
So how did the Blues win it all? Looking at their roster, they don't have a superstar. Nothing really pops out. But when you examine the stats sheet a little closer, you'll notice they have four solid lines. They're a big physical team. Everybody contributed. But what they had was a stud goaltender. When a goaltender gets hot, especially in the playoffs watch out, because he can carry a team. Others will say they caught lightning in a bottle. Once in a while there's a team that sneaks in the playoffs like the 2012 LA Kings and gets hot. Everything seems to go their way from flukey goals to missed calls from the refs.
For a Leafs fan like me, it's a bitter pill to swallow. I'm a diehard that bleeds blue and white. I was a fan back when they really stunk in the 80s. Most of my friend were Habs fans and I was ridiculed. The biggest hater was my father and during the hockey season, he would constantly talk trash. At times it was unbearable. But I never wavered much like those diehard Blues fans that toughed it out over the decades.
The closest the Leafs came to a cup was in 1992 when they were on the cusp of making to the finals. Late in the 3rd period Gretzky high sticks Doug Gilmour and it draws blood, but ref Kerry Fraser misses it and doesn't call a penalty. Me and other Leafs fans screamed at the TV. The inevitable happens as Gretzky scores and the Leafs lose 5-4. That was 27 years ago and it's still etched in my memory and my hatred for Fraser will go to my grave with me.
I watched the cup presentation and there were some Blues fans in attendance overjoyed and crying. For many of the Blues players, this was their first cup. Ever kid from Canada dreams of hoisting it over their heads. The motley collection of players sporting playoff beards and missing teeth gleefully skated around the rink living their childhood dream. Only I wished it was the Leafs doing it.
Now the they have the dubious distinction of owning the longest cup drought at 53 years and counting. I just hope they don't win it when I'm a nursing home sitting in a wheelchair drooling and unable to comprehend who the Leafs are.