Final Take: The 2018-2019 St. Louis Blues Season

It’s true — no one thought that a team that sat dead last in the NHL would go on to win the Stanley Cup, but they forgot forgot what it means to wear the Bluenote sweater on your chest. They forgot the St. Louis Blues had made the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons. They forgot that a franchise-record eleven-game win streak would be the turning point for a season that St. Louis will remember forever. They forgot that in the month of February, the Blues dropped only ONE GAME in regulation. They forgot that a trade to help bolster the middle of the ice before the season began would turn out to be the single-biggest move in franchise history. They forgot that a 25-year-old rookie goaltender from Richmond Hill, Ontario, who began the season in San Antonio would have a major impact on a team that nobody believed would go deep into a playoff run. And they sure as heck forgot that it really doesn’t matter what you did in the regular season once the playoffs begin, because if you win 16 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you win it all.

Sure, the opening paragraph was based off Billy Bob Thornton’s opening narration to the 2006 World Series Film, but in a way, the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals kinda looks the 2018-19 St. Louis Blues; they missed the playoffs once —  last year, when they dropped a win-and-you’re-in Game 82 to the Colorado Avalanche in Denver. Before the season began, Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong made a blockbuster trade on the first day of free agency. Armstrong sent forwards Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, Tage Thompson, their first-round pick in the 2019 Draft, and their second-round pick in the 2021 Draft in exchange for Ryan O’Reilly. O’Reilly, along with free-agent signing Tyler Bozak, would shore up a need the Blues needed to fix: depth at center. Things looked to be different somehow, but the Blues began the season winning only three games in the month of October. THREE GAMES. The Blues’ slog continued into November, and after a 2-0 blanking on home ice against a rebuilding Los Angeles Kings team, something needed to change. Head coach Mike Yeo was fired after the game and Craig Berube was named interim head coach. Even with the change behind the bench, the Blues still struggled. going 6-6-1 in the month of December, and entered 2019 with a record of 15-18-4. It was the worst record for any team in the NHL at the time. Their starting goaltender at that point, Jake Allen, was playing mediocrely, going 14-13-4, and started 13 straight games from December 5 to January 5. Knowing that Allen was running on fumes, Berube made a change behind the net for the Blues’ game against the Flyers in Philadelphia on January 7. Enter Jordan Binnington, the 25-year-old 2011 third-round draft pick of the Blues’ in 2011. The native of Richmond Hill, Ontario was about to make his first career start in net. In that game, he stopped all 25 Flyer shots en route to becoming the 35th goalie in NHL history to pitch a shutout in his first start. He followed that performance up with wins against the Montreal Canadiens and the Dallas Stars. After Allen dropped two of his next three starts, it was clear who the Blues’ new starting goaltender was. By the time the Blues reached the All-Star break at the end of January, they were .500 in points percentage — 22-22-5.

After the break, one that earned Ryan O’Reilly as the lone representative of the Blues, St. Louis continued on their five-game road trip, winning in Columbus, Florida, and even handing out a rare home loss to the best team in the NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning in overtime. After the road trip, a crucial home-and-home series was played against the Nashville Predators on consecutive nights. The Blues came out on top in both of those games. After an 8-3 blowout win at home against the New Jersey Devils, the Blues followed that game up by posting three straight shutouts — all of them on the road: a 4-0 blanking in Arizona, a 3-0 whitewash in Colorado, and another 4-0 clean sheet in Minnesota. Those ten consecutive wins tied a franchise record for the longest win streak. Only one team stood in way of the potential record-breaker: the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Blues led 2-0 heading into the third period, but two goals in the span of 31 seconds wiped the lead away. Overtime was needed to decide the winner, and 34 seconds in…

Before the 11-game win streak, the Blues were sitting sixth in the Central Division. After the streak, the Blues were sitting comfortably in third. The streak would eventually end the next game in Dallas against the Stars, but once February ended, everyone was starting to take notice of the Blues, who had become the hottest team in the league coming literally from out of nowhere. Since Jordan Binnington posted a shutout in his first start against Philadelphia, Binnington would go 15-2-1, adding four more shutouts to his season resume. When March came around, the Blues started to cool down, dropping six of their next nine games; with Jake Allen, who had been officially been demoted to being the backup goalie, dropping four of five starts in that span. The net belonged to Binnington, and he would go on to win nine of his final ten starts of the regular season, finishing with a 24-5-1 record, a 1.89 GAA, a save percentage of .927, and five shutouts. That would good enough to be nominated as a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year. As for the rest of the Blues? No players on the team registered more than 80 points (O’Reilly being the leading points-scorer with 77), and only one player — Vladimir Tarasenko — broke the 30-goal plateau (33 goals). The Blues officially clinched a playoff spot on March 29th, after a 3-2 Arizona Coyotes shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Denver.

In the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the three-seeded Blues took on the Winnipeg Jets. Both finished with 99 points, but the Jets earned the higher seed and home-ice advantage, because they had two more wins in hand over the Blues. The road team won the first five games of the series, and heading back to Enterprise Center for Game 6, the Blues closed out the series with a 3-2 win, prompting handshakes amongst the strain of Laura Branigan’s 1982 hit song, “Gloria”. The story of how that became the Blues victory song came one day before Jordan Binnington made his NHL debut in Philadelphia. After landing in Philly and checking into the team hotel, five Blues players — Robert Bortuzzo, Joel Edmundson, Robby Fabbri, Jaden Schwartz, and Alex Steen — were invited to the Jacks New Years Brigade Clubhouse, located on South 16th Street and West Moyamensing Avenue in South Philly, by members Justin Postiglione and Larry “Flowers” Yadan to watch the Eagles-Bears NFC Wild Card Game. Yadan has friends throughout the NHL, especially in St. Louis. After Bears kicker Cody Parody double-doinked a 43-yard field goal to give the Eagles the win in Chicago, two magical words changed everything that night: PLAY GLORIA. You see, The Jacks just recently came in winning the Brigade division in the Mummers Parade the week prior, and celebrated the win by playing “Gloria”. At the time, the Blues victory song was Dion’s 1961 hit “Runaround Sue.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

In the second round, the Blues met the Western Conference’s first Wild Card (and Central Division rival) Dallas Stars. Both teams split the first four games of the series, and after dropping Game 5, 2-1, on home ice, the Blues went to Dallas facing elimination. It was only the second time all year Jordan Binnington lost back-to-back games he started in net. With the Blues having nothing to lose and all the pressure mounted on the Stars to close the series out on home ice, St. Louis won 4-1 to force a Game 7 back at Enterprise Center. In Game 7, the Blues and Stars were tied 1-1 after regulation time. The game needed not one, but two overtimes. 5:49 into double OT, a native St. Louisian became the hero for his hometown team.

Pat Maroon’s series-clincher sent the Blues back to the Western Conference Final for the first time in three years, and like three years prior, their opponent for that series was the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks entered the series a slight favorite after going through two seven-game series against the Vegas Golden Knights and the Colorado Avalanche. Like the prior series against Dallas, both the Blues and the Sharks split the first four games. In Game 5, Binnington silenced the crowd at the Shark Tank as he stopped all 21 Sharks shots in a 5-0 shutout win. The Blues headed back home to Enterprise Center for their one and only chance to win the Western Conference Championship on home ice and advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970. A bomb by Vladimir Tarasenko on the power play turned out to be the game-winner and the series-clincher as the Blues won Game, 5-1, and for the first time in 49 years, the Blues were going to play for the Stanley Cup.

Only one team stood in the way of the Blues, and it was the Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins, who were making their third Stanley Cup Final appearance in the last nine years. Much like the three playoff series before, the Blues were playing in the Final as the underdog. in Game 1, Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko quickly gave the Blues a 2-1 lead after one period, but the Bruins would go on to score four unanswered goals to take Game 1, 4-2. In Game 2, the Blues and Bruins traded goals twice in the first period. Not wanting to head back to St. Louis down 2-0, and the game in overtime, on a delayed penalty call, Carl Gunnarsson made a little history.

It was the first time the Blues had won a game in the Stanley Cup Final. In 1968 and 1969, the Blues got swept in four straight games by the Montreal Canadians, and in 1970, the Blues got swept by these same Boston Bruins, albeit the one that had Bobby Orr playing and then promptly flying through the air in the series-clincher. It took 13 tries, but they finally got one, and the Stanley Cup Final became a best-of-five. With all the excitement buzzing around downtown St. Louis for their first Stanley Cup Final game at Enterprise Center on a Saturday night, all that excitement would be put to a halt thanks to four power play goals and the visiting Bruins regaining the lead in the Final with a convincing 7-2 win in Game 3. In Game 4, Ryan O’Reilly got things started for the Blues in a hurry, scoring on a wrap-around 43 seconds into the game. While the Blues and Bruins traded goals throughout the game, in a 2-2 tie, midway through the third period, O’Reilly would score off of a juicy rebound that would turn out to be the eventual game-winning goal. The Stanley Cup Final would now be decided in a best-of-three series. In Game 5, the Bruins would begin play by pounding 17 shots towards Jordan Binnington. None would pass as there was no score after 20 minutes. 55 seconds into the start of the second period, guess who struck first for St. Louis? You guessed it correctly — Ryan O’Reilly scored the opening goal for the second straight game. The 1-0 lead would remain the same Midway through the final period, when David Perron scored the game winner coming off of what looked like a trip by Tyler Bozak on Noel Acciari.

While Jake DeBrusk made the game a little more competitive three minutes later, when it was all said and done, the Blues would now carry a 3-2 series lead and had the opportunity to clinch their first Stanley Cup Championship in franchise history on home ice in Game 6. Anticipation engulfed St. Louis for the next two days. A watch party was set up in the Civic Room just one block north of Enterprise Center. An estimated crowd of over 50,000 packed the three-block area to potentially witness history. Game 6 would also be memorable for the final performance in the 19-year career of Blues anthem singer Charles Glenn, and he went out in true St. Louis style — with a bang.

When the puck dropped for Game 6, the Blues quickly found themselves in a hole. Brad Marchand scored on a 5-on-3 to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. That lead remained the same as the game headed to the third period. Then, all hopes of a Stanley Cup celebration in St. Louis would be officially put on hold. Four goals by the Bruins, including an empty-netter by captain Zdeno Chara sent the Stanley Cup Final back to Boston for a winner-take-all Game 7.

Anticipation still surrounded St. Louis on the day of Game 7. While tickets for a watch party at Enterprise Center sold out in seconds, the Blues extended their watch party to an even bigger venue located one station eastward on the Metrolink. Because the St. Louis Cardinals were on the road at the time (they were playing the Miami Marlins), Busch Stadium was open for fans that couldn’t watch the game at Enterprise Center. All in all, nearly 50,000 people were watching Game 7 in downtown St. Louis, either at Enterprise Center, Busch Stadium, or at Ballpark Village across the street.

In Game 7, Boston outshot St. Louis 12-4 in the first period, but the Bruins didn’t get a singe shot past Jordan Binnington. The Blues scored twice; the first one was by the eventual Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Ryan O’Reilly, who set a Blues franchise record by recording 23 points in a single Playoff run…

and the second one — the eventual cup-clinching goal — by captain Alex Pietrangelo with 7.8 seconds left on the clock in the first period.

The score would remain 2-0 throughout the entire second period, and throughout the third period, when just over the halfway mark, Brayden Schenn gave the Blues some much-needed insurance.

It was at that point that Blues fans started to feel 52 years of waiting coming to an end. Zach Sanford put the final nail on the series with 4:28 left in the game. While Matt Grzelczyk ended the shutout bid, it was too little, too late for the Boston Bruins to overcome a 4-1 deficit as the clock started to count down to zeroes, and the Summer of Gloria officially began.

Get up, St. Louis! Get up on your feet! Raise ’em high! Five seconds to go as the time runs down…They did it! It’s over! The game is over! The series is over! The wait is over, and the St. Louis Blues are Stanley Cup Champions for the first time in franchise history!

— Chris Kerber

Like the Los Angeles Kings did in 2012, and the Washington Capitals did last year, the St. Louis Blues became the 21st active NHL franchise to win the Stanley Cup — and the last team from the 1967 NHL Expansion to win a championship, and much like the Kings’ title in 2012, this one was a long time coming. This win was for founders Sid Salomon Jr. and Sid Salomon III. For Bobby and Barclay Plager. For Phil Goyette. For Garry Unger. For Bernie Federko. For Brian Sutter. For Doug Wickenheiser. For Dan Kelly. For Ron Caron. For Brett Hull. For Kelly Chase. For Al MacInnis. For Chris Pronger. For Keith Tkachuk. For Laila Anderson. For Charles Glenn. For every player that has worn the Bluenote. For every fan that has stood for the Bluenote. Their victory is your victory. As improbable as it seemed halfway through the regular season, the right guys clicked at the right time, and when that happens, you can beat any team. Others may have forgotten what it means to be to wear the Bluenote, but for the 2019 Stanley Cup Champions, they never did.


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ICYMI: Phish Covers “Gloria” to Blues Fans During Concert in St. Louis

Everyone knows about the story of how the St. Louis Blues’ won the Stanley Cup last Wednesday, but for 10,000 people who attended the Phish concert at Chaifetz Arena on the campus of the University of St. Louis, they had absolutely no clue what was going on. Sure, the biggest game in franchise history was on the back of everyone’s heads, but their first priority was to see their favorite band perform. Phish was teasing the crowd about playing Gloria when they played “Run Like Antelope”. When the ultimate jam band returned for the second part of their set, fans were in for quite a surprise.


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Coach’s Corner at the Stanley Cup Final Rewind: June 12, 2019

After six months of whittling 31 teams down to 16, and then another two more months to finally crown a Stanley Cup Champion, here’s the final installment of Coach’s Corner for the 2018-19 season, emanating from Boston’s TD Garden.

Congratulations to the 2019 Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues. The next blog entry is the annual “Final Take” about the remarkable story of the 2018-19 St. Louis Blues — a team that went from dead last in the NHL in January to the top of the Mountain in June in the most unlikeliest of fashions.

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Stanley Cup Makes Another Appearance on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon

Last night on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy and guest Selena Gomez partook in doing a segment straight outta YouTube. If you have ever seen the web series Hot Ones, co=produced by First We Feast and Complex Media, the premise of the show is simple: it’s an interview show with host Sean Evans, and everyone gets to eat chicken wings, but as the interview goes longer, the wings get hotter. And what better way to cool yourself down than by drinking milk from the oldest championship trophy in North American Professional sports? Here’s what happened…and no, Selena Gomez didn’t do a Ovi-like kegstand like the last time Lord Stanley visited Studio 6B at 30 Rock.


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Coach’s Corner at the Stanley Cup Final Rewind: June 9, 2019

And so, for the first time since 2011, there will be a be a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final. Wednesday night’s Game 7 will be the 17th Stanley Cup Final Game 7, and the first to be held at Boston’s TD Garden. If you missed Sportnet’s coverage of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, here’s what you missed on Coach’s Corner, live on-site from Enterprise Center in St. Louis.

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Coach’s Corner at the Stanley Cup Final Rewind: June 6, 2019

If you missed Sportnet’s coverage of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, here’s what you missed on Coach’s Corner, live on-site from TD Garden in Boston.

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Coach’s Corner at the Stanley Cup Final Rewind: June 3, 2019

Since 1993, it’s been an annual tradition that during the Stanley Cup Final, the top prospects for the upcoming NHL Draft are interviewed by Don Cherry. Here’s the latest Coach’s Corner featuring 2019 NHL Draft prospects Kirby Dach, Dylan Cozens, Bowen Byram, Alex Turcotte, and Jack Hughes.

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