Tuesday night. Game 6. Enterprise Center. Sharks vs. Blues. The biggest, grandest, most significant, most dramatic, most anticipated, highest heart-rate, nervous-system-tingling Blues’ home game in franchise history.
If the Blues win, they’ll advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970.
For the Blues, this NHL postseason game matters more than any other played here before.
By my unofficial count, this will be the Blues’ 167th postseason home game since the last time the franchise directly competed for the Stanley Cup back in ‘70.
And should the Blues prevail in Game 6, it will be the first home triumph since 1968 to lift the team to the Stanley Cup Final. It’s amazing to think that the Blues haven’t had a chance to clinch a trip to the Cup Final at home since President Lyndon B. Johnson’s final year in the White House. They haven’t had a shot at winning the conference final on St. Louis ice since the Year of the Pitcher and Bob Gibson’s immaculate 1.12 ERA. It’s been a long time.
If the Blues move onto the final round, it will terminate a depressing and frustrating franchise streak of 38 playoff appearances without making it to the Stanley Cup Final.
If the Blues do this, their players and coaches will have succeeded in accomplishing a mission — skating for the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1970 while proudly representing The Note.
Legendary, beloved, or prominent players such as Brett Hull, Bernie Federko, Brian Sutter, Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger, Brendan Shanahan, Joey Mullen, David Backes, Garry Unger, Doug Gilmour, Keith Tkachuk, Curtis Joseph, Mike Liut … and, as a one-timer, Wayne Gretzky.
Federko, Hull, Sutter, MacInnis and Pronger had a combined 49 postseasons while wearing the Blues uniform. The two goalies I mentioned, Joseph and Liut, had a combined 10 postseasons as Blues. And not one Cup Final (repping STL) among them.
None of these exceptional talents could get to the final round — with a chance to hoist the Cup while donning that gorgeous Blues’ sweater and one of the most beautiful team logos in sports.
And then there are the notable coaches that guided so many outstanding teams, only to come up short in the postseason. Joel Quenneville (7), Ken Hitchcock (5), Sutter (4), Jacques Demers (3), Mike Keenan (3) and Al Arbour (1) had a combined 23 postseasons of trying, and failing, to get the Blues to the Stanley Cup Final.That list contains three of the most successful coaches in NHL history.
Since the band of original, expansionist Blues made the Stanley Cup Final in their first three seasons of the team’s existence — it must have seemed so easy then, right? — subsequent Blues’ players have gone 0-for-38 in Stanley Cup tournaments. That’s just crazy.
And I won’t even get into the litany of the bizarro plays, absurd twists and shocking failures that have led to so many postseason ejections. You’ve already lived through that heartache and pain and don’t need to endure a review. It’s bad. We know it’s been really bad. And that’s all that needs to be said.
But this blight can come to an end tonight in downtown St. Louis.
And this would be the perfect team to do it.
Perfect — because, in so many ways, the 2018-2019 Blues symbolize the Blues’ historical existence.
The agony, the frustration, the confusion, the dysfunction … but also the everlasting hope and stubborn will to keep fighting, don’t give in, don’t surrender to history, don’t listen to the junk about the franchise being cursed … keep pushing … keep dreaming … get knocked down over and over and over again … and then stand up and try again.
That attitude is imbedded in the soul of this franchise and within a loyal fan base.
That attitude was personified by this Blues’ squad.
Last place in a 31-team league on Jan 2.
Best regular-season record in the league from Jan. 3.
Three rounds of playoffs, and up to a franchise-record 11 postseason victories.
But for now, all that matters is securing one more conquest.
An epic victory that can shake up Blues’ history.
You see, this Blues team skates for all Blues teams.
The 2018-2019 Blues didn’t quit.
The Blues kept going, kept working, kept dreaming.
And now they’re one win away from romping into the Stanley Cup Finals.
Yes, this Blues team was almost made to have this role, to have this moment.
It is a game that can reinvent the Blues’ image, put an end to the idiotic and infantile “Curse of Scotty Bowman” theories, enhance ownership’s financial strength, and give these players and coaches cherished figures in St. Louis sports … as in forever.
And fans will sing to, and dance to, Gloria. And the party will last a long time. And it will be raining. And the rain will represent the millions of teardrops that that have flowed from the eyes of Blues fans through the decades. And generations of Blues fans will smile, or perhaps weep.
There’s a lot at stake here tonight …
It isn’t the final round, no. But the Blues must do this first. They must eliminate the Sharks, and then we can start thinking about what comes next, and talking about the critical importance of seizing an opportunity and a rare moment in history to actually win the sport’s ultimate prize. But this game … Game 6 … comes first. And if the Blues can emerge with a win — by any means necessary — then this will be the greatest home-ice victory in St. Louis hockey history.
Other than that, it’s just a little hockey game.
If the hockey gods are listening ….
Please let this be a glorious night — a “Gloria” night — for the Blues and their fans.
Thanks for reading …