Yesterday was supposed to be a magical day in St. Louis and America. 19,000 St. Louisans passed through doors to fill up Enterprise Center. More than 40,000 people…many arriving in the morning for a 7:00 faceoff…filled an area between 12th and 14th streets in front of City Hall just to watch the Blues win the Stanley Cup on giant screen TV’s with other members of their community. The overflow, those that couldn’t get into the overflowing watch party, jammed pretty much every bar and restaurant within a stone’s throw of downtown, hoping to take in the revelry of our town’s first hockey championship. As I noted on social media, it was St. Louis at it’s best.
America was watching intently. This is a country that’s tired of seeing Boston win sports championships. America wants to see Boston lose as much as it wants to see St. Louis win, so the scene was set for the whole country. In a way, the Blues are America’s Team this month.
The Cup was inside Enterprise Center, commissioner Gary Bettman was on hand to hand it to Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo, most of the Blues alumni were up in their box, and the scene was set for perhaps the greatest night in St. Louis sports history. In his final appearance as the Blues National Anthem singer, Charles Glenn turned in a rousing rendition that caused the noise level to reach a deafening din.
Alas, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. All of those people and the Cup needed the Blues and the Bruins to cooperate, and they didn’t. A desperate Bruins team withstood an early onslaught from the Blues, then took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play to go up 1-0. That was still the score in the third period when Brandon Carlo fired a hop, skip and a jump changeup past Jordan Binnington for a 2-0 lead. The Bruins would roll 5-1.
So we move to the proverbial two best words in sports. Game Seven. Wednesday night at TD Garden. The Blues are 8-3 on the road in these playoffs, Boston is 7-4 at home. Blues goalie Jordan Binnington has lost ten games, but has lost two in a row just once. Boston goalie Tukka Rask has been sensational, with a 1.93 GAA and a .938 save percentage.
The Blues will have their hands full on Wednesday night, but they wouldn’t want it any other way. They had to play playoff-type hockey from January on to make the playoffs and get themselves a decent seed. After winning their first two playoff games at Winnipeg, they came home and lost their next two; starting a less than stellar run to 6-7 at home through these playoffs. Those were the first two Binnington lost.
The angst wasn’t done. They fell behind Dallas 3-2 before needing to go double-overtime to win game seven against the Stars. They suffered a devastating setback when they lost game three to San Jose on an overtime goal that came as a result a hand pass that the officials didn’t see. Then they eliminated the Sharks with three straight wins.
They’ve overcome being in last place in the league after the calendar flipped to the new year, multiple injuries that resulted in the loss of 249 man games, including Pietrangelo for eleven games, Brayden Schenn for ten, Jaden Schwartz for thirteen. In the playoffs, youngsters Vince Dunn and Robert Thomas, who have ascended to being key contributors, were lost to upper body injuries that kept them out for significant periods.
Not that Boston hasn’t faced it’s share of adversity. Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk suffered a concussion in game one against the Blues, and Captain Zdeno Chara took a puck to the face and suffered a broken jaw that kept him out for the better part of the last two periods of game four. They’ve seen tough times, but Boston’s tough times don’t compare to what the Blues have had to overcome.
So, as Craig Berube said, the Blues should be a confident group as they head to game seven. In the first round, the Bruins had to win game six on the road at Toronto and come home to win game seven, so they should be confident too.
What this comes down to is the word destiny. Dictionary.com defines it as “the predetermined, usually inevitable or irresistible, course of events.”
With everything that’s happened to the Blues…with all due respect to the Bruins…is there any doubt that the Blues are a team of destiny in 2019? We can worry about game seven. Those 80,000 or so people that were downtown on Sunday left disappointed, and I’m sure many thought that was the Blues best chance to win a Stanley Cup.
But there’s still game seven. There’s still the Blues road excellence. There’s still the fact that, for the most part, Binnington doesn’t lose two in a row. And there’s a recent history this century that has seen Boston’s own Red Sox, plus baseball’s Chicago White Sox and Cubs, the Houston Astros, San Francisco Giants and Anaheim Angels; the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, New Orleans and Philadelphia in the NFL, and the Blackhawks, Kings and Capitals in hockey end long championship droughts.
With a nod to Herb Brooks, for the Blues, this is their time. Boston’s time? It’s done. It’s over. We’re sick and tired about hearing what a great team Boston has. Screw ‘em. Blues, this is YOUR time! Now go out there and take it.