When the Blues series against Dallas started, I honestly didn’t know what to think. The teams were so evenly matched, both goalies had played so well, and both teams had to do so much down the stretch of the regular season, they looked like mirror images. Dallas beat the Central division champion Nashville Predators in the first round, and the Blues beat second place Winnipeg, who had led the division for most of the year.
I picked the series to go seven games, and game seven to go to overtime. Each team had sixteen goals in the first six games. The Blues had something like five more shots and eight more hits in those games. It set up to be a classic, and it lived up to the billing. When I was asked how I felt during the day, I said “51 percent Blues.”
Game seven between the Blues and the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night at Enterprise Center was the greatest game in Blues history. The Monday Night Miracle was incredible and memorable and loud. I was there. But the Arena was dead midway through the third period of that game, and to be honest, Calgary dominated the second period and took the air out of the building by grabbing a 4-1 lead after two. That game was great for a about ten minutes, and came in a series the Blues lost. I’ve always thought it was sad that the most memorable moment in franchise history came in a playoff series they didn’t win.
Game seven against Chicago in 2016 was great because the Blues beat their hated rivals and nemesis, but that game didn’t carry the weight of this one. That game was to close out the first round of the playoffs, and it didn’t get to overtime, let alone double overtime. It was sensational but it wasn’t this.
From the start, as it should be for game seven, the energy in at Enterprise Center on Tuesday was electric. There’s something about the Stanley Cup Playoffs…with a due respect to baseball playoffs…that’s just different. The buzz around town is different, the intensity level is different. Perhaps it’s the confined space, holding 18,000 people with a roof. It might be that our expectation of the Cardinals is different than our expectation of the Blues. Eleven championships vs. none will elicit different expectations. There’s always angst with the Blues, and angst brings energy.
On Tuesday night, the game seven expectation for the Blues was evident. And they lived up to it. Coach Craig Berube and his players…to a man…talked about “getting to their game quickly.” And after an evenly played first period, the Blues got to their game and stayed there for a long time. From the start of the second period until the end of the third, the Blues outshot Dallas 31-4! And everything…EVERYTHING they threw at Stars goalie Ben Bishop…he stopped. The St. Louisan and Chaminade product was amazing.
Dallas picked up their pace a bit toward the end of regulation, and the Blues’ dominance in that forty minutes appeared to wear them down physically. But the spirit was willing. For the fans, the first OT was an exercise in being cognizant of what your body needs to do to stay alive. Because heart rates were racing, and people weren’t breathing. Whenever the puck was in the Blues end, people gasped and held their breath, and when the Blues had the puck, they were ready to explode. Those in the stands had to consciously think to take deep breaths, and to keep their body in check. Jordan Binnington had to continue to be spectacular, making a fine save on Alexander Radulov with about 6:15 to go, and then getting a pad on Radek Faska’s wrister about a minute and a half later. On to double overtime we went.
Finally at 5:50 of the second OT, after 69:55 of game play without a goal, Blues rookie Robert Thomas…who’s going to be great, by the way…drove to the net and took a shot. It got behind Bishop, and so did Patrick Maroon. The St. Louisan tipped it home from…as former coach Ken Hitchcock would say…the ladies tees, and the Blues had themselves a 2-1 double overtime victory and a 4-3 series win.
Three quick takeaways…
-The Blues proved again that if they play their game and set the tempo, they can not only beat any team in the league, but they can dominate. Dallas is excellent; arguably the best defensive team in the NHL. And over two periods, the Blues outshot them 31-4 and spent an inordinate amount of time in the offensive zone. If they did that against Winnipeg and Dallas, they can certainly perform that way against the Avalanche or Sharks in the Western conference final.
-As noted earlier, this is the greatest game in Blues history. This will be one of those where people will ask twenty years from now “where were you?” And when we vote on the greatest moment in Blues history, this game will surpass the Monday Night Miracle. This was 85 minutes of pure intensity. The players and fans gave everything they had for all 85 minutes. Obviously, the difference was never more than one goal. This is number one.
-Maroon joins David Freese in St. Louis sporting lore, as the local kid that keyed a post-season win for his team. Every hockey player grew up on the pond or in the driveway or at the rink pretending he was in game seven, and was going to score the winning goal. Maroon grew up imagining that stuff, and doing it for the ST. LOUIS BLUES! Much like Freese hitting the walkoff home run for his hometown Cardinals in game six of the World Series in 2011, Maroon provided the walkoff goal in game seven of a playoff series in 2019, with his son, his fiancée, his parents, brother, sister and other family members at Enterprise. As he said, “it is different. It means the world. You’re playing street hockey with your brothers, or you’re in the basement and you dream of those moments. To score a goal like that…I’ll never forget that moment.”
Neither will we.