ST. LOUIS — Champions are bound to fall. How long can a team stay at the top? More than that, how long can a city remain so dominant?
That's the question I asked myself as the summer of 2019 unfolded with the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins engaging in a best of seven game series for rights to Lord Stanley's Cup. Every Blues fan felt like it wasn't their year but then again, 2019 wasn't any ordinary year.
The New Year's hangovers hadn't officially left the building before the Blues started to regain some of the dignity of their 2018-19 season. Craig Berube's message was starting to settle in just as a new netminder was taking over the pipes in Jordan Binnington.
The Blues strung together a few wins (okay, it was 11 games that expanded over weeks) and took over the standings. The Winnipeg Jets seemed mortal to most NHL teams but were a physical bunch who gave St. Louis constant sorrow. Gone in six games. The Dallas Stars had scoring power and a Stanley Cup-level goaltender in Ben Bishop. They seemed pretty tough, but the Blues outlasted them in seven games.
Next up were the San Jose Sharks. They had been the brick wall for the Blues before, especially if you recall nearly two decades earlier when Owen Nolan tossed the Note and their President's Trophy out of the playoffs. San Jose got the benefit of a hand-pass-assisted goal, and the Blues still got past them in six games.
So, when the Bruins came along with their massive scoring depth and Stanley Cup-level goaltender, a small part of me was hoping a repeat of the Stars series could be in order. Well, it didn't take two overtimes. The Blues bounced back from two debilitating losses and won the series in seven games.
Champagne bottles were popped. Beers were consumed. St. Louis was a star in the sky for a week.
While there are many things to savor about that night and afterglow, this one stuck out as the sweetest to me: for the first time in 50+ years, a St. Louis team had vanquished a Boston team in the final. The wait may have been over for Blues fans who were wondering if 50+ years was enough, but the drought was over for St. Louis sports.
Just look at the past 20 years. The Tom Brady legend was born in 2001, when the New England Patriots denied the Rams a second-straight Super Bowl title. In 2004, the Boston Red Sox swept the Chris Carpenter-less Cardinals. In 2013, the Red Sox, armed with an unstoppable David Ortiz, outlasted the Cards in six games.
You'd have to go back to 1967 to find the last St. Louis toppling of a Boston-based franchise. The Cardinals beat the Red Sox in seven games while the Blues started just their first season in the league.
2019 changed that. It was extra sweet. For once, a Boston franchise being denied and St. Louis seeing a first. Brad Marchand cried, because that's what some dirty-hockey-playing losers do when someone takes their candy. Brett Hull drank a lot of beer, because Brett Hull loves beer. The good times rolled all day and night at OB Clark's in Brentwood. The sky and the Lou were both royal blue.
With the opening of training camps set in the NHL and the top of the conferences being guarded by Boston and St. Louis, let's hope 2020 can feature another batch of Bean Town sorrow in the summer.
- A year ago, Pat Maroon lived out a St. Louis fairy tale on the ice after Game 7
- On one-year anniversary, Blues still reflect fondly of greatest achievement in winning Stanley Cup
- June 12, 2019 | A date St. Louis will never forget
- Reliving the magic of the Blues' Stanley Cup parade
- NHL camps to open July 10 if league, players agree to resume