How Philadelphia Saved the St. Louis Blues Season
On January 2nd, 2019, the St. Louis Blues were dead last in the 31-team NHL.
On June 6th, they are one of the final two teams standing, just one win away from their first Stanley Cup in their fifty-two year history.
How did they do it? Look no further than Philadelphia.
At the turn of the calendar year, the Blues were in shambles. After a devastating collapse down the stretch last year that saw St. Louis lose to Colorado on the last day of the season, losing their playoff spot in the process, management got aggressive. They signed two quality forwards in Tyler Bozak and David Perron, then traded for star center Ryan O’Reilly.
On paper, the Blues looked like a juggernaut. But they came out of the gates slow, both on the ice and in the standings. On November 20, at a record of 7-9-3, the Blues fired head coach Mike Yeo. Taking his place was Craig Berube, a former Flyers enforcer who had also coached the team for two years, taking the Flyers to the playoffs in 2014 after they started the year 1-7-0.
The early returns were not there. The Blues continued to struggle under Berube. Rumblings came to the surface that core pieces such as Vladimir Tarasenko, Colton Parayko, and captian Alex Pietrangelo were on the market.
While in Philadelphia for a road trip, a couple of Blues players wound up wandering into a local bar at the same time of the Eagles-Bears NFC Wild Card Game. At commercial breaks, the bar’s DJ would always play an old track called Gloria, which for whatever reason was of liking to the players there.
The next day, the Blues took to the ice and beat the Flyers 3-0. Rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington was making his first NHL start in the contest. Former Flyer Brayden Schenn scored the game-winner.
The Blues returned home with a big victory, an intriguing new option in net, and a new win song. All three became much more common in the coming months. The Blues went on an 11-game winning streak and nearly won the Central Division. Binnington became an elite option in net and was nominated for the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. And after every victory, their fans were seranaded in the now-hallowed words of Gloria.
(Awkward remeberance that former Flyer Michael Del Zotto is on the Blues but has spent the entire playoffs in the press box as a depth rental at the deadline)
Now, the Blues have emerged as Cup contenders. They beat the Winnipeg Jets in six games in round one. They took down the Dallas Stars in round two, winning Game 7 in double overtime on a goal by Patrick Maroon…a former Flyers prospect. After going down 2-1 in the Western Conference Finals, St. Louis rallied to win three straight, heading to the Finals for the first time since 1970.
They have gone toe-to-toe with the Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins. Despite being badly outplayed in Game 1 and absolutely thrashed on the scoreboard in Game 3, the Blues have managed to take a three games to two series lead. On Sunday, they head home for the final time this season, with a chance to end over a century of doubt and frusturation once and for all.
You’re welcome, St. Louis. Love, Philadelphia.