Blues radio analyst and former NHL player, Kelly Chase, joined local radio (920 AM) Tuesday morning with an interesting story from the team’s Game 7 victory on Monday.
Chase told the show that forward Troy Brouwer’s game-winning goal came as no surprise inside the locker room. In fact, in a prophetic way, it had been expected.
“Last night before the game, (assistant coach) Kirk Muller came in and gave each of the assistant coaches a card on who was going to score the game winner,” said Chase. “Brad Shaw picked Troy Brouwer, he thought he won it. But then all other coaches picked Brouwer. All four of them.”
Brouwer was the hero after scoring perhaps one of the “ugliest” goals of his career. The play could be described as ‘fail and try again’, only repeated twice. With the puck laying in the crease after a perfect pass from rookie Robby Fabbri, Brouwer tried three times to push it across the goal line. The third time was indeed the charm.
“The bench was trying to help push it in,” said head coach Ken Hitchcock. “That’s like mini-golf, you are trying to put it in there. That was an anxious moment on the bench and then to see it, it looked like he almost tried to kick it. That would have been a heart attack on the bench.”
“Vindication for Troy Brouwer and get the game winner there battling in front,” said captain David Backes. “I think he might have blown that in with his breath if he didn't get it with his backhand.”
Brouwer’s initial push, propelled the puck into the left goal post. He missed on the second swing and knew he only had one more opportunity. He was asked what he felt in that moment.
“Panic,” he said. “I thought I got it the first time and you're not expecting it to come back out. I think I even almost tried to kick at some point. I got it on the last one falling down. In that time of the game you can't afford to miss your opportunities and so I wasn't going to be denied.”
But then there was the calm after scoring one of the biggest goals in the franchise’s history. Without that goal, the Blues perhaps don’t advance past the first round for the fourth-consecutive year and the team’s path shifts dramatically. Instead, the Blues are moving on to Dallas and into the legitimate contenders category.
“More relieved than anything that it went in,” said Brouwer when asked what he felt after seeing the puck go in. “Just from the time of the game, the magnitude of the game, where we are in the series, where we are as a franchise it was definitely a big goal.”
Brouwer, who won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010, came through in the clutch for St. Louis. After being held without a point during the first five games of the series, he posted an assist in Game 6 and of course his pivotal goal in Game 7. That is why the Blues traded the beloved T.J. Oshie to Washington to acquire Brouwer in the offseason.
“I think you bring in guys like Brouwer, a guy who has been through this before,” said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. “These are guys that are going to help us through this process. We are going to need that veteran presence. There are a lot of us who have been through this and we have to make sure everyone stays level-headed, especially young guys.”
While Brouwer was a rarity on the scoresheet, he played one of the more crucial roles in the series, matching up against Blackhawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The forward averaged 20:27 of ice time per game, which was the third-most amongst Blues forwards. He had an even plus-minus in the series and Kane and Toews were held to a combined one goal.
“I think the majority of the series I was on the ice against either Kane or Toews,” said Brouwer. “One is probably going to be the Hart (Trophy) and Art Ross (Trophy) winner and the other is a phenomenal hockey player, a great leader so very tough assignments. I thought we did a great job trying to keep them off the scoresheet.”
With those types of assignments, the likelihood of scoring is minimized and the emphasis is somewhat decreased. That is why teammates were happy to see the veteran forward come through.
“He's been battling all series checking their top players and for him to bury that one a good feeling in here,” said Backes. “We couldn't be happier for him and I know that he's such a team guy that he doesn't care who scores, nobody cares who scores in here.”
But again, that is why the Blues pushed for Brouwer in the offseason. That is why they wanted to shake things up and move in that direction. Monday was Brouwer’s seventh career Game 7, albeit the first time he has appeared on the scoresheet in any of them, and already his 85th postseason game at age 30. Monday was the why. The forward could be a big part of the how in future series.
“I wasn’t thinking about it too much but I knew what my history was in Game 7s and it’s nice to have some good history going now,” said Brouwer.
“I always say in the playoffs that I don’t care who is scoring goals as long as someone is scoring goals. I pride myself on being able to produce that way. I wanted to score and help my team win but I’m here to do other things besides just score.”
And if the Blues are going to find success moving forward, Brouwer will again have to be a big part of it. There is little doubt that he can be.
“He's been great for us all year,” said Pietrangelo.
“‘Brouws’ is so good in the off days for us because he is so focused and he keep everybody focused and moving forward,” said Hitchcock. “He is a valuable player.”
After scoring a franchise-altering goal, it is just simply onto the next. But so far, Brouwer is making Blues management look good.
“This is what they got me for,” said Brouwer. “Like I said, my season is going to be judged mainly on what I do in the playoffs here and hopefully that helps my case.”