Hollywood couldn’t write a script more compelling than the Blues’ journey over the past five and a half months, culminating in the first Stanley Cup in the history of St. Louis. Reflecting on the whirlwind experience, here are the seven moments that led to the Blues championship:
7. ‘Play Gloria!’ is born
You know the story by now. The Blues were dead-last in the entire Western Conference standings on January 6th, the night Alexander Steen, Joel Edmundson, Robert Bortuzzo, Jaden Schwartz and Robby Fabbri found themselves in a South Philly neighborhood bar, watching an Eagles NFL playoff game with the locals. One man, who we can only assume had been imbibing a bit on this Sunday evening, was responsible for Laura Branigan’s ‘Gloria’ being played on repeat at the bar.
“This one guy looked at the DJ and said 'keep playing Gloria!', so they kept playing it. Everyone would get up and start singing and dancing. We just sat back and watched it happen. Right there we decided we should play the song after our wins. We won the next game, we got a shutout, so we just kept on playing it,” Edmondson told stlouisblues.com.
The Blues dug the song, and beat the Flyers 3-0 the following night, giving birth to the beautiful, if inexplicable, ‘Play Gloria’ phenomenon. And oh, by the way, the goaltender on that night? Some kid making his first-career NHL start. His name was Jordan Binnington. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.
We didn’t know it yet, but this moment in time would turn out to have been the unofficial beginning of one of the most incredible stories in the history of St. Louis sports.
6. The streak
While it would have been better for the narrative had the Blues gone on a massive winning streak immediately following the ‘Play Gloria!’ night in Philadelphia, it wasn’t reality. Which is perfectly fine; believe me, the story of this Blues season is remarkable enough on its own. We don’t need to embellish the details.
As it happened, the Blues were merely adequate in the eight games following their January 7 win over the Flyers, going 4-3-1 to improve their standing from bottom to third-from-the-bottom of the Western Conference table. They snagged a win in Anaheim on the 23rd before their NHL mandated scheduled ‘bye week’ kept them off the ice for the remainder of the month.
The Blues returned to game action February 1, but they didn’t lose again until nearly three weeks later, on February 21. Mixing in the bye week, it was a nearly month-long, 11-game winning streak that vaulted the Blues into legitimate playoff contenders, and cemented Binnington as the primary starter going forward. St. Louis hockey fans went from talking about NHL draft prospects to wondering if their Blues had the makings of a little playoff run, after all.
They didn’t know the half of it.
5. Schwartz tips in a winner in Winnipeg
St. Louis would go on to qualify for the playoffs, tasked with handling the upstart Winnipeg Jets in the opening round. After claiming the first two games of the series on the road, the Blues seemed to have all the momentum on their side.
Then they laid two eggs on home ice, shifting home-ice back to Winnipeg, and leaving some fans with active imaginations wondering just how the Blues were going to break our hearts this time. Then in Game 5, the Note trailed 2-0 in the third period. Of course everything was spiraling. After all, when it comes to Blues hockey, all good things must end, right?
Tell that to Jaden Schwartz.
After goals from Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn brought the Blues back even with the Jets late in regulation, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the game would come down to overtime. But in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fashion, Schwartz stood firm in front of the net and deflected a sensational centering pass from Tyler Bozak into the goal to give the Blues a 3-2 lead with 15 seconds left on the clock.
BELIEVE IT!!!! pic.twitter.com/9yXWVSAsni— St. Louis Blues 🏆 (@StLouisBlues) April 19, 2019
The Blues escaped Western Canada with a 3-2 series lead, and would go on to clinch in Game 6 behind a hat trick from Schwartz, who would proceed to score more goals in the playoffs (12) than he did in the entire regular season (11).
4. Parayko topples Bishop
While the Blues were able to dispose of the Jets with a smidge of breathing room, the second-round series against Dallas was another matter entirely.
That’s because the Stars had St. Louis product Ben Bishop minding the net, playing some of the best hockey of his career. After an evenly-matched first four games, Bishop held steady for the Stars in a 2-1 Game 5 win that sent the Blues to a 3-2 deficit in the series. Given the Blues history of Game 6 futility at the time, there seemed to have been a legitimate risk the journey would end here, on a Sunday afternoon in North Texas.
The Blues are 1-8 in their last nine Game 6s, with the win coming last round against Winnipeg.The last four times the Blues were in a series that was tied 2-2 and lost Game 5 at home, they lost Game 6 on the road.2016: SJ2015: MIN2014: CHI2013: LA— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) May 5, 2019
As the game developed, it felt like a classic grind-it-out affair that would go down to the bitter end. One little mistake could have ended the season. That is, until Colton Parayko lined up a slapshot in the third period of a 1-1 contest.
When he let it rip, Parayko surely didn’t anticipate what would come next. Clearly, neither did Ben Bishop.
Bishop is hurting after taking a Parayko shot up high, but the Blues maintain possession while Bishop is down and score pic.twitter.com/gTOcGiWipE— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) May 5, 2019
Though Parayko’s attempt didn’t land in the back of the net, it landed Bishop on his backside, the wind knocked out of his sails after the puck struck him near the collarbone. Because the Blues maintained possession throughout the play, there was no basis for the referees to whistle for a stoppage. With Bishop indisposed, the Blues quickly settled the puck and deposited it in the net for a series-altering goal.
Though Bishop briefly remained in the game, it was less than a minute later that he permitted another Blues goal, ending his day and turning what had moments before been a frenetic and tightly-contested game into a blowout. American Airlines Center was stunned silent, as the Blues tied the series with a convincing 4-1 win.
Of course, Game 7 back in St. Louis was no laugher; it took the Blues two overtimes before Pat Maroon would send the home fans home happy. Without Parayko’s shot on Bishop, he may have never gotten the chance.
3. The hand pass
Maroon’s heroics sent the Blues to the Western Conference Final against the Sharks, an opponent that just never did seem as menacing as the one St. Louis had just defeated in the Dallas Stars. The reason for that: Martin Jones was no Ben Bishop.
Even when the Blues fell victim to the most blatant disregard for the rules that we’d seen from NHL referees this postseason--and you know, we’ve had plenty of examples to choose from--they didn’t falter.
In overtime of Game 3, the Sharks scored a goal that every hockey fan in the world knew would be quickly overturned. Until the Sharks left the ice. And the referees huddle broke, without any signal that a replay review was coming for the obviously illegal hand pass that led to the game-winning goal for San Jose. We don’t need to rehash this moment any further in this space, but I mean, the guy was credited for a stinkin’ assist on the goal. The Blues got hosed, and everybody knew it.
lol this is such a hand pass pic.twitter.com/4cqWsFEgcg— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) May 16, 2019
But the team’s reaction to the missed call is what made it a turning point of the series--in their favor. When asked about the play after the game, the Blues were a far cry from sour grapes. They barely wanted to talk about it, focusing on the task at hand rather than what had taken place in the past.
With a mentality that embodied the quiet confidence of their coach Craig Berube, the Blues used the infamous hand pass game to strengthen their resolve. From that moment, the Blues didn’t trail for a single second the rest of the series, going from a 2-1 deficit to clinching the WCF in six games to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970.
2. O’Reilly bats in a rebound in Game 4
When the Blues won their first ever game in a Stanley Cup Final, it was pretty amazing. After losing 13 consecutive Cup final games entering Game 2 in Boston, this city had waited a long time to get off the schneid. But you know what was even more satisfying?
Seeing the Blues win one at home.
Look, the 7-2 loss the Blues suffered in Game 3 was a tough pill to swallow. The town spent all day getting amped up to host the game, but once puck drop rolled around in the evening, the Note couldn’t have played any worse. It’s never over ‘til it’s over, but let’s be honest. By the time the Bruins had deposited a power play goal less than a minute into the second period to make it 4-0, that game was already over. And given the ceremonies leading up to that slaughter, it’s hard to imagine a bigger letdown.
Which is what made Game 4 all the more special.
Blues fans didn’t give up, and the Blues didn’t give in, even when faced with arguably the most demoralizing moment of their season. When a dominant stretch of offensive zone time in the second period culminated in a power play instead of a goal, it didn’t seem like the tide was about to shift against St. Louis. But that’s exactly what happened when the Blues got out of position during their man-advantage, allowing Boston’s Brandon Carlo to scoop up a rebound and knock it past Binnington for a short-handed goal.
It was a moment from which Blues teams in any other year simply would not have recovered. Then again, none of those teams had Ryan O’Reilly.
After giving up the shorty, the Blues were able to steady the ship, escaping the second period with the score still tied. The more minutes that elapsed in the third without something tragic happening, the more comfortable you got with the idea that the Blues had truly put that unfortunate mistake behind them.
In a battle of wills, O’Reilly cut to the front of the net midway through the third, catching a rebound of a Pietrangelo shot and batting it past Tuukka Rask to put the Blues ahead for good in Game 4, cementing the notion that the 2019 Blues would not go gently into that good night.
Ryan O'Reilly's second goal of the game gives the Blues a 3-2 lead. pic.twitter.com/JS582u6I8e— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) June 4, 2019
1. Binnington stands on his head
When it came to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, it would not be a stretch to say the Blues were outplayed by the Bruins during the first period of the game. So how in the world did they leave the opening 20 minutes with a 2-0?
Two words: Jordan Binnington.
Yes, goals from Ryan O'Reilly and Alex Pietrangelo during the period were crucial to establishing the tone the Blues wanted for the contest. But without Binnington's out-of-this-world performance in the frame, the Blues don't win the Stanley Cup Wednesday night. It's honestly that simple.
Oh my, what a save by Binnington. pic.twitter.com/0nZG513gwQ— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) June 13, 2019
The Bruins brought wave after wave against the Blues rookie goaltender during the first period, including a frenetic power play sequence for Boston. But no matter the circumstances, Binnington refused to fold in the first, keeping the game within reach until the Blues could make enough plays offensively to seize it for themselves.
The Blues look awful yet Jordan Binnington looks outstanding. pic.twitter.com/tfwi45dQB1— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) June 13, 2019
Eventually, O'Reilly broke the ice, Pietrangelo followed suit, and the Blues began to turn the tide of the game. They controlled the action over the course of the final 40 minutes, resulting in the first Stanley Cup title in the history of the franchise--and in a glorious time to be a St. Louisan.