Singing the Blues! St. Louis Captures First-Ever Stanley Cup in Game 7 win over Boston

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BOSTON — In January, the St. Louis Blues were dead last in the National Hockey League standings. Today, they are Stanley Cup Champions.

Ryan O’Reilly, Alex Pietrangelo, Brayden Schenn and Zach Sanford scored while rookie goalie Jordan Binnington played like anything but as the St. Louis Blues defeated the Boston Bruins in Game 7 dramatic fashion, 4-1, to capture the 2019 Stanley Cup at TD Garden in Boston, MA.

After entering The League in 1967-68, the Blues made three consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup Final — getting swept all three times. Making a triumphant return 49 years later, the Blues made no mistake taking home Lord Stanley for the first time in franchise history this season — a remarkable feat 52 years in the making.

“I can’t believe we did this — I can’t believe it,” Ryan O’Reilly, the Conn Smythe Winner as Playoff MVP after setting a new franchise record for points in a post-season, said. “From where we were earlier in the year, the adversity we went through to where we are now… this is a dream come true — a dream come true.”

Alex Pietrangelo #27 of the St. Louis Blues celebrates with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Boston Bruins in Game 7 to win the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 12, 2019 in Boston. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

“In the moment now it’s kind of hard to explain,” Pietrangelo, the Blues’ captain said. “What an unbelievable year I don’t even know what to say. From where we were to where we are now… we developed a lot of relationships this year going through what we went through, but I’ll tell you what I’ve never been more proud to wear this jersey with this group of guys — it’s unbelievable.”

St. Louis struck first when O’Reilly tipped home Jay Bouwmeester’s shot from the point with 3:13 left in the first period. A hard hit by a hard forechecking Sammy Blais on Noel Acciari kept the puck in the Bruins’ zone allowing O’Reilly to work the puck back to Pietrangelo at the point. A D-to-D pass to Bouwmeester ensued before the 16-year NHL veteran let go a shot from the point that O’Reilly was able to get a stick on. The tip in front by O’Reilly, the Blues third shot of the game, was enough to sneak past Tuukka Rask, five-hole, for a 1-0 lead.

The opening goal lit a fire under the Blues and a sold-out 18,500 viewing party at Enterprise Center with another estimated 25,000 watching from Busch Stadium back in Gateway. O’Reilly’s eighth goal of the season also set a new franchise record with 22 points by a Blues player in the post-season. Brett Hull (1990), Doug Gilmour (1986) and Bernie Federko (1986) previously held the team record with 21 points in a single postseason.

“That was huge. They definitely had the momentum there,” O’Reilly said of his first-period goal. “We needed a huge shift or a big spark there. It was off a good forecheck. We got the puck back and put it at the net and got a great bounce. We put ourselves in a great spot.”

While Jordan Binnington continued to deny the Bruins at every turn, the Blues kept the pressure on Boston and made it 2-0 with a backbreaking goal with just 7.9 seconds left in the opening frame off a swift line change in transition.

Carrying the puck into the offensive zone, Jaden Schwartz’s nifty, over-the-shoulder back pass to a streaking Pietrangelo sent the Blues defenseman in all alone on Rask. Pietrangelo, who has spent all 11 seasons on the St. Louis backend since the Blues drafted him in the first round, fourth overall in 2008, made no mistake going forehard, backhand before lifting a shot over Rask’s shoulder, blocker-side, for his third goal of the post-season.

The Blues were heavily out-shot, 15-4, in the opening frame but made the most of its chances scoring twice on four shots to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission as a stunned TD Garden looked on.

Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues celebrates with the Stanley Cup. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

“They came at us with a lot of speed,” O’Reilly said of the Bruins’ push in the opening 20 minutes. “We have to do a better job of getting guys in their way, slowing them down as much as possible. If we do that, we’ll get a lot of pucks back and we can wear ’em down.”

“We just play a simple game,” Blues’ coach Craig Berube said. “We get pucks in deep, forecheck, and try to play real good defense without the puck. Just worth ethic and simplicity applies.”

Berube’s defensive-first approach held true in the second frame as Boston once again out-shot St. Louis, 11-6, but each time Binnington, the Blues’ rookie goaltender, proved up to task.

The Bruins nearly solved Binnington with just over 11 minutes remaining when Joakim Nordstrom got in all alone off the rebound from Acciari’s initial shot, but the 6’1”, 175-pound goaltender from Richmond Hill, Ontario used every inch of his frame to get a right leg on the secondary scoring opportunity.

The save was a big one providing Brayden Schenn to deliver the dagger moments later and extend the Blues lead to 3-0.

Employing a heavy forecheck from Vladimir Tarasenko, the Russian winger known more for his scoring prowess than his ability passing the puck, found a streaking Schenn coming down the slot for a one-timer that beat Rask like a rented mule with 8:35 remaining in regulation. Schwartz picked up his second assist of the game on the play.

Zach Sanford added insult to injury finishing off a beautiful cross-crease pass from David Perron to make it 4-0 with 4:38 left.

Boston pulled Rask in favor of an extra attacker and the play worked as the Bruins finally solved Binnington with 2:10 remaining when Matt Grzelcyk ripped one off the crossbar and in to cut to 4-1 but that would be the only blemish on an otherwise MVP performance in the playoffs from the rookie goalie.

Jordan Binnington #50 of the St. Louis Blues stops a shot from Joakim Nordstrom #20 of the Boston Bruins during the third period in Game Seven of the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 12, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Binnington would finish with 32 saves on 33 shots, but the MVP would go to O’Reilly, however, who amassed eight goals and 15 assists for a new franchise-record 23 points in earning the Conn Smythe.

“When things got tough for us, guys didn’t get selfish,” O’Reilly, native of Clinton, Ontario, said. “They started investing in the game the right way. When we got in tough situations, no one was playing for themselves, they were helping the guy next to them out. We had so many ups and downs but when it came time to play, guys showed up and worked for each other. It’s the most impressive thing I’ve seen — the way we were able to bounce back and keep fighting. Never giving up. These guys — so many incredible players.”

NHL commissoner Gary Bettman presents Ryan O’Reilly #90 of the St. Louis Blues with the Conn Smythe Trophy after defeating the Boston Bruins 4-1 to win Game Seven of the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 12, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

But it was Binnington whom the Blues captured lightning in the bottle with. From a 15-18-4 (34 points) in January, the rookie netminder went 24-5-1 in the regular season before ripping off 16 more wins in the post-season to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.

“I’m a believer — I believe in myself,” Binnington, who sported a 2.46 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in the playoffs, said. “I was a longshot, but this was an incredible season, an incredible story and I can’t believe it — this is awesome.”

The Blues’ 52-year wait is the longest for the cup for any team in NHL history. Remarkably, three of the Blues’ four wins in the Stanley Cup Final came on the road at TD Garden in Boston. The Bruins outscored St. Louis 22-18 in the series.

“Earlier in the year things weren’t going our way but we found a way,” Pietrangelo added. “We believed in each other — that’s how you get to this point.”

Colton Parayko #55 of the St. Louis Blues and Laila Anderson celebrate with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Boston Bruins in Game Seven to win the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 12, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The St. Louis Blues celebrate after defeating the Boston Bruins in Game Seven to win the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 12, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

 

 

Written by John Christian Hageny  @JCCSPORTS 

Special to HockeyClan

 

 

 

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