Trust me, this isn’t a dream.
Moments after the St. Louis Blues shot the final harpoon into the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night at an absolutely raucous Enterprise Center, a moderate portion of the fanbase were doing one of two things: crying or sitting still in utter disbelief.
You’ve heard the tired story almost as much as you’ve heard the NBC Sports broadcast tell you Pat Maroon is from St. Louis. The Blues went from last to first, traveling from the worst record on New Year’s Day to the best record for the final portion of the season. After engaging in Top Gun action with the Winnipeg Jets, using their own Millennium Falcon to shoot a Star out of the sky, and finally plunging a dagger into the eyes of the Sharks, the Blues have arrived back at the Stanley Cup Finals.
It’s simply fucking surreal to be sitting here and typing this article out. This time of the year, I’m halfway watching two other teams prep for the final round. Like a nerdy high school kid eyeing the babe at the mall behind a disguise of Panda Express, fountain soda cups, and over-sized glasses from across the atrium. Now, I am standing next to the hottest girl in town, and her name is Stanley. Pardon me as I resist levitating into the South City skyline.
When the game concluded, I thought about a little kid going with his big brother and dad to the Old Barn on Oakland to watch the Golden Brett and company kick ass. I was 7 years old and couldn’t get enough of this brutally violent and entertaining game called hockey. I It was innocent and fresh, like a liquor cabinet with child locks on it. Before long, I pummeled my dad with questions about the team. He answered as many as a man who only casually liked the sport could. Player names, stories, and historical references. What I took away from those chats was a sad fact that I carry today: no Stanley Cups.
It’s something that every Blues fan has carried with them since they got into the game. It’s something that casual Blues fans know fairly well of whenever the conversation about hockey is broached. It’s a sign buried into the grass so deep in front of the house that no one can pull it out of the ground. A chip on the shoulder of the fan base that may be lifted during the next few weeks.
It won’t be easy. Take a brief gander at the Boston Bruins stats and website after you gaze over David Backes. They allowed the third lowest goals-per-game in the NHL during the regular season. Their power play is excellent. Brad Marchand may be a human shit stain, but that shit stain finished with 100 points this season. Tuukka Rask is legit. They won it in 2011. The Bruins have won seven straight playoff games, eliminating the Columbus Blue Jackets and basically deleting the Carolina Hurricanes from playoff hockey’s memory in a four game sweep. Boston outscored Carolina 17-5 in that series. People cried. Boston Baked Beans were poured over graves. Ouch is the word.
They are a thunderstorm awaiting St. Louis. If you think rest is slowing them down, think again. It’s allowing veterans like the giant Zdeno Chara to get healthier and ice their limbs. The Blues have their work cut out for them, so get ready for another pressure cooker.
Rask is Ben Bishop like great, but has his name written on the Cup. The Bruins are chock full of veterans and scorers hellbent on bringing NHL glory back to Boston, a place where champions are born and bred. It’s not fair, but nothing is in sports. When Boston hears about this feel good St. Louis story, all they want to do is wreck the party.
Do the Blues stand a chance? Sure they do. Why else would they be here? Several pundits, not including Pierre McGuire and all his relatives, didn’t pick the Blues to make it to the Western Conference Finals. Mike Milbury was depressed during the final 10 minutes of Tuesday’s game. Patrick Sharp and company have already stamped their support on Boston. McGuire may have had a morning flight to San Jose, but he’ll circle the country and get ready to hop on the Boston bandwagon. It’s all good. Let him.
The Blues have four scoring lines. A head coach who is in sync with his players. A goaltender with ice cold piss and vinegar flowing through his veins. They get goals from up and down the roster, and push back against the boogeymen of the league. The Bruins may be unstoppable, but the Blues are an immovable force. Check the stats since the end of January.
This is where I could sit here and tell you a Stanley Cup Final berth is good enough. They made it, so great and all. Nope. I want more. I want the Cup. People talk about deserve a lot when the postseason comes around. Joe Thornton. Jay Bouwmeester. Bobby Plager. Sure, all of that can work.
You know who fucking deserves a Cup? St. Louis. A city deserves the best trophy. A fan base deserves it. The people who have shown up, day in and day out, season after season, hoping and praying for something miraculous to happen before they die. A group of fiercely loyal hockey addicts who want a single Stanley Cup to share the names of Blues players while those players are still in St. Louis. Is that too much to ask? Every hockey town deserves a Stanley Cup celebration.
Win it for anyone who dreamed of a parade on Oakland Avenue or 14th and Clark. Win it for the wonderfully stoic Laila Anderson, the 11-year-old battling a deadly systemic inflammatory syndrome called HLH, who lit a fire under the ass of this Blues team. People like her deserve something like this WAY MORE than Joe fucking Thornton. It’s all she thinks about. Try to remain dry-eyed when Pat Maroon told Laila that the team fights for her. Just try. You’ll fail.
I wrote this team off in December, thinking they would sell some parts, hope for a fine draft spot, and regroup for 2019-2020. I was wrong. So were many others. It’s what sports fans and even writers do. You read the terrain, observe the odds, and make a choice. There’s nothing better than being wrong about shit like this.
Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, I drove a number of Blues fans home while working for Uber. They were laughing, crying, and generally elated. Most of them hadn’t seen this before or were waiting a long time. They couldn’t describe it. No one should try. Sports defy explanation.
I’ll end this rambling batch of prose with a quick story. Last summer, Bobby Plager presented each new Blue, Ryan O’Reilly and Tyler Bozak among them, with their jersey. It was a cool event at Ballpark Village I think. Afterwards, Plager said to the camera, “these are the boys that are going to win me my Cup.”
Well, Blues, go finish the damn job. Win Bobby that Cup.
St. Louis DESERVES more celebrations.