It’s a good day for handshakes at center ice. It’s a good time for the unthinkable to become a reality, which is a truly momentous occasion in the world of sports.
The St. Louis Blues are a single win away from winning their first Stanley Cup. Please excuse me while I go change my pants.
Now that I am back, just think about it. 52 years of possibilities colliding with reality on a Sunday night in St. Louis. Few could have written this kind of fairy tale story. After taking care of Boston on Thursday night in thrilling fashion, the Blues have 15 wins, but aren’t happy just yet. As Jon Hamm’s Don Draper would say, when you find happiness, all you then want is more happiness. 16 wins would do it.
It sure hasn’t been easy. The Winnipeg Jets gave the Blues a bruise in their six game series. You don’t face Dustin Byfuglien six times and walk away clean. The Dallas Stars had the Blues up against the ledge after winning three of the first five games, but couldn’t close it out, allowing the rogues in blue to slip out of danger. Jamie Benn eventually did go down.
The San Jose Sharks, beneficiaries of three crucial calls going their way in the playoffs, ran out of excuses and magic after Game 3 of the Western Conference Final, scoring just 2 goals in their final three games. Peter DeBoer returned to his home of baked beans, Pretty in Pink, and private stash of rogaine.
The Boston Bruins were well-rested, maybe too much in fact, but were picked by nearly everyone to tromp the Blues. I picked the Bruins in seven games, thinking they simply had too much firepower for St. Louis and a world class veteran goaltender in Tuukka Rask. The Blues promptly held up the middle finger to all their naysayers for the 150th time this season, turning the tables and taking a 3-2 series lead into tonight. A potentially history-making night. A night that thousands will savor.
Then again, there are others that won’t savor it. A certain pizza critic who only takes one bite, Mike Milbury, nearly everyone at NBC Sports, and every head coach who has went up against the Blues this postseason. The National media refuses to buy into this fairy tale plot, out of fear of losing their allegiance to the ivory towers in New York, Los Angeles, and Boston. If Lebron James played for the Blues, ESPN would be all over it. If Jon Hamm gave Milbury an autograph, he may even fold over and appreciate it.
If you ask Boston fans, the Blues have gotten too many breaks this series. Never mind the fact that St. Louis has received more penalties and two one-game suspensions for key players. Forget the fact Torey Krug chased down Robert Thomas like the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day before crushing him. Forget the highly intentional low hit by Brad “I’m a bitch and I know it” Marchand on Vladimir Tarasenko. Show them that and they just two more bites of their pizzas and an extra scoop of their clam chowder, shrugging their shoulders like overgrown babies.
For my money, Ryan O’Reilly is the MVP of the series so far. He’s refused to be dominated by Patrice Bergeron and others on the face-off dot, put up huge goals, six points, and is back to being his machine-like self on the ice. He controls the action, makes teammates better, and does it all. The man kills penalties, anchors the power play, never slacks off on a play in either end, and is simply relentless.
Having said that, I want to give Alex Pietrangelo a huge dose of kudos as well. The man is averaged 27 minutes on ice, is a +5, has three points, and has been a true leader and Captain out there. During a time of need, Petro has stepped up big time.
There are others, and you know their names. The point is these Blues have shouldered expectations, misfortune, bad times, and continued to produce wins. They take what the other team gives them for a couple games, finds a way to adapt to the style, and triumphs. You can talk about a higher level of skill or just more polished players, but whatever Craig Berube told these guys at mid-season is something that needs to be in a book soon.
My advice for tonight is simple. Watch it with someone you love. Do it with people who make you happy and share a common passion. This could be a night you remember forever, a colorful page in the scrapbook of life. Don’t just watch it anywhere. Take the kid who doesn’t want to leave the house somewhere. Cancel the other plans. Forget about work tomorrow, because there’s always espresso in the morning. As a fictional hedge fund master once said, do it all instead of choosing one thing.
I’ll watch it with my brother and dad, who I happened to watch my first Blues game with 31 years ago. We will laugh, shout, scream at each other, and in the end, possibly shed a few tears over cigars. Sports should never be watched alone. Share the fucking moment.
That’s all I have for now. No matter what happens tonight, I will have more words later on. For now, I am going to travel the endangered sea of possibility, battling anxiety and nurturing my still-powerful presence of doubt.
Can the Blues make the unthinkable a reality tonight? I believe they can. I didn’t think it was possible before Game 1, but so far this year, the Blues are pros at surprising people.
So let’s shake hands, drink some bourbon, and dance the night away! Damn, I got to change my pants again.