Let’s get this out there in the open: nearly every St. Louis Blues fan would purchase a retrospective of the Blues’ incredible run to the Stanley Cup if it were filmed on a hand-cranked 1960s home movie camera. Thankfully for those of us in the market for a film. NHL Original Productions and Cinedigm has put together a quality product.
St. Louis Blues: 2019 Stanley Cup Champions is a very thorough look at the Blues’ season, post-season, and championship. It doesn’t hold anything back as it shows the team’s early season struggles, the firing of coach Mike Yeo, and the second-half standings climb. Right after the sounds of “Gloria” close and the introduction fades, the film shifts to an interview with Alex Pietrangelo discussing how frustrated the team was with the start to their season. Understated as always, Jay Bouwmeester says that the team “got off on the wrong foot,” and even knowing the outcome to the year it is still a little frustrating to watch clips of the Blues floundering. The film gives the first of many hints about how Craig Berube helped the Blues pull a U-turn: the first thing that he did was he took down the standings board so the Blues could keep their focus in-house, not league-wide.
Taking down the standings board, Jordan Binnington’s call-up, the eleven-game winning streak: all of that, when put together in the retrospective, starts to make sense. You can feel the paradigm shift happening and the entire tone of the film begins to shift. You know what’s coming and the guys during the interviews know what’s coming, but the archival footage of the players on the ice - at that time, they don’t have a clue.
Where the film shines is during the individual rounds. Every time we watch a five minute retrospective clip show on-line, we’re watching the highlights. Here? Each round has the good and the bad. It has the two games won at home against the Jets and the uncertainty that we all felt - even the team - after the Blues dropped games three and four at home. Understanding the team’s frustration makes it even more exciting to watch game five and game six. We know Schwartz’s hat trick is just around the corner, but it’s still thrilling to watch.
Every round is handled that way, and you can see clearly how the team shakes off the problems and bounces back from adversity. Reflecting on how the Blues were able to win game six against the Stars, Berube just says “we didn’t show the nerves.” Pat Maroon, before game seven has a case of ESP and proclaims “offense will come.” Chief having similar advise after the hand pass in game three and the strong victory in game five against the Sharks: “move on.” After winning the conference? “We’re not done yet.”
The Final is the best part of the film, and we all know how it ends. Before you’re taken up in the emotions of watching game seven wind down, pay close attention to the interviews from game to game. This is where including the losses really becomes essential. The Blues reflect on why game three and game six were lost at home, and it may sound close to some of the speculation that you read on this website and other places.
Conn Smythe winner Ryan O’Reilly summarizes the whole season in one sentence: “I can’t believe it actually worked.” Nearly two months on, neither can we, but we’re happy that it did.