A year ago, the St. Louis Blues busted their Stanley Cup Final win cherry.
Yes, you heard that correctly. While the team had tasted the action several decades ago in shutout series losses to the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, the Blues had never won a single Stanley Cup Final game. It’s like they existed without truly existing.
Carl Gunnarsson was the guy who ended the suffering. If you had made a bet with me before May 27, 2019 that I would write that previous line, you may need to buy some lottery tickets very soon. It was the latest Blues overtime playoff win that left you breathless.
After Pat Maroon had extinguished the Dallas Stars in double overtime with a tap-in guy, Gunnarsson raised the ante for future playoff overtime drama with a missile from the point. I mean, if the word “missile” was reimagined by being a soft floating saucer biscuit delivery truck. Sure thing.
But this wasn’t a shot that dictated its legend on miles-per-hour; it was more like redemption. Earlier in the game, Gunnarsson had sliced a piece of the metal off the post to Tuukka Rask’s left. And then you have the reported conversation between head coach Craig Berube and Gunnarsson at the urinal in between periods. Suddenly, this is starting to sound very cinematic. Just like the rest of the Blues’ magical season.
The play unfolded rather quickly. The Blues got control at the top of the dot with Ryan O’Reilly doing what sweet gingerbread-bearded clad warrior men sending the perfect pass over to Gunnarsson to one-time past Rask. Alex Pietrangelo hopping into mid-air to create the perfect screen, basically disabling Rask’s advantage in an instant. It was the perfect play to hit a team hard and fast. The crushing overtime tactic.
The Bruins were in disbelief. History had taught them the Blues folded during this hour. The past few chapters of Stanley Cup Final literature had informed Boston that this wasn’t St. Louis’ hour. It was the wrong memo, because the Blues were still there. And Game 2 cemented the thought of Lord Stanley belonging to the Blues in my mind. The doubt started to trick away in larger batches after that 3-2 win.
It was like the comeback lost a few ounces of its fairy dust that night at the Garden. On the road, down 1-0 in the series by a relentless opponent with a deeper roster, the Blues weren’t going to back down. The reality was taking over the fantasy. If the Bruins collect a win that night, the series doesn’t even go six games. The nail would be going in. This would be the day that the latest Blues dream died.
Gunnarrson, along with O’Reilly and Pietrangelo. without forgetting about Jordan Binnington, refused for that idea to play out. Not this time, they said. Gunnarsson mapped that goal out. He collected the puck and started the play, passing to O’Reilly while backing up into a shot setup. He didn’t miss that scoring attempt.
May 27, 2019 was the epitome of “you never know” for the Blues. Where the impossible started to collapse to a certainty.
There were three wins and five more games to play, but I think Game 2 of the 2018-19 Stanley Cup Final was where the emotion hit a crazy high for the first time.
When that puck found its way past Rask, the boulder of disappointment hit the floor with full force. Something else was possible and it was called toasted ravioli being dipped into the top of the league’s most precious trophy, which was full of marinara sauce.
Thanks for reading and always buy more bourbon.