Well, I never thought I would be saying this, but tonight begins the first Stanley Cup Finals game in 49 years for the St. Louis Blues. In fact, I’d argue that this is the first meaningful Stanley Cup finals game in team history – though the Blues did make it to the finals each of their first three years, those don’t really count because they grouped all of the original six teams (i.e. the good teams) in one conference, so there was no chance the Blues would beat any team that made the finals.
This time, it should at least be more even. The Blues made it to the final round by dispatching of Winnipeg in 6, and Dallas in 7, while coming back from a 2-1 deficit with inexorable effort against San Jose to take that series in 6 as well.
The Blues are led offensively by Jaden Schwartz who, somewhat inexplicably, has 12 goals in 19 games after scoring only 11 during the regular season. Ryan O’Reilly is next with 14 points, followed by Vladimir Tarasenko, David Perron, and Alex Pietrangelo with 13 points. Though others are not quite putting up the points that those guys have been, the Blues have been receiving meaningful, timely, contributions by the likes of Pat Maroon, Robert Thomas, and Tyler Bozak. The team, as a whole, is scoring a rather respectable 3 goals per game (though I’d definitely like to see more).
Defensively, the Blues have allowed an average of 2.52 goals per game (including a couple of empty netters). This is pretty fantastic, and quite honestly happening during a time when Pietrangelo has not really been at his defensive best. The key for the Blues this postseason defensively has been Colton Parayko – who was integral in tempering the production of Logan Couture (which says a lot about just how good Couture is that scoring ‘only’ 5 goals last series was shutting him down).
As far as goaltending, Jordan Binnington has given the Blues what they have not had for years (…forever?) – consistency. Binnington has a .914 save percentage, allowing 2.36 goals per game, but with a quality start percentage of less than 70% and a Goals Saved Above Average of -1.36 (thank you hockey-reference.com). These are generally pretty good, but nothing mind-blowing, and overall a bit worse than what Brian Elliot gave us a few years back, but the evenness of his play – the knowledge that he is not going to go through a multi-game stretch of just being outright awful, is something all Cup contending teams need. It doesn’t matter much if a goalie shuts out a team all four games one round, and can’t stop a beach ball the next.
All this is nice, and it all also probably means nothing because you just can’t apply large-sample statistics to a small-sample series. So my final thoughts are best served not by proffering some hackneyed predictions, but a plea to the Blues: Just win. Please win. Do it for Doug Wickenheiser, who got us all too close. Do it for Brett Hull and Bernie Federko and Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger who spent careers here trying to win one for this city, and came back for a second career when their playing days were done. Do it for Scott Stevens who was unjustly taken away and so badly wanted to come back. Do it for Martin Brodeur and Wayne Gretzky who played a couple games here and decided to make St. Louis their home.
And most importantly – and I can’t stress this enough – unquestionably, undeniably most importantly, do it for me.
Blues in 6.
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