Let's Go Blues!
By Patrick Hoffman
Last year, the Vegas Golden Knights were the NHL's best story.
As an expansion team, not only did they win their division and were one of the best teams in both the Western Conference and the league, but they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. They shocked the hockey world and had both hockey and sports fans watching them at the most important time of the year.
This year, the league's best story revolves around the St. Louis Blues. This team was left for dead from October to mid-January and many in the hockey world figured that they were going to miss the playoffs for the second straight season.
Boy were these people ever wrong. After defeating the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, the Blues are headed to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 49 years where they will take on the Boston Bruins, the same team they faced 49 years ago.
There is a lot of credit that needs to be given out when it comes to this hockey club. In my opinion, it starts with rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington.
All Binnington has done this year is win hockey games. Binnington, 25, went 24-5-1 with a 1.89 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage, and five shutouts.
Binnington has continued his strong play in the playoffs. He is currently (May 22) 12-7 with a 2.36 goals-against average, a .914 save percentage, and one shutout.
All year long, Binnington has come up with the big saves, has had a calming presence between the pipes, and has shown both his team and the rest of the league that he is unflappable. Without the strong play of Binnington this season, who knows where the Blues would be right now.
Blues' head coach Craig Berube also deserves a ton of credit. Under his watch, the Blues play hard, battle for every puck, never give up, and always come through when they need to.
All season long, Berube pushed the right buttons and made sure his club stayed with it. Berube was a big part of the team's turnaround this year and because of it, he has them in the Final.
A lot of credit also needs to be given to Jaden Schwartz. He was quite in the regular season with 36 points (11 goals and 25 assists) in 69 games, but he's been an absolute monster in these playoffs.
As of this writing (May 22), Schwartz has 12 goals and 4 assists for 16 points in 19 games. He also has two game winning goals and a hat trick this postseason as well.
Lastly, some credit needs to be given to 28-year-old Ryan O'Reilly. He's been a leader for this hockey club all year long whether it is as a point producer (77 points in the regular season and 14 points in the postseason so far), a guy who plays with physicality, and someone who sticks up for his teammates.
When you put all of these things together, it is easy to see why they are where they are. It's going to be a tough task to beat the Bruins, but if they can play the way they have all postseason long, they might shock the hockey world once again and win their first Cup in franchise history.
I may have went to college in Massachusetts, but I will not be rooting for the Bruins. I am going to follow my hockey heart and root for the Blues because there is nothing better than a storybook ending for a team that deserves to win hockey's Holy Grail!
Let's Go Blues!
Patrick covers the NHL for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave.
He has previously covered the league for WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.