Mac On Sports: Blues Win! Blues Win!



J. Thomas McNamara

     Decatur St. Louis Blues fans celebrated late Wednesday night after the Blues won the Stanley Cup championship.
     Its the first time in history that the St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup championship and it came in Boston with their 4-1 win over the Bruins. Interestingly, the Blues won three of their four games in Boston in the seven-game series, confirming what Blues fans have said in recent days and weeks that they play better on the road than at home because they feel less pressure. They became the sixth team to win three games on the road in a series.
     The Blues jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and never looked back in making sure that the Cup came to St. Louis after the Blues disappointed their fans Sunday night with their home loss to the Bruins in Game 6.
After breaking the franchise record for most points scored in a postseason and setting the tone for the St. Louis Blues’ first Stanley Cup championship in team history, Ryan O’Reilly has been named the 2019 Conn Smythe Trophy winner.
     Responsible for the Blues’ first goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, O’Reilly also added an assist in Thursday night’s series-clinching victory at TD Garden, finishing this year’s playoffs with 23 points — the most by any player in Blues history. He also ends the Stanley Cup Playoffs tied for the most points among all players and became the first since Wayne Gretzky in 1985 to score in four straight Final games.
Earning the Conn Smythe marks a triumphant conclusion to a whirlwind of a year for O’Reilly, who at the start of summer 2018 was still a member of the Buffalo Sabres. The 28-year-old forward was originally drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in 2009 and spent the first six seasons of his NHL career there, joining Buffalo via trade in 2015.
     Almost 50 years after they were swept by the Boston Bruins in their last Stanley Cup Final appearance, the St. Louis Blues have avenged their 1970 defeat in historic fashion, beating the Eastern Conference champions 4-1 at TD Garden on Thursday night to claim their first-ever title
     The Bruins may have entered with the upper hand, touting home ice after dropping four goals on Blues rookie goalie Jordan Binnington in a 5-1 Game 6 rout, but he stifled an early onslaught of offense to start Thursday’s showdown. That allowed St. Louis to hold a 2-0 lead after two periods despite taking only six of their own shots at the halfway point of the action. From that point forward, with Boston fans muzzled and the Bruins’ biggest names back in the shadows, St. Louis simply put on a clinic, demonstrating pitch-perfect checking, transition defense and penalty killing — all before a pair of third-period goals sealed their first title in franchise history.
     For a team that sat in last place on the first day of 2019, the Blues looked a whole lot more like a veteran playoff team than the Bruins, who were essentially sapped of all energy and rhythm as early as the end of the first period. Ryan O’Reilly made history by getting St. Louis on the board first, tipping a shot past Tuukka Rask to become the first player to score in four straight Final games since Wayne Gretzky in 1985. Scoring strikes from Zach Sanford and Brayden Schenn in the final eight and a half minutes sealed the deal, with only a late tally from Matt Grzelcyk putting Boston on the board.
     Jordan Binnington’s 32 saves was the most by a rookie goalie to clinch the Stanley Cup Final since the league began tracking shots in 1955. He joins a list that includes Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy and Cam Ward as rookie goalies who led their teams to the Stanley Cup.
     I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.

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