On Wednesday, Binnington regrouped from a porous Game 6 to set the record for most victories (16) by a rookie goalie in a single postseason. One of the goalies he surpassed was Ron Hextall, a former Philadelphia teammate of Craig Berube, who replaced Mike Yeo as the Blues coach on Nov. 19.
Seven teams changed coaches during the season, but only St. Louis reached the playoffs. Not long after taking over for Yeo, Berube removed the standings board in the Blues’ dressing room. Too negative. More lasting changes needed incubation. He wanted opponents to hate playing against the Blues.
“Grinding teams down — that’s kind of how we’re built,” Berube said Sunday morning. “We really grasped playing that way and became really good at it.”
So good at it that in a league trending smaller, faster, shiftier, that style became the Blues’ pathway to glory — or rather, “Gloria,” the 1982 hit that became the team’s singalong victory anthem. The Blues deploy an unremitting forecheck that vaporizes bodies and spirits, slamming players into boards and out of games. It helped them oust Winnipeg, Dallas and San Jose, and, finally, Boston, the team that swept the Blues in the 1970 finals.
These Bruins were big and heavy, but the Blues were bigger and heavier, and meaner, too. Their nastiness — two players missed games this series to suspensions — smothered Boston’s top two lines for the first five games, limiting those six players to two total points at even strength, one an empty-net goal in Game 1. The Bruins doubled that total in Game 6, but the Blues countered, as they have all year.
The Greater Boston area must now summon the fortitude to face its failure to hold three major titles at once. Oh, well, the World Series and the Super Bowl will have to do.
Let us consider instead the franchise that waited five decades for its first crown.
In each of the Blues’ first three seasons, after expansion placed six new teams in the same division, the team made the finals. The Blues went 0-12.