By: Sammy Stava
For the second time in the last four seasons and the first since 2016, the St. Louis Blues have advanced to the Western Conference Final. That was all possible thanks to a dramatic double-overtime goal by hometown hero Patrick Maroon to end a thrilling seven-game series with the Dallas Stars.
The Blues now have a date with the San Jose Sharks for the right to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. It’s a re-match of the 2016 Western Conference Final round.
There are similarities and differences between this year’s team and the 2016 Western Conference Final run, but this season just has a more special feel to it.
After three straight first-round exits from 2012-2015, the 2016 deep run was fun to witness, but one of the main reasons why they didn’t win it all that year was because they let the Blackhawks and Stars get to a seventh game. They were up 3-1 on Chicago and 3-2 on Dallas before eventually running out of gas in six games against San Jose.
With all due respect to Ken Hitchcock’s squad, this year’s team is just mentally tougher. Not only did they have to endure missing the playoffs last season, and being in last place on January 3rd just to even get to this point, but the first two rounds of these playoffs should convince people that these Blues have gone through a lot, and they are thriving on it.
Series tied 2-2 down 2-0 in the third period at Winnipeg? No problem. Trailing 3-2 in the series against Dallas needing to win Games 6 and 7 with their backs against the wall? No problem.
The Blues’ backs have been against the wall since January, and the adversity they have battled through all season bodes well for a team that just needs to win eight more games. They’re 5-1 on the road in the postseason, and seven of their eight wins have been decided by one-goal. Nothing seems to faze this team. The latest example is this stat, which is impressive for a team to keep their composure in a Game 7.
Just like in 2016, Doug Armstrong’s critical offseason moves are paying huge dividends come playoff time. Armstrong brought in Troy Brouwer in a trade for T.J. Oshie. While Oshie may have won a Stanley Cup with Washington last season, Brouwer still played a huge role in the 2016 playoff run in his lone season with St. Louis.
Armstrong worked his magic again this offseason by bringing in David Perron (again), Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Bozak, and Patrick Maroon. All four of those key additions have scored a game-winning goal in five of their eight playoff wins so far. The other three game-winning goals have come from top-line production; Jaden Schwartz (twice), and Vladimir Tarasenko. This is what you want to see from a playoff team that has a deep run in them.
The Blues are here for a reason. Craig Berube is a Jack Adams Coach of the Year finalist, Ryan O’Reilly has been nominated for the Selke Trophy, and Jordan Binnington is up for the Calder Trophy. Patrick Maroon just had his David Freese moment and the song “Gloria” keeps on going.
Two Western Conference Final appearances in the last four seasons is special for a team that has had their fair share of playoff disappointments in the past, but nothing is going to be complete for this franchise until they win their first Stanley Cup.
This is the time to do it.
Here’s the Western Conference Final schedule:
Game 1: Saturday, May 11th – 7 p.m. CT in San Jose
Game 2: Monday, May 13th – 8:00 p.m. CT in San Jose
Game 3: Wednesday, May 15th – 7:00 p.m. CT in St. Louis
Game 4: Friday, May 17th – 7:00 p.m. CT in St. Louis
Game 5: Sunday, May 19th – 2:00 p.m. CT in San Jose (if necessary)
Game 6: Tuesday, May 21st – 7:00 p.m. CT in St. Louis (if necessary)
Game 7: Thursday, May 23rd – 8:00 p.m. CT in San Jose (if necessary)