For the first time since 2012, the St. Louis Blues have won a playoff series, surviving the Blackhawks, 3-2, in Game 7 on Monday. The Blues coughed up an early 2-0 lead before Troy Brouwer scored the game-winner midway through the third period.
Winning a playoff series is always cause for celebration, but given the Blues’ postseason struggles in recent years – and given the Blackhawks’ success – you got the sense that this was personal for St. Louis.
Well, it was.
“Definitely so,” FS Midwest Blues analyst Darren Pang said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “When you look a couple of years ago, they led 2-0 in the series against Chicago, (Brent) Seabrook gets suspended but yet they win every game without Seabrook. Every game that the Blues and Blackhawks play – we all know that it’s (intense). The rivalry started with the football teams, then you’ve got the Cubs and the Cardinals on the baseball side, and since 1967, you’ve got the Blues and the Hawks – and there’s been some wicked wars between the two. But all in all, it was amazing seeing the respect (between the two teams). I know that I got texts from a lot of guys that I know in the Hawks organization.
“This tells you a lot about Joel Quenneville,” Pang continued. “When he was shaking hands with the Blues players going through the line, he was telling them, ‘Go win a Cup, boys.’ I think one side of him being a former Blues coach and knowing the city and knowing the heartache that they’ve been through – I think he was looking across the way going, ‘This is a darn good team, and they deserved to win this.’”
They almost didn’t. Seabrook was robbed of a game-tying goal late in regulation, as his shot from the blue line beat Blues goalie Brian Elliott, ricocheted off one post, flew across the line, hit the other post and fluttered harmlessly back toward Elliott.
It was stunning.
“Do you believe in fate?” Pang asked. “I believe that the hockey gods came back and said, ‘This is your turn now.’”
Elliott saved 31 of 33 shots (93.9 percent) on Monday and, in many ways, was the difference in the series. He averaged 37.3 saves in the Blues’ four wins.
Every team needs a hot goalie to win a Stanley Cup, and Pang believes Elliott cold be that guy for the Blues.
“I think he proved it when Jake Allen got hurt,” Pang said. “Jake was the No. 1 goalie. He was probably the MVP of the Blues for the first half of the year. Then he gets hurt, and Brian came in and played 18 consecutive games. I had him as a star of the game in 15 of 18. I think he proved to everybody he could go a long way. He gained a lot of confidence.”
The Blues will face the Dallas Stars in the second round of the playoffs.