St. Louis Victory Highlights the Unpredictability of Sport and the Unbridled Joy of an Underdog Story
The Stanley Cup is the oldest professional sports trophy in North America, and St. Louis Blues this year claimed the famous trophy for the first time in their 52 year history. The city of St. Louis now becomes the eighth team to have lifted the title in all four major leagues (NBA, NFL, MLB & NHL). The Blue’s last Stanley Cup Final appearance was back in 1970 when they were coincidentally defeated by the Boston Bruins who they have now in turn defeated forty-nine years later.
Victory for St. Louis in the final does not even begin to paint the incredible story that was their path to glory. On January 3rd (having played 37 games out of possible 82), the Blues sat rock bottom of the N.H.L with the worst record across all divisions. They had already fired head coach Mike Yeo in November and in December had been given just a 0.6% chance of lifting the Stanley Cup. The transformation began on January 7th when Jordan Binnington stepped into goal for the first time and stopped every shot (26) in a 3-0 win against Philadelphia. “Gloria”- the now famous team song- rang out in the changing room after and the wheels were in motion for the incredible run to the playoffs. Win after win and an inspired Binnington saw the Blue’s qualify for the postseason and in doing so became the first team since the Ottawa Senators in 1996-97 to qualify having been bottom of the league after January 1st.
The route to the final was not plain sailing either as they battled tooth-and-nail against the Winnipeg Jets in the first round to win the series 4-2. Next up the Dallas Stars also kept the Blues on their toes for the full seven games and it was another performance full of resistance that saw a 4-3 win in round two. The final obstacle in the way of the Blues and a historic final was the San Jose Sharks. Again, resilience shone through and St. Louis came back from 2-1 down to win the series 4-2 and book their place against Boston in the final.
The story of young Jordan Binnington mirrors that of the St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup win. Once an outcast of the Blues, Binnington had been pushed out one of Boston’s minor leagues and was bottom of the Blue’s keeper roster after his third-round draft that year. Yet when he came into the side in January he undertook a meteoric rise to fame and has proved the linchpin for the St. Louis success. His .930 save percentage would prove pivotal in tightening up the Blue’s defence and converting their frequent losses to wins. The 25 year-old-rookie’s performance in the final encapsulated everything that he had done for the Blues. He stopped an unbelievable 32 shots and kept the Bruins out during long spells of Boston dominance.
The underdog story of the Blues will resonate with sports fans around the world and their never-say-die attitude is often the only thing that keeps a fans blood pumping at the darkest of times. The jubilation from players and fans at the end of the final third illustrated just how much this trophy meant to the people of St. Louis. It also demonstrated why the passion, excitement and unpredictability of sport can produce moments that cannot be replicated in any other walk of life.
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