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Stanley Cup Final

How Blues got to 2019 Stanley Cup Final

Coaching change, Binnington's impressive rookie season helped St. Louis win Western Conference

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The St. Louis Blues are in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970.

A 5-1 win against the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Tuesday earned the Blues the chance to play in the Final for the first time since reaching the championship round in their first three seasons (1968-70).

St. Louis is 12-7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, defeating the Winnipeg Jets in six games in the first round and Dallas Stars in seven games in the second round before eliminating the Sharks.

 

[RELATED: Full Stanley Cup Final coverage]

 

Here are some of the highlights along the Blues' road to the Stanley Cup Final:

 

BEST MOMENT: May 7, against the Dallas Stars -- Pat Maroon scored at 5:50 of the second overtime in Game 7 to defeat the Stars. Robert Thomas' shot from the right circle hit the near post and dropped behind Stars goalie Ben Bishop. Maroon, a St. Louis native who signed with the Blues to play in front of his family, reached into the crease and knocked the puck in to send St. Louis to the conference final. "It means the world," Maroon said after the game. "You're playing street hockey and playing with your brothers or in your basement and you dream of those moments. To score a goal like that, I'll never forget that moment. My fiancée, my son, my parents, my brother, my sister, my uncle, cousins, whatever, they'll never forget this moment, and neither will I."

Video: #ThirstForTheCup: Blues heading to Stanley Cup Final

 

TURNING POINT: Jan. 3, against Washington Capitals -- Oskar Sundqvist dove to knock in the rebound of an Alex Pietrangelo shot with 3:27 remaining in the second period to break a 2-2 tie with the Washington Capitals, and then Pietrangelo and Tyler Bozak scored in the third to give the Blues a 5-2 win at Enterprise Center. The victory began a 30-10-5 run that lifted St. Louis from 31st in the NHL standings to third place in the Central Division.

 

BEST MOVE MADE: Coaching change -- Craig Berube was promoted from associate coach to replace coach Mike Yeo on Nov. 19. More than any structural or system changes, Berube demanded accountability on and off the ice, and the players bought in. "He's intense, demanding," Pietrangelo told the Blues website in February. "But he also understands when the boys need a mental and physical break. He's been really good at managing us in games from behind the bench and managing days away from the rink. He expects a lot. I mean, he expects you to keep getting better every day, regardless of how many games we've won lately or how many in a row we've won. Every single day he wants to get better. He's demanding that of us, but it's made us a better team."

 

BEST MOVE NOT MADE: Keeping the veterans -- As the Blues tumbled down the standings in the first half of the season, trade rumors surrounded several veteran players, including Pietrangelo and forward Vladimir Tarasenko. But the Blues trusted their group, and that trust has been rewarded.

 

SIGNATURE WIN (REGULAR SEASON): Jan. 7, against the Philadelphia Flyers -- Goalie Jordan Binnington, recalled from San Antonio of the American Hockey League two days earlier, made 25 saves in his first NHL start, a 3-0 victory against the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. Another signature moment happened the night before the game. A few Blues players went to a Philadelphia bar to watch the NFL playoffs. That's where they were introduced to "Gloria," which became their season-long theme song.

Video: Binnington shuts out Flyers in 3-0 win

 

SIGNATURE WIN (PLAYOFFS): May 21, against the San Jose Sharks -- David Perron scored 1:32 into the game to spark the Blues to a 5-1 victory in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final. After the Sharks trimmed the Blues' lead to 2-1 with Dylan Gambrell's goal at 6:40 of the second period, Brayden Schenn's power-play goal at 12:47 made it 3-1. Despite being out-shot 10-3 in the third, St. Louis got insurance goals from Bozak and Ivan Barbashev to finish the scoring. Binnington made 25 saves.

 

MVP: Jordan Binnington -- Binnington started the season fourth on the organizational goaltending depth chart behind Jake Allen and Chad Johnson in the NHL, and Ville Husso in the AHL. But with Allen inconsistent, Johnson lost on waivers to the Anaheim Ducks and Husso out with an injury, St. Louis opted to give him a shot after Evan Fitzpatrick had backed up Allen for a handful of games in December. Binnington went 13-1-1 in his first 15 starts and provided the Blues with a level of confidence in goal that had been missing.

 

ROOKIE OF YEAR: Binnington -- The 25-year-old set Blues rookie records for wins (25) and shutouts (five). Among goalies to play at least 30 games this season, Binnington was first in the NHL with a 1.89 goals-against average and tied for fourth with Thomas Griess of the New York Islanders in save percentage (.927). He is one of three finalists for the Calder Trophy as the top rookie in the NHL.

 

BIGGEST SURPRISE:Jaden Schwartz -- The forward scored 11 goals in 69 regular-season games, but he's been a force during the playoffs with 12 goals in 19 games. He scored the game-winning goal with 15 seconds remaining in the third period in Game 5 of the first round, then two days later had a natural hat trick in a 3-2 victory in Game 6. He also scored four goals in seven games during the second round and had a hat trick in Game 5 of the conference final. "Sometimes when pucks aren't going in, the net doesn't seem as big," Schwartz said during the first round. "When you get a bounce, or you get a break sometimes, you can just carry that over. It almost seems like the net seems bigger. I think everyone will tell you confidence in any sport is big."

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