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Stanley Cup Final

Robinson basks in Stanley Cup title as Blues senior consultant

Hall of Fame defenseman brought wealth of wisdom to St. Louis on way to winning his 10th championship

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

BOSTON -- At some point Wednesday, Hall of Fame defenseman Larry Robinson wanted to bail out of the ninth-floor TD Garden press box, go downstairs, lace up his skates and join the St. Louis Blues lineup.

It had nothing to do with the way the Blues defense was playing. It had everything to do with the fact Robinson felt almost sick to his stomach watching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins without being able to do anything about the result.

"It's horrible when you have a big ball in the pit of your stomach just from the stress of being there," Robinson said on TD Garden ice, the Blues' Stanley Cup celebration swirling all around him following St. Louis' 4-1 win that secured its first championship. "You play every shift. You play every pass and every stop. …. It was nice to be back in the playoff hunt again, but I'll tell you what -- I'd rather have my equipment on and be playing on the ice. It's so stressful watching up there because you feel so helpless. There's nothing you can do, there's no way of venting what's building up inside."

 

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A half-hour after the final buzzer, his tie was loosened just a bit, his wife Jeannette tucked under one arm, legendary Blues defenseman Bob Plager wrapped by the other. He looked entirely serene beneath a Stanley Cup Champions cap, having just won his 10th title; he won six as a player with the Montreal Canadiens, one as New Jersey Devils coach in 2000 and two as Devils assistant in 1995 and 2003.

Robinson joined the Blues on Sept. 21 as senior consultant to hockey operations after having spent five seasons with the San Jose Sharks as associate coach and director of player development. He won the Norris Trophy in 1977 and 1980 as the NHL's best defenseman and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs in 1978.

The Blues stumbled to start the season and on Nov. 19, with St. Louis last in the Central Division at 7-9-3, coach Mike Yeo was fired and replaced by Craig Berube. Two nights later, at general manager Doug Armstrong's request, Robinson was behind the Blues bench for their road game against the Nashville Predators as an assistant to Berube, eager to help and instantly impressed by the game he again was seeing from a few feet away.

"Suddenly I'm behind the bench, watching, and I think I had to ice my neck down, it was going back and forth so fast," he said with a laugh.

Robinson remained with the Blues until Christmas, then returned to his Florida home to continue working with the team, specifically its defensemen, with video analysis and counsel.

When St. Louis became a serious Cup contender late in the season, he rejoined them as a commanding presence, sounding board and sage.

In fact, Robinson understated what he could or couldn't do from the press box on Wednesday. At the end of the first period, the Blues leading 2-0, he headed down to the dressing room to offer a little advice to two defensemen.

"I said something to [Vince Dunn] about when he was wheeling the net, to go closer so the guy couldn't jump in between him and the post," Robinson said. "And I told [Colton] Parayko to not go to his backhand so much. You always want to stay on your forehand and keep your feet moving. Look around and if the play's there, make it. If it's not, then just bank it (off the boards). He's such a great skater.

"The other thing I said was, it's great to be physical but don't run all over the place to get your hits. If you have to make four or five strides, you're usually putting yourself out of position and you're wasting energy for no reason. If the hit is there, take it and finish hard."

Video: Blues defeat Bruins in seven to claim first Cup title

Robinson described St. Louis' victory as a fairy tale, the Blues having gone from worst in the NHL on Jan. 3 to Stanley Cup champions a little more than five months later.

"I'm extremely happy for this group here because what we went through this year," he said. "The other night we were so disappointed because we could have won it at home (a 5-1 loss in Game 6 on Sunday), but we all said the same thing: Don't ever count this group out. They just find a way. They're a special group.

"We've been counted out all year in certain situations but every time we've come back. We had calls go against us in this series and other series and most teams might have panicked and done something stupid. But give credit to Craig Berube, he's kept everybody focused and they showed a lot of comeback, a lot of will and heart and they showed what they can do."

The mood in the St. Louis dressing room before Game 7, Robinson said, was difficult to figure out.

"You look at them and they always look the same," he said, laughing again. "So, you never know what team is going to show up. This is great, it's great for the city. St. Louis, you can't believe the fans. There were people crying in the stands even before we won the Cup. I can't imagine what it's going to be like now that we've won it.

"This certainly is very special. When we made the [coaching] change, I was a part of it for a while. To come back to join this group that wanted me back and to be around them in the playoffs makes me feel pretty darn good."

With that, he cast an eye on the joyful madness around him on the ice, considering having been here nine times before and yet winning now for the very first time. Then, with a smile:

"It never gets old."

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