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NHL Awards find Blues continuing 'surreal' Stanley Cup celebration

Up for five honors at ceremony in Las Vegas, where party rolls on

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

LAS VEGAS -- Is this Las Vegas or St. Louis?

After the St. Louis Blues paraded the Stanley Cup to the Gateway Arch on Saturday, a group of players flew it to the Strip to celebrate. They have felt at home from STK Las Vegas, a steakhouse; to OMNIA Nightclub; to XS Las Vegas, another nightclub; to Wet Republic Ultra Pool.

"Everywhere we go, they're playing 'Gloria,'" goalie Jordan Binnington said, referring to the Blues victory anthem, at NHL Awards Media Day on Tuesday. "They give us our song, and the whole place lights up. It's surreal. It's crazy."

It will continue at the 2019 NHL Awards presented by Bridgestone on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN). At times, the Mandalay Bay Events Center sports and entertainment complex will feel like Enterprise Center, their home arena.

Doug Armstrong is a finalist for General Manager of the Year, Craig Berube for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year. Binnington is a finalist for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. Center Ryan O'Reilly is a finalist for the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward and the Lady Byng for sportsmanship and ability.

"Probably if you sold this script to somebody in Hollywood, they wouldn't have made the movie," Armstrong said. "They'd have said, 'That's a little bit too unbelievable.'"

 

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Just think, at this time a year ago, Armstrong was plotting moves after St. Louis missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs. O'Reilly didn't come to the Blues until July 1, when they acquired him from the Buffalo Sabres. Berube didn't take over behind the bench until Nov. 19, when he replaced Mike Yeo after a 7-9-3 start. Binnington didn't take over the net until Jan. 7, when he made his first NHL start for a team that had been last in the NHL four days earlier.

"It is special," Berube said. "There's different pieces that came in at different times. They all jelled together at some point and went on to have success."

The Blues are still processing what happened.

"It was a roller coaster for sure," O'Reilly said. "That first bit, with the struggles that we had, it was very disappointing. We were all on edge. We didn't know if the group was going to get split up. There was so many good pieces, but we just couldn't seem to find any sort of consistency with it.

"And then these little adjustments happen, and [Binnington] comes in, and [Berube] takes over and helps us find an identity. And then, you know, yeah, we see how good can be, and we start to get confident and find more about each other and grow.

"And next thing you know, we're taking on everyone and we're playing great hockey and that belief just came. I still can't believe it, that this all came together and we were able to change."

The Blues defeated the Boston Bruins 4-1 at TD Garden on Wednesday in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. After raising the Cup and sharing it with family and friends on the ice, they headed back to St. Louis in the wee hours of Thursday.

"That Cup on the plane ride home with them players, I'll never forget that in my life," Berube said.

O'Reilly won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs. He brought it home and set it on his kitchen table for his family to find.

"They were pretty emotional just to see it, going through the names on it," O'Reilly said. "It was a pretty special moment for us just to kind of have that. Even now, we can't believe my name's going to be on the Stanley Cup."

Video: Best moments from the Blues Championship Parade

An estimated 500,000 people turned out for the parade.

"That was one of the coolest things I've seen," O'Reilly said. "It was shocking. We come out of the arena. Just walking out, and it's fairly busy. There's people on each side going crazy. And it was just like, we turn a corner, and it's a little more nuts. And you turn the next corner, there's more people, and it's louder. And it just kept evolving to where we couldn't believe it. Every guy was like, 'What just happened?' It was so incredible to see that many people out. It's a hockey town too. It was so cool to be a part of."

It took a toll.

"The boys might have been more sore from the parade than the seven-game series," Binnington said.

That didn't stop them from going to Vegas straight from the parade, though. Sometimes, instead of raising the Cup, they rested with it.

"You sit with it when you need a break at the club," Binnington said, smiling. "Hang out with it for a second."

Now the NHL Awards. What does it mean that these four individuals are finalists after what the team accomplished?

"That it's a special group," O'Reilly said. "There's so many pieces that go into it, to winning a championship. I look at the guys that are here. We wouldn't have won if it wasn't for them. They're special people that did an amazing job. I'm proud to be here with them and part of them."

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