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Stanley Cup Final

Blues on verge of winning Cup Final, ending decades of frustration

St. Louis buzzing in anticipation of first title ahead of Game 6 against Bruins

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

ST. LOUIS -- The rally towels are already on the seats at Enterprise Center.

"LET'S MAKE HISTORY," they say in all caps.

The St. Louis Blues are one win from the first Stanley Cup championship in their 52-year history, leading the Boston Bruins in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final. They can raise the Cup at home in Game 6 on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

 

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"You think about it, what this city will go through, what's going to happen here," said Bob Plager, one of the original Blues from 1967-68, whose No. 5 hangs in the rafters. "It's unbelievable. But you've got to win the game."

No team has waited longer than the Blues to win the Cup for the first time. The Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks are next at 49 years each.

But it goes deeper than that.

The Washington Capitals, the reigning champions for a few more days, hold the records for the most Stanley Cup Playoff appearances (28), playoff series (47) and playoff games (275) before winning the Cup for the first time.

This is the Blues' 42nd playoff appearance and 72nd playoff series. They are about to play their 390th playoff game.

"It's incredible how many amazing teams that have been here and haven't won," Blues center Ryan O'Reilly said. "Looking at it now and having that opportunity and seeing this group in here and seeing the city behind it, it's amazing. It's tough to put into words. Just running into random people around the city and how excited they are … it's so much more beyond these guys in this room. It's a whole city."

Video: Blues take 3-2 series lead heading back to St. Louis

The Blues made the Cup Final in each of their first three seasons, when the NHL doubled to 12 teams, the expansion teams had their own division and one was guaranteed to make the Cup Final. The Blues were swept by the Montreal Canadiens in 1968 and 1969 and by the Bruins in 1970.

Four of the other expansion teams from 1967-68 have won the Cup since, three multiple times. The Philadelphia Flyers won it in 1974 and 1975. The Pittsburgh Penguins won it in 1991 and 1992. The Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993, dropped the "North" from their name and won it in 1999. The Penguins won it in 2009. The Los Angeles Kings won it in 2012 and 2014. The Penguins won it twice more, in 2016 and 2017.

The Oakland Seals became the California Golden Seals in 1970, became the Cleveland Barons in 1976 and merged with the North Stars in 1978. The Blues didn't return to the Cup Final until this season despite winning consistently with great players like Bernie Federko and Brett Hull and Al MacInnis, whose statues stand outside Enterprise Center. Even Wayne Gretzky made a cameo at the end of the 1995-96 season.

Since the Blues entered the NHL, they have more regular-season wins (1,860) than all but six other teams: the Bruins (2,152), the Canadiens (2,129), the Flyers (2,013), New York Rangers (1,932), Chicago Blackhawks (1,882) and Detroit Red Wings (1,868). Each of the others has won the Cup in that span.

Only the Bruins (44) have more playoff appearances than the Blues' 42 since 1967-68, and the Blues have played more playoff games (389) than all but four other teams in that span: the Bruins (469), Canadiens (456), Flyers (433) and Blackhawks (399).

Video: Blues, Bruins mic'd up for an exciting Game 5

"They've had some teams that have been good enough to win," said John Kelly, the Blues play-by-play announcer on Fox Sports Midwest, whose father, Dan, was their radio play-by-play announcer from 1968-69 to 1988-89. "They've had some bad luck. They've run into some hot teams. Maybe they haven't gotten the breaks. There have been a lot of reasons why they haven't quite won, but they've been close, and now they're as close as ever. And what it would mean to the fans, it's immeasurable, quite honestly."

Kelly's father died Feb. 10, 1989. A shamrock hangs in the rafters in his honor next to the Blues retired numbers. His mother, Fran, is 82.

"About a year ago, she started saying, 'All I want to do before I die is see the Blues win a Cup,' " Kelly said. "And she'll be here tomorrow night, and hopefully she'll see that. ... What would it mean to my dad? He loved the Blues. It was his first full-time play-by-play job in the NHL, and he never got to see them win a Cup. It obviously would mean everything to him, because he certainly bled blue like a lot of people."

That's what's at stake.

"I feel that they're going to do it," said John Oefelein, 87, a Blues season-ticket holder since the beginning. "I've got all my belief in them."

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