BOSTON -- Zach Sanford finds himself these days looking skyward, knowing his father, Michael, is watching over him.
The St. Louis Blues forward's dad died from a heart attack toward the end of training camp before the start of the 2018-19 season, and he never got to say goodbye.
But Sanford can talk to his father in euphoric fashion after the Blues defeated the Boston Bruins 4-1 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on Wednesday.
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Sanford, who was born 30 minutes north of Boston in Salem, Massachusetts, but grew up in New Hampshire, couldn't have written a better end to his season. He grew up a Bruins fan and still boasts about a Brian Rolston autographed stick he has in his possession.
"It's pretty crazy," Sanford said. "I don't know if you can write a story like this. It's been a crazy year, and to end it here at home is just pretty awesome."
Sanford attended training camp remembering the last words from his dad, telling him to go make the Blues. Michael was rushed to the hospital after having a heart attack in his sleep.
He made Michael proud, especially Wednesday by scoring his first Stanley Cup Playoff goal at 15:22 of the third period to make it 4-0.
"I don't know if you can write it any better," Sanford said. "I think he helped us out a lot along the way, me especially. I think about him all the time. I guarantee you he's smiling, cracking an ice-cold beer up there.
"I can dream of scoring a goal in a game like this, let alone winning, knowing that he's watching and how proud he probably is. The effort that he put in, along with my mom too, driving me to practices and all that stuff and making the person and the player I am, I owe it all to them."
Sanford played the first three games of the Western Conference First Round against the Winnipeg Jets, then was a healthy scratch for the next 18 games before returning to the lineup in Game 3 against the Bruins. He had an assist in a 7-2 loss, another in a 4-2 win in Game 4 and another in a 2-1 victory in Game 5.
Video: STL@BOS, Gm7: Perron sets up Sanford in front
Sanford made an immediate impact when he replaced the suspended Oskar Sundqvist in Game 3 of the Cup Final. Had Sundqvist not been suspended, Sanford might have never been inserted into the lineup. He finished the series with four points (one goal, three assists) in five games.
"It's nuts," Sanford said. "I thank the coaches and my teammates for trusting me and giving me an opportunity. My linemates, [Ivan Barbashev and Alexander Steen], they were awesome, and when I moved to [Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron's] line, they're two great players too. To have their confidence and their support means the world to me.
"I'm a Stanley Cup champion, and nobody can take that away from me."