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The 2018-19 NHL season has had its fair share of surprises this year – more so than usual, it seems – which some have painted as an anomaly for the league. Some uncharacteristic things were a return to high scoring games, non-stingy goal tending and defensive lapses after defensive lapses.
Some may attribute this to the league’s transition to smaller goal tending pads, a renewed emphasis on speed, or perhaps even an evolution of the game itself with skill taking precedence over size and toughness. Regardless, it’s been an entertaining season for many. Fans have enjoyed the back-and-forth, high octane play this season, though the same cannot be said for the coaching staff and team management.
From Tampa Bay’s historic regular season – and their historically lousy playoff – to Carolina’s Conference Final showing, fans have not been disappointed by the way the season has transpired – unless you’re a Canadiens fan disgruntled by another playoff snub, or if you support the Maple Leafs, a team cursed by one first round exit after another. Ditto if you’re a Flames or Lightning fan. Those respective First Rounds were painful to watch!
Though Canadian teams can add yet another year to their infamous Stanley Cup drought, which now stands at 26-years, a reason for rejoice remains, and here’s why: the St. Louis Blues are an underdog worthy of our support.
Let’s recognize a good hockey team playing some damn good playoff hockey, mimicking that of the Flames Cinderella playoff run in 2003-04, but, whose greatness can be measured after Albertan Craig Berube took over head coaching duties for the team.
Berube became head coach of the Blues on Nov. 19, 2018. Berube than led the club to a 38-19-6 record and a third-place finish in the central division.
From Jan. 1 to the end of the regular season, the Blues went 30-10-5, accumulating the most points among all other teams in that span.
Berube guided the Blues to become just the seventh team since 1967-68 to earn a postseason berth after being last in the NHL standings at any point after New Year’s Day. Berube coached the Blues through a franchise-record 11-game win streak from Jan. 23 to Feb. 19 and a 12-1-1 mark in February, which tied a franchise mark for wins in a calendar month.
Now, after beating a top offence in the Winnipeg Jets, trampling over the top-heavy Dallas Stars, and the shockingly good, yet ageing San Jose Sharks, the Blues found themselves competing for Lord Stanley’s mug for the first time in 49-years! Against a perennial cup contender in Boston, the Blues have their work cut out for them, but with a rejuvenated team under Berube, it’s not as daunting of a task as some may think it to be.
Up for Coach of the year while silencing the Critics
As a former head coach to the Philadelphia Flyers, Berube, a first-time Jack Adams finalist, could become the fifth coach in Blues history to take home the trophy (among the likes of Ken Hitchcock, Joel Quenneville, Brian Sutter, Red Berenson), and as an interim coach nonetheless.
Members of the NHL Broadcasters’ Association submitted ballots for the Jack Adams Award after the regular season, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists. The award winner will be announced Wednesday, June 19, during the 2019 NHL Awards in Vegas.
As a Cree man from Calahoo Alberta, his tenure with the Flyers spanned as both a coach and as a player. While his career as an enforcer for five NHL teams saw him amass a respectable 61 goals and 98 assists over 1054 NHL games, his toughness saw him earn a whopping 3154 penalty minutes, speaking volumes to his tenacity as both a player and as a leader on and off the ice. However, critics argued he couldn’t get enough offence out of his team, he wore down his goalie, and didn’t adjust to today’s NHL.
Those critics have since been silenced and shall remain so, irrespective of the result in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Berube Joins the ranks of Ted Nolan, another Indigenous coach, and with hockey’s next generation of Indigenous players coming into the NHL it appears barriers are breaking for players and coaches
It appears at this time coach Berube’s winning serum is working well with the St Louis Blues who will now be facing the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals.
The Bruins last won the Cup in 2011. Among the six Stanley Cups in their 95-year history. But it seems the most memorable Stanley cup win was over the Blues in what is now historically immortalized by Bobby Orr’s celebratory dive past the St. Louis net after his overtime goal sealed the championship.
But, perhaps, it is due time for St. Louis to repay the favour and immortalize their comfortable victory as one of the NHL’s greatest Cinderella stories.
Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals commences Monday, May 27 at 8 pm, as the Blues pay a visit to TD Garden. The game will air on NBC, NBC, SN, CBC, and TVA Sports.