As the Blues loaded their equipment bags on a cart after their 5-2 victory Thursday over the Los Angeles Kings, a giddy fan spotted David Perron and asked: “Are we gonna repeat?”
Perron laughed, shook his head, and said, “Seventy-two more games.”
Yes, 10 down and 72 to go. And that’s just the regular season.
But oh, that Game No. 11: Blues vs. Boston Bruins at TD Garden. As far as Bruins fans are concerned, it’s the scene of the crime, where the Blues defeated their beloved hockey team 4-1 on June 12 to take the decisive Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
“I can’t wait for it,” Blues center Ivan Barbashev said. “I’m excited. And I’m sure everyone is excited.”
“Saturday night in Boston,” Robert Thomas said. “Should be a lot of fun.”
The Blues won’t be given a heroes welcome.
“Probably not,” Barbashev said. “That’s OK though. We can handle it.”
“I think it’s gonna be an emotional game for both teams, to be honest with you,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “It’s gonna be a tough game. They’re playing really well. Their power play’s excellent. That top line’s excellent. So we’re gonna have to be ready.”
The official end of the Stanley Cup-memory tour supposedly came on Oct. 15, when the Blues were honored in a White House ceremony in the Rose Garden. But just when you thought last season finally had been packed in a crate and tucked into a closet, the Blues will walk into the building where they celebrated the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
“I’m sure they’re not gonna like us too much in that building,” Blues center Brayden Schenn said. “But obviously for this group in this locker room, a lot of great memories playing the Stanley Cup Final there. The celebration in the locker room.
“But all that’s behind us now. We’re looking forward to going in there. And I’m sure it’s gonna be a tough game because I’m sure they’re not happy.”
And why would the Bruins or their fans be? As far as they’re concerned, the Blues are returning to the scene of the crime. After a 5-1 Game 6 romp by the Bruins in St. Louis, the city of Boston was preparing for yet another championship celebration, and one that would take place on home ice.
The Red Sox had won the World Series in late October. The New England Patriots had claimed yet another Super Bowl in early February. The boastful “End the Drought!” billboard in Boston proclaimed that it had been all of 128 days since the city’s last pro championship celebration.
But you know what happened that night. Jordan Binnington withstood an early Bruins onslaught. Goals by Ryan O’Reilly and Alex Pietrangelo late in the first period staked the Blues to a 2-0 lead. When Schenn scored with 8½ minutes left in the third period, the look on the faces of Blues front office staffers and extra players in the press box was magical. They realized at that moment they were going to win the Cup.
So Saturday marks day No. 264, and counting, for Boston in its championship wait. The Blues put at least a temporary halt to that city’s sense of sports entitlement with that convincing Game 7 triumph. And even if the Bruins win 10-0 Saturday against a Blues team that’s minus injured forward Vladimir Tarasenko, Boston cannot win the 2019 Cup. It belongs to St. Louis, now and forevermore.
“We’ll have a little extra motivation, but this isn’t a be-all, end-all type of game,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said, according to the Boston Herald. “We had our opportunity in Game 7 and it didn’t go our way. Now we’re focusing on this year.”
As are the Blues.
“The feelings are gonna be with you forever, no doubt about it,” Schenn said. “Especially in that rink. But I think we’re there to win a hockey game. Grab two points. It’s gonna be hard. They’re playing well, too. We know they’re deep, they’re a good team as we experienced last year. So it’ll be a good game.”
The Blues seemingly have rediscovered their game following a players-only meeting last Sunday on the heels of a four-game winless streak (0-2-2). Since then, they’re 2-0, handing Colorado its first regulation loss of the season and then beating what looks like an improved Los Angeles squad.
If the Colorado game was the Blues’ best all-around performance of the young season, the LA game was the best offensive performance. The Blues seemed to be buzzing around Kings goalie Jonathan Quick all night.
“I guess you worry about — you know, you play Colorado, they’re first place in the league, they’ve got some superstar players,” Berube said. “You play LA, they haven’t been a very good team for a couple years now. You wonder if there’s gonna be a drop-off. But I was proud of our team that they did a good job of not allowing that to happen. They played hard.”
And now it’s Boston, once again a leading contender for the Cup.
“You’re going into that building,” Berube said. “We beat them last year in the finals. And they’re gonna be ready. I think we’re gonna be ready. A lot of media hype will be made of it and things like that, but that’s just part of the game.
“Our guys just gotta focus on the game. That’s it.”