Compiled by Post-Dispatch hockey writer Jim Thomas.
AT LAST: THE BLUES ARE FIRST
The Stanley Cup is theirs, the parade was epic. Giving birth to a championship took nine months of labor, including a total of 114 exhibition, regular season and postseason games. It took skill, hard work, intangibles and a little luck to bring St. Louis its first National Hockey League title.
Believe it or not, the NHL draft takes place this weekend. Next season's schedule will be released before the month is out. Free agency starts two weeks from Monday.
But before looking ahead, here's one more look back. Namely, 10 reasons why the Blues came home with the Cup:
10. UNSUNG HEROES
Over his first three NHL seasons, Oskar Sundqvist had two goals in 70 games. In 2018-19, he blossomed into a 14-goal scorer, flashing previously unseen passing skills while continuing his strong defensive play. Like Sundqvist, Ivan Barbashev wasn't assured of a roster spot entering camp. But he also scored 14 goals, doubling his previous NHL high, brought a physical presence and was stout on the penalty-killing unit. Together, Sundqvist and Barbashev more than made up for the loss of previous fourth-line mainstays Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall.
Alternate captain Alexander Steen, a former 33-goal scorer, accepted a reduced role on the fourth line in mid-March without complaint. The team was better off for it and his leadership never wavered.
At about the same time, it became clear to Jake Allen that the lead goaltender's job belonged to Jordan Binnington. He stayed positive and supportive, making the most of whatever road starts came his way.
Despite his preference to play center, Brayden Schenn didn't squawk when moved to left wing in late January. The team won its next 11 starts.
8. IT TAKES A VILLAGE
Other teams had more star power; but did anyone have more depth? Over the second half of the season, that depth allowed the Blues to overcome injuries and sidestep slumps. During the regular season, they had 13 players with 10 or more goals, tied for the league-high with Carolina.
During the playoffs, 20 of the 21 skaters who played scored at least one goal. The Blues had the bodies to overcome Robert Thomas' wrist injury, Vince Dunn's head and facial injuries, and two suspensions without skipping a beat in the postseason.
7. BOUNCING BACK
On the morning of Jan. 3, the Blues had the fewest number of points in the NHL — 37 games into the season. Vladimir Tarasenko had only 11 goals, Brayden Schenn seven, Pat Maroon and Jaden Schwartz three each. Captain Alex Pietrangelo had 11 points and was minus-8.
Over the final 45 games of the season, Tarasenko had 22 goals, Schenn 10, Schwartz eight and Maroon seven. Pietrangelo had 30 points and was plus-10. As the team gelled and found its stride, all of those core players returned to form. All had key moments in the playoffs as well.
6. GLORIA AND LAILA
Every memorable championship run in sports needs a victory song, and strangely for the Blues, it was a dance tune from the end of the disco era — Laura Branigan's "Gloria." Embraced by the Blues in a Philadelphia bar in early January, it became a feel-good anthem for a city and its hockey team.
And then there was Laila Anderson, the remarkable 11-year-old fighting a rare disease. She became an inspiration for the Blues, and their fans. The bond formed between Laila and the Blues, particularly Colton Parayko, was sincere and special.
5. ROAD WARRIORS
Their mettle was tested, their identity forged, during a two-month stretch from mid-January to mid-March in which 22 of 30 games were played on the road. During that time they never had a "homestand" of more than one game. It was a brutal stretch that should have buried them. Instead, they went 13-5-4 in those 22 road games, leaping into playoff position.
They were even better in the playoffs, going 10-3 on the road — including three of four in the Cup Final, against Boston. The 10 road victories tied an NHL record for a single postseason.
4. ARMSTRONG EFFECT
He did everything last summer and nothing in late February. That proved to be a recipe for a championship. Last July after missing the playoffs by one point, general manager Doug Armstrong added David Perron, Tyler Bozak, Pat Maroon and goalie Chad Johnson via free agency, then traded for Ryan O'Reilly.
As the team returned from its All-Star break and bye period in early February, Armstrong said the team's play would determine whether he would be active at the trade deadline. Following an 11-game winning streak, he stood pat.
3. RYAN TO THE RESCUE
Even in the darkest times of the season, O'Reilly was the one constant. He was the team's leading scorer, only All-Star and only player to appear in all 82 regular-season games. Always working, he routinely showed up early and stayed late at practice.
A rib injury affected his play for a good chunk of the playoffs, but he roared across the finish line with a franchise record nine points in the Cup Final (five goals, four assists) to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP. He scored in each of the last four contests against Boston.
2. HAIL TO THE CHIEF
Craig Berube had the look of the most interim of interim coaches when he replaced Mike Yeo on Nov. 19. But the players responded to his direct approach and played with toughness, physicality and a relentless nature. It took a while for all this to take hold. But when it did, well, you saw what happened.
The coach known as the "Chief" showed a surprising knack for in-game adjustments and when he made lineup or line changes, they almost always clicked. Most notably, his decision to go make Binnington his No. 1 goalie.
1. HE'S NOT NERVOUS
During camp, Binnington didn't have a job — at least not on the "varsity" — and didn't even have a stall in the main locker room at Enterprise Center. In what may have been his only preseason interview, he told the Post-Dispatch that he planned to keep his mouth shut and keep working. It wasn't hard to see the hunger within or detect the chip on his shoulder.
When he finally got his chance in January, he was ready, playing with a swagger his teammates fed off. He remained a man of few words — but, uh, made them count.