Whether you choose to believe it or not, there was a time when the St. Louis Blues made playoffs. Better yet, there was a time when the St. Louis Blues made history. In 1986, the Blues could have staged the first NHL “history” Stanley Cup Playoffs commercial before the campaign (or whoever created the campaign) was even a mere thought. The 1980’s were a strange time; stranger than shoulder pads and Magnum P.I. mustaches were the NHL conferences – a stark difference, mainly by name. The Blues belonged to the Campbell Conference, known today as the Western Conference, and were further divided in to the Norris Division, currently known as the Central Division. In the 1985-86 season, the Blues won the Norris Division title upon beating the Minnesota North Stars in division semifinals then going on to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs. This series of victories led them to the Campbell Conference Finals, in which they’d face the Calgary Flames. Winning the series against the Flames would give the Blues a spot, center stage, in the Stanley Cup Playoff series.
If you’ve been paying any attention to this seasons nail-biting playoffs, you know that a close and even series is nothing but wild, intense and gut-wrenching. In the first four games of those playoffs in 1986 between the Calgary Flames and the Blues, each team came out even winning 2 a piece. May 10th, 1986: Game 5 belonged to the Flames, putting the Blues in a tight spot for game 6 – facing potential elimination and on home ice, no less. Two days later, May 12th, St. Louis welcomed their team home and cheered loud enough for Flames fans back in Alberta to hear. [More after the jump...]
Not much different from recent Calgary vs. St. Louis games, the Flames got off to a big start with a 4-1 lead over the Blues. St. Louis fans held fleeting moments of hope and excitement as Doug Wickenheiser scored the second Blues goal of the game in the waning seconds of a 5 on 3 powerplay, that was squelched moments later, though, when Flames’ Joe Mullen added a goal for Calgary. St. Louis was looking at a 12 minute season in the third period while they were down 5-2. This wasn’t going to do for the mustachioed Blues contingent – rally mode set in. Full throttle.
Brian Sutter scored off of a Flames goalie bounce bringing the game to a modest 5-3. Minutes were slipping by and an 8 minute season was now facing the boys in bluenotes and The Old Barn was breathing a sigh of relief as the fans seemed quiter…until Greg Paslawski scored, closing the gap at 5-4. The St. Louis Arena was at a frenzy the likes that no one, especially the Scottrade Center, had seen as the season came to a two minute warning. At 18:43 the Blues shot the puck from the neutral zone and in to the area behind the Flames net. Unfortunately for the Flames Jamie Macoun, Greg Paslawski trailed behind him, sharking him the whole way. Paslawski took the bait, sneaking the puck away from Macoun and putting a goal past Vernon (after he over committed thanks to a strange angle from Paslawski), thus ending regulation in a 5-5 tie.
Overtime could have easily popped the top off of the Barn regardless of which way the game went – and both teams tried (and were very close). Joe Mullen of the Flames took a wicked slapshot off the blue line that would have set the arena ablaze in agony and despair, however he hit the cross bar, giving St. Louis more hope and a continued post-season run if even for only a few more seconds. Seven minutes and thirty seconds in to the overtime period, Doug Wickenheiser made Blues history:
Wickenheiser’s goal kept the Blues alive, if even for only one more game that season. Game 6 ended in overtime with a 6-5 St. Louis Blues victory, one etched in to fans of all ages – even if they were only two years old and their Dad showed them the greatest Blues comeback ever, many years later. The Blues lost Game 7 at the Olympic Saddledome on May 14th, 1986, by a score of 2-1.
Everyone loves a good story, even if a glorious run ends two days later. The Blues know how to write epic stories and keep their fans coming back for more.