The St. Louis Blues were still in their in their infancy during the 1968 playoffs. Even so, they showed their talent when it came time.
The St. Louis Blues of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s get a lot of flack for the setup of the league. Despite making the Stanley Cup Final three years in a row, there are detractors everywhere.
Those types like to point out that the Blues were playing in a purely expansion division. While this is true, you still have to think the league only had 12 teams.
While the game has expanded exponentially in subsequent years, you were still dealing with the cream of the crop. Think about having 12 teams of the best in the game today as opposed to 31.
You will always have a group of teams that don’t quite measure up. Nevertheless, you can only beat the team that is in front of you.
The Blues did just that in their inaugural season. In 1968, they won their first of three division, or conference – however you want to think of it – championships.
Interestingly, it was a name not many Blues fans might know that sent them to their first Stanley Cup Final.
Unless you were there or, at least, alive during those years, most Blues fans probably don’t remember the name Ron Schock. Even fans that are under 30 have likely heard names like Jacques Plante, Glenn Hall, Red Berenson or the Plager brothers.
Schock scored one of the most important goals in team history though.
Despite having several future Hall of Fame players on their team, albeit older players, the Blues had to go seven games in both the divison semi-final and final. They were taking on fellow newcomer to the NHL, the Minnesota North Stars in the division final for a chance to get beat up on by the Montreal Canadiens.
Regardless of present sentiment, or past, you play to win the game. The Blues did not care that Montreal or any team from the Eastern Division would be heavily favored. They wanted to beat Minnesota so they would have an opportunity at a championship, even if they would be underdogs.
Schock gave them that chance. In Game 7 against the North Stars, the Blues would set up a long history of taking the hard road by going into double-overtime.
It was an intensely tight game with the St. Louis Arena crowd watching with bated breath. Schock would score the monumental game-winner to lift the roof off the old barn.
It was fitting that a player such as Schock would “shock” the world and put a team from the middle of the country into the final against the teams from the blue-blood cities. Schock had a lengthy career, but was somewhat of a forgotten man in St. Louis, even during his playing days.
Schock played two seasons for the Blues, being picked up from the Boston Bruins after his first full season in the NHL. He was bitten by injuries in the 1967-68 season, and also being behind several higher profile names, and only scored nine goals and 18 points after scoring 30 points for Boston the year before.
Just as strangely, the goal Schock scored to put the Blues past Minnesota was his only goal in the playoffs as well. It could not have come at a better time.
Schock used that goal to up his game and get a little more playing time in the subsequent season. He scored 12 goals and 39 points in 1968-69.
Schock proved to be more of a late bloomer. While he was somewhat of an alsoran with the Blues, he came alive later in his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
He scored 40-plus points four-straight seasons with the Pens after leaving the Blues. Out of nowhere, he scored 86 points in the 1974-75 season with a career high 23 goals. He managed 62 points the following year before returning to Earth in 1976-77 and then only playing 40 games with Buffalo in 1977-78.
Nevertheless, one of Schock’s biggest goals had to be that lone playoff goal on May 3, 1968.
No matter what people say about the league format at the time, some team was going to be the first expansion team to make the final. Schock’s goal on that long night in early summer made sure that first team was the St. Louis Blues.