The St. Louis Blues have always had something bad happen to them at the worst time. Until a year ago, it usually sank their ship.
The St. Louis Blues have had so many things go wrong for them over the course of their history. They usually ended up folding like a poker game when the chips were down too.
There was always something. In 2001, the Blues had a fantastic team, but Roman Turek decided to become a leaky faucet at the wrong time.
In 1996, everything just seemed to go wrong. The Blues had a fantastic team and acquire Wayne Gretzky.
In 2016, the Blues had several opportunities to eliminate both Chicago and Dallas earlier than they did. The lack of rest and energy spent may have cost them against San Jose in the conference final.
So, with a rematch in the works in 2019, all hope seemed lost when the Blues lost in one of the most inventive ways ever. A year ago – May 15, 2019 – it looked like fate had another cruel twist in store for the Blues.
The game started out poorly as it was. Game 3 of the Western Conference Final saw the Sharks take a 2-0 lead.
St. Louis had to stew all intermission long after the Sharks scored both goals late in the opening frame. However, as we had seen all season long, the Blues battled back in the second.
Alex Steen scored an early goal to give the building life. The air was sucked out when Joe Thornton returned the lead to two, 18 seconds later, but Vladimir Tarasenko sniped a goal just after four minutes had been played to make it 3-2.
David Perron scored two goals to put the Blues in the lead after 40 minutes. Then, in typical Blues fashion, things started to unravel.
San Jose pulled their goaltender and the Blues kept absorbing pressure. The Sharks then tied the game with 1:01 left in the third.
That would have been bad enough by itself. However, things got worse in overtime.
Just over five minutes into the extra period, the Sharks won the game. What only a few knew on first glance, like Jordan Binnington, the Sharks had scored illegally since the puck was kept alive with a hand pass.
Once they showed the replay, we all knew what had happened. Timo Meier had played the puck with a hand pass and things should have been blown dead right then and there.
Instead, if you believe the officials’ story, they were all in a position that did not allow them to see the pass. Even after conferring in a huddle, none of them were certain enough to make the right decision and disallow the goal.
What fans, including myself, did not know at the time, was this was not a reviewable play. At the time, it seemed this was just an example of the officials wanting to protect themselves instead of actually trying to get it right.
The NHL could have stepped in, made the call from Toronto, and fixed it too. However, that would have set a precedent that might open Pandora’s box as far as league reviews went.
Regardless of any conspiracy theories, this seemed like just the time the Blues would implode. History said they would.
Losing that game put St. Louis down 2-1 in the series. We had seen the pressures of playing at home get to them, so they easily could have lost Game 4 at home and then gone on the road for the Sharks to finish things off.
Instead, things seemed different this time. Despite the outpouring of emotion during the discussion with the referees and as they exited, the Blues composed themselves and said all the right things after that disappointing loss.
While the Blues were saying all the right things, the Sharks were lying through their teeth. They had used car salesman-like smiles and denied anything happened, like a politician.
Now, if the shoe was on the other foot, who knows what the Blues should have said. Nevertheless, this was not the only time Karlsson and his teammates denied it. It was always the same, a silly smirk while they just played word games.
There was no changing the outcome. Just say what you saw and leave it at that.
As we all know now, the Blues did not let that game be their undoing. Instead of focusing on the negative, they used it all as fuel.
They pulled a Bill Belichick and moved onto Cincinnati. They did not dwell on things they had no control over or pout about calls that had to be made.
Instead, they scored just 35 seconds into Game 4. Despite allowing a third period goal to San Jose, the Blues dominated the proceedings and the game was rarely in doubt.
Over the next three games, St. Louis outscored the Blues 12-2. Instead of imploding, the Blues grew strong and crushed their opponents.
It was a moment in time that could have encapsulated everything wrong with the Blues as a franchise and culture. Instead, the Blues shrugged off all the bad history and carved a new path.