BOSTON - For the first time in 52 years, a good number of them agonizing, the Stanley Cup will be in the building in St. Louis and the Blues will have a chance to win it. Phil Pritchard and Craig Campbell, the two guys with the white gloves from the Hockey Hall of Fame, will be on hand at Enterprise Center with the most beautiful trophy in team sports ready to be removed from its crate. The team that was in last place overall in the NHL when the calendar turned to 2019 is that close to winning its first-ever championship.
That can provoke some very powerful emotions, particularly for a team that does not have one single player who has a Stanley Cup ring. It will certainly bring out the emotions of a fan base that has patiently waited for this day to come. The most difficult part of the next 48 hours for the Blues will be managing their emotions.
“I couldn’t tell you, to be honest,” said Blues center Tyler Bozak when asked how they will do that. “I don’t think many of us have. But we have great leadership from the top down. We’ve got to stay focused and be ready for the next game. They’re a great team and they’re going to come hard and we have to have our best if we want to win.”
For a team that doesn’t have much of a championship pedigree, the Blues are remarkably workmanlike and calm. If you didn’t know they were one game away from realizing their dream after Game 5 Thursday night, they certainly didn’t give any indication. But once they land in St. Louis Friday, it’s going to be difficult for them to distance themselves from all the hysteria. Professional athletes are generally excellent at keeping themselves composed while everybody around them is losing their heads, which is part of the reason they’re playing for championships in the first place. It will be imperative for the Blues to do that leading up to puck drop Sunday night.
“It’s hard and it’s hard for the players, too,” said Blues coach Craig Berube, “but it’s important that we keep our heads and keep level-headed and know that we’ve got a big job ahead of us for Game 6.”
One thing that might temper their enthusiasm a little bit is that as magical as this playoff run for the Blues has been, they’ve been decidedly mediocre on home ice, where they have just a 6-6 record and have been outscored 35-32. Coming back from Boston with a split in the first two games, the Blues could not ride the momentum they had created at home. Instead, they were unsure and nervous and down 3-0 by the end of the first period en route to being routed by a 7-2 score. The Blues will try to prevent a repeat of that by focusing on the process rather than envisioning what it might look like to win a championship on home ice.
“We have to just try to continue to focus on the game and make sure we’re not too high or too low,” said Blues defenseman Colton Parayko. “We understand why we win and what makes us good. It’s exciting for all of us in the locker room and for all of St. Louis, but we have to just focus on the game one shift at a time. That’s all we can do.”
The Blues have probably gotten pretty good at managing their emotions this season, largely because they’ve run the spectrum. When they were in last place in the NHL in early January, they managed to maintain their optimism that they were not nearly as bad as their record suggested and better days were ahead. Wallowing in self-pity can be dangerous, but so can allowing yourself to get caught up in all the excitement around you. “I don’t think so,” said captain Alex Pietrangelo when asked if it will be a significant challenge. “I don’t think any of us got too high or too low after last game. It was just business as usual and I got that feeling before (Game 5). We’re going to treat this like another game. We’ve done that this entire playoffs and it’s a good approach to have, especially at this stage.”
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