Miller, Blues Nation basking
in miraculous run to Stanley Cup

Loeffler's Link

June 13, 2019


--- Inspirational words provided by Al Michaels

In a life sense, what the St. Louis Blues did this season was not a miracle. The longer you live, the more you appreciate true miracles.

But in a sports sense, it simply does not get any more miraculous than this.

Imagine the Kansas City Royals winning the World Series --- this season --- from where they stand right now, on June 13.

Imagine the Buffalo Bills wining the Super Bowl next season, after starting 1-6.

About 40 percent of the way through the regular season, the Royals have the worst record in baseball; and at about the same point during our imaginary futuristic football season, the Bills have the worst record in the NFL.

And both win it all. Those aren't miracles, that's just stupid. Well ...

With about 40 percent of this NHL season gone, the Blues were simply the best at being the worst --- and in the first week of January, they had the worst record to prove it.

Now, they're Stanley Cup champions. Has it sunk in yet ... THE ST. LOUIS BLUES ARE STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS!!!

This just doesn't happen ... does it?

Certainly, worst to first happens in sports --- but we're talking from one season to the next. Not from within the same season, and not nearly halfway through the season, no less.

"This is virtually unprecedented," KRCG News Anchor and St. Louis Blues expert Kermit Miller said. "For it to be almost halfway through a professional sports season and be at the bottom of the ranks, and then go on to win that sports' championship ... at the very least, that's got to be very, very rare."

You think that's rare? You should have been in the station's parking lot Thursday afternoon when Miller, with help from Rod Smith, set a shirt on fire that Miller had purchased a few years ago.

It was a Blues shirt with a Stanley Cup logo with the words, "Just One Before I Die."

Mission accomplished.

"I promised that if the Blues would actually pull this off and win the Cup," Miller said during the parking lot ceremony, "that we would burn the shirt in tribute to the team."

Burn, baby, burn.

Most would agree there are two major reasons for this im(possible/probable) dream coming true. First, the elevation of Craig Berube to head coach after the firing of Mike Yeo in November; second, when Jordan Binnington was elevated to the team's No. 1 goalie in January.

"The change to Berube was probably a change from X's and O's to culture," Miller said. "He brought a different mindset to that locker room --- he was a tough guy when he played and he thought the team had the best chance at success playing that way.

"I don't think the Blues ever thought they were out of it, particularly after Berube got on board. He would not allow that, he would not allow you to throw in the towel."

Then came Binnington.

"He was a fluke, a Kurt Warner-type of fluke," Miller said.

Meaning, from being a guy nobody ever heard of to being a World Champion in a few months

"Binnington gets called up and the rest is history," Miller continued. "He wins his first NHL start by shutout (only the 35th time it's happened in league history) and he never looked back.

"Now, he's the first rookie goaltender in NHL history to win 16 playoff games."

There were a bunch of other key contributors, but none more so than Ryan O'Reilly. An off-season acquisition from the Buffalo Sabres, O'Reilly won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.

Even when the Blues were bad early in the season, O'Reilly was good.

"He was the best player on the ice for them the entire season," Miller said.

But when did Miller think the Blues might be decent? Not Stanley Cup champions, mind you, just decent.

It was a back-to-back home-and-home sweep of Nashville in early February that really got his attention.

"Nashville has been the measuring stick for the Central Division, if not the entire Western Conference," Miller said "When they won those back-to-backs, I thought: 'This is different.'

"But if you ask a dozen different people, you'll get a dozen different answers."

Then came the remarkable run in the playoffs, as the Blues won the Stanley Cup for the first time in the 52-year history of the franchise.

"The two things that stick out to me is how well they played on the road (11-3 in the playoffs) and how well they played the game after a loss (13-2)," Miller said.  "So you put those two things together --- and even after they'd lost Game 6 at home, badly, to the Bruins --- history gave me some confidence."

His confidence was well-founded, as the Blues finished off the Bruins 4-1 in Game 7 on Wednesday night --- which was the most-watched game in NHL history.

Miller's shirt-burning dream had some true came true. Still ...

"I haven't suffered my whole like waiting for this like a lot of fans have, so I'm not doing cartwheels and handstands as a result," said Miller, who said he's been an avid fan for 15-20 years.. "There are a lot of people in St. Louis right now, who have followed this team since the 60s, who have been waiting for their entire lives.

"I make no claims to sharing their emotions."

But it's a sports miracle that's stirred the same emotion for all Blues fans.

Pure joy.

And in some cases, it comes with lighter fluid.

Chris Leuckel

Rod Smith (right) helps avid St. Louis Blues fan Kermit Miller set his "Just One Before I Die" shirt on fire Thursday afternoon in the KRCG parking lot.