This is a celebration I never expected to see because, well, they’re the Blues.

The team that always found a way to lose won the Stanley Cup on Wednesday night, almost in spite of themselves.

The Blues, frankly, were awful in the first period.

They couldn’t clear the zone. They couldn’t get a shot on goal. Yet, when the first 20 minutes ended, the Blues found themselves leading 2-0.

The reason? Simple. Jordan Binnington.

Binnington was a contortionist, a magician, and maybe a little lucky in the first period as the Bruins peppered him with shots from every angle. Binnington, who even the most ardent Blues fans had never heard of prior to January simply stole this game for St. Louis.

The Bruins finally got a puck past him in the final five minutes, but by that time it was academic. The Blues won the first Stanley Cup in the 52 years of the franchise by a score of 4-1.

Binnington’s teammates weren’t of much assistance in the early going, consistently turning the puck over. But, time and again, Binnington stymied the Bruins. And, when the Blues held off that initial surge, there was hope.

Yet, as a lifelong Blues fan, I was unprepared for this victory.

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For the most part, the Blues have been a successful franchise. They’re overall record is excellent, but they hadn’t been to a Stanley Cup final since 1970. Winning the Cup wasn’t even something that registered on the radar.

The Blues made the playoffs nearly every year, but had never played in June before. In fact, many years they were already getting their golf game in shape by mid-May.

But, here, now, it is the Blues sitting atop the hockey world.

That amazing fact hasn’t really sunk in yet, but I’m happy. I’m happy for all the Blues players who never got there. I’m thrilled for guys like Bob Plager and Bernie Ferderko, St. Louis Blues lifers. I’m happy for the diehard fans who have been with this team through the amazing years, through the bleak years when it looked like the team would move to Saskatoon.

And, darn it, seeing the Blues players skate with the cup held aloft … there was a lump in my throat. Especially when guys like Jay Bouwmeester and Alexander Steen held the Cup aloft. Their careers are nearing an end. They won’t have a chance again.

Steen’s toothless kiss of the Cup was a priceless moment. It would be nice, just for an instant, to know what was going through his mind.

The Blues winning this trophy won’t change my life appreciably. But, I will admit, this is something I wanted to see before I died. The Blues have eliminated a Bucket List item for me.

You know what … it was worth the wait.

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LES WINKELER is the sports editor for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les.winkeler@thesouthern.com / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.


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