Chris Peters is ESPN’s NHL draft and prospects analyst. The Chicago native previously covered the NHL for CBSSports.com and founded the popular independent blog UnitedStatesofHockey.com where he covered the game at all levels since 2010.
As each NHL team’s season ends, we’ll take a look at three keys to its offseason, impact prospects for 2019-20 and a way-too-early prediction for next season.
There’s one thing that went wrong in the Blues’ season, and it ultimately didn’t matter: They stunk at first. By now, you’ve heard ad nauseam about how St. Louis sunk to last place in the NHL on Jan. 2, despite playoff expectations. Coach Mike Yeo was an early casualty.
Then they turned things around — in the most stunning fashion possible. The Blues finished the season as one of the league’s hottest teams and made splash after splash in the playoffs, first by eliminating the high-powered Jets (including some impressive wins in Winnipeg), then the Stars and Sharks, and finally, it felt like the franchise’s destiny to win its first Stanley Cup this year, in the most improbable of years. It took the full seven games, but the Stanley Cup belongs to the Blues.
They wouldn’t have gotten this far without the emergence of rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington, no doubt, but they also had balanced scoring and a fourth line and defensive group that collectively shut down Boston’s potent top line in the Final (they had one five-on-five goal in the series). The Blues were supposed to be good this season because GM Doug Armstrong was ultra-aggressive in the offseason and acquired four top-nine forwards who helped push the Blues. But the defensive group, which is big and heavy and mostly homegrown, was on full display.
In the end, the Blues’ season was a celebration of all things hockey in St. Louis and a clinic in resilience.