By Carter Brooks
Photo by Ross Franklin
The Winnipeg Jets may not be one of the two NHL teams left standing, but Winnipeggers, and Manitobans in general still have something left to cheer for.
After beating the Jets in six games in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the St. Louis Blues have put together two more dominant playoff series wins, en route to their first appearance in the league final in 49 years. Serving as the NHL's oldest team without a Cup, St. Louis played in the Stanley Cup for three-straight years (1968-70) without a series win. They are now back for another kick at the can.
Despite finding themselves sitting dead-last in the league at the beginning of January 2019, the Blues made two notable changes that helped turn their season around. Head Coach Mike Yeo was relieved of his duties, while Craig Berube took over (on what was once an 'interim' basis), and goaltender Jordan Binnington received a call-up from the minor league.
Berube has since become the 11th coach all-time - and just the sixth coach since 2000 - to take over a team and lead it to the final, while Binnington joined Patrick Roy, Ron Hextall, Ken Dryden and Mike Vernon as the only rookie netminders in league history to collect their team's first 12+ wins in a single postseason.
Through this whole process, Manitobans Alexander Steen (Winnipeg) and Joel Edmundson (Brandon) have joined arms with their fellow Blues teammates, working relentlessly at the main task at hand - bringing the city of St. Louis its very first taste of champagne out of Lord Stanley's mug.
Steen, now 35, has seen his NHL prime come and go, while now serving as a veteran in a leadership role within the Blues' organization. After playing his first four NHL seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the former 24th overall selection has been in Missouri for the past 11 seasons. His point production may not be exactly where it used to be, but his long-serving value to St. Louis goes far beyond the stat sheet. Steen has two goals and four points in 19 postseason games this spring.
Edmundson, a 25-year-old fourth-year defenceman, has been nothing short of a rock on the blufeline for the past handful of years. Going a +19 in 269 career regular season games as a young defender within the Western Conference's Central Division is no easy task. Picking up 13 goals, 52 points and 248 penalty minutes during that timespan is also no cake walk. After coming into his own with three goals and six points in 11 games during the 2016-17 postseason, Edmundson is making all Brandon proud with his seven points in 17 games during these playoffs.
Steen, Edmundson and the Blues will now look to derail the freight train that is the Boston Bruins. Finding themselves in their third cup final since winning it all in 2011, the Bruins scathed off a 3-2 deficit to the Leafs in round one, before bouncing back after trailing 2-1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round, and then sweeping the red-hot Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final. Game one of the Stanley Cup Finals goes Monday night in Boston, 7:00 PM central.