By Carter Brooks
Photo courtesy of NBC
The Stanley Cup will be making its way back to Manitoba on multiple occasions this summer.
On Wednesday evening, in front of a sold-out crowd of 17,565 Bruins fans in Boston's TD Garden, the visiting St. Louis Blues put the cherry on the top of their rollercoaster 2018-19 season with a 4-1 Stanley Cup victory - the franchise's first league championship since its conception in the late 1960s.
Leading the way for the Blues were two Manitobans; Alexander Steen of Winnipeg and Joel Edmundson of Brandon. Not to be forgotten were St. Louis' two honorary Manitobans; former Winnipeg Jet Chris Thorburn and former Brandon Wheat King, Brayden Schenn.
"What a feeling," said an exhilarated Joel Edmundson on ice immediately following the victory. "Just for our team to turn the season around like that. We were last place half way through (the 2018-19 season) and to be able to hoist the Stanley Cup now, what a feeling."
Despite sitting dead-last in 31st place in the entire league on January 3rd, 2019, St. Louis rallied to put together an exceptional second half of the season. That hot streak picked up momentum, ultimately culminating in a playoff berth, in which the team endured a remarkable postseason run, en route to raising Lord Stanley's mug high in celebration Wednesday evening.
In shocking the heavily favoured Winnipeg Jets in the opening round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs in just six games, the Blues relied on past experience, propelling them to a second round matchup with the Dallas Stars. It took St. Louis until overtime of Game Seven to move on past the Stars, before taking care of business in six games against the hurting San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.
Returning to the Stanley Cup for the first time in 49 years, the Blues did not disappoint their fans, going the distance and shutting down the highly offensive Boston Bruins in Game Seven, 4-1 with much help from goaltender Jordan Binnington, 2019 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Ryan O'Reilly, and of course, the 'four' rostered Manitobans on the squad.
Alex Steen had two goals, five points, 20 shots and a plus two rating, while skating in a depth role in the Blues' bottom six forward group. Now 35 and a veteran of over 950 NHL games, the Winnipeg native has 238 goals, 605 points and 442 career penalty minutes to his name.
Joel Edmundson, 25, had one goal, seven points, 10 penalty minutes and 22 shots on goal while playing through significant injuries in the 2019 postseason. The product of Brandon now has 13 goals, 52 points and 248 penalty minutes to his name through four complete NHL seasons.
Brayden Schenn also had a sensational playoff run, putting up five goals and 12 points for the Blues, en route to his first Stanley Cup. Born and raised in Saskatoon, SK., Schenn spent three seasons playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings (2007-10) before moving on to the NHL where he has since put up 154 goals, 372 points and 313 penalty minutes in 587 career games.
Chris Thorburn, former beloved member of the Winnipeg Jets who came to Manitoba with the acquisition of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2011, played six seasons with Winnipeg, before being dealt to Vegas at the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. Thorburn was then subsequently moved to St. Louis, where he skated in 50 games in 2017-18.
The 36-year-old played the majority of the 2018-19 season with the Blues' American Hockey League affiliate San Antonio Rampage, but was called up for personal reasons midway through the season. Earlier this season, Thorburn's autistic son required new medication that was in part covered by an NHL salary, as opposed to Thorburn's would-be AHL salary. The Blues kept Thorburn on their major league roster to help alleviate the costs of said medicine.
Thorburn did dress in one game for the Blues in 2018-19 and was on the ice to receive the Cup immediately after team captain Alex Pietrangelo handed it to elder statesman Jay Bouwmeester, who then passed it to Winnipegger Alex Steen. Steen took one look around and dished it off to the NHL veteran of 801 games.
With the final game of 2018-19 now having been played out, the next significant date on the NHL schedule (other than the Stanley Cup Parade in St. Louis) will be the NHL Entry Draft held on Friday, June 21-22 in Vancouver. Free Agency begins on July 1st, while training camp opens in early September.