screen cap from @Sportsnet

 

Beyond some impressive stats, there were also some great backstories behind this team winning the championship.

The NHL has just completed its season with the title going to the St Louis Blues. This is the first Stanley Cup won by the franchise, after a series of finals appearances in the late 1960s during the expansion era. For the first few years the league placed all six new expansion teams in the same conference and structured the playoffs so one of the new franchises would qualify to play in the Stanley Cup. The Blues were swept in three consecutive finals, and had not made another trip to play for the Cup since.

There were a number of notable accomplishments with this squad this season. In January they sat in the bottom of the entire league, but a coaching change brought former player Craig Berube to the bench. He then chose to place rookie goalie Jordan Binnington in the net to see how the youngster would settle in for the coming seasons. He became a wall on the backline and the team rode him as it became a scoring force. In February the Blues posted an 11 game winning streak and then finished with an impressive 45-28-9 record. They were the hot team going into the postseason.

This has led to an array of milestones to be attached to the victory. They tied the record for most road playoff victories, with 10. Also they are only the third team to win 3 straight road games in the Stanley Cup. They are only the seventh team to win The Cup with a coach who was a mid-season replacement. Further, in a league that puts a priority on Stanley Cup experience, the Blues are only the fourth champion to have a roster without any former Cup winners skating for them.

Binnington becomes the first rookie goalie to win all 16 postseason games to win the Cup, and he set a record for most saves in a clinching Game 7 – 32. (To date the rookie still has only 30 career victories.) And Ryan O’Riley scored in four consecutive finals games, the first to do so since Wayne Gretzky, the first ever to have the opening goal on his team in four straight. This led to him being selected as the Conn Smythe Trophy winner for the Most Valuable Player in the playoffs. He is only the third Conn Smythe winner who was an offseason acquisition.

But many on the team may argue there is another MVP for the Blues — she is 11 year old Laila Anderson. A devoted Blues fan, Laila was a constant presence around the team’s entrance tunnel at home games. That is, until she became stricken with an extremely rare auto-immune disease. Requiring chemotherapy and treatments Laila was hospital bound for much of the season. She received a crucial bone marrow transplant in January, and her recovery matched that of her beloved team.

Players had visited her in the hospital and she developed a special bond with defenseman Colton Parayko. Laila became the team’s unofficial mascot, and in May her recovery was enough that she was able to attend her first game. From that moment forward she was a fixture at the Enterprise Center, becoming a nationally recognized aspect of these playoffs. Earlier in the week there was this moment:

She not only got her trip to Boston — she was even brought out onto the ice to join in the celebration. To really absorb the impact this young girl has had notice that these are grown men, celebrating having just reached the pinnacle of their careers, and when made known Laila was out there with them they did not even pause to include her in the revelry.

Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo stopped what he was doing to greet their biggest fan.

Alexander Steen had to be sure to celebrate with her as well.

And here St Louis native Patrick Maroon shows the genuine relationship between them and Laila.

Not only is he casually interacting here, like long-established friends, but he wanted to know if the family was joining them on the flight back to St Louis. It was not a charitable offer; he seems to act as if it was an expected occurrence. If you are even the most bitter of rivals with the team, there is no way you cannot be moved by the bonds that they have here.

Then just to add some frothy levity to it all, one of the side components of these Stanley Cup playoffs has been the rivalry that has been playing out between office mates from “The Office”. Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski portrayed one of the sweetest couples in primetime when Pam and Jim got together. One Problem: Krasinski hails from Boston, while Fischer is a devoted Blues fan.

Their rift became apparent on social media.

It came to a head when it all came down to a game 7 showdown. Jenna opened with a good-natured jab.

Then Krasinsky raised the stakes, with this devilishly perfect tweet sent from his seats inside the Boston Garden.

That was Davis Denman, who played the role of Roy, Pam’s ex on “The Office”. As classic a troll as you will find. But, of course, Jenna-Pam had the last laugh. And we had a massively enjoyable final series, for numerous reasons.