ST. LOUIS — It’s been a long time since St. Louis has hosted a Stanley Cup Final game — 17,924 days as of Saturday. It’s been so long that one of the two linesmen for their last home game in the NHL’s final playoff round — Game 2 in 1970 — was Neil Armstrong, father of Blues general manager Doug, who was only five years old at the time.
That 49-year wait will finally end on Saturday night in Game 3 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; livestream) when the Blues host the Boston Bruins inside Enterprise Center with the series tied at one.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to describe what [the atmosphere is] going to be like,” said Blues forward Ryan O’Reilly, who’s in his first season with the team. “But from what I’ve seen I’ve been very impressed. And we’re excited to [play at] home to show what this town’s about.”
Scanning Twitter or YouTube late Wednesday night after Carl Gunnarsson’s overtime winner and you’ll see the reaction videos from the various watch parties around St. Louis, including one inside a sold-out Enterprise Center. The players noticed those scenes and appreciate just how much their run to the Cup Final has meant to the city.
Three years after losing the Rams to Los Angeles and with the Cardinals floundering under .500 and not having made the playoffs since 2015, it’s the Blues’ time to shine.
“This city’s been waiting for something special for so many years,” said native St. Louisan Patrick Maroon. “People don’t know what a great sports town this really is. This is something special and it just proves people wrong that this is the big time sports town.”
[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
The anticipation in the city has been building and grew even more after the Blues evened the series in dramatic fashion in Game 2. The fans will be loud, the building will be rocking, and the players are ready to go. But with discipline problems in the first two games leading to 10 power plays for the Bruins, head coach Craig Berube knows that the excitement in his players must be harnessed.
“We’re going to have energy, but we’ve got to make sure we keep our emotions in check, too,” Berube said. “That’s a big thing. We don’t want to be going to the penalty box and being overemotional about things. We’ve got to keep them in check and be pretty even-keeled out there but at the same time have emotion in your game but keep it at a good level.”
While the Blues’ penalty kill has killed off eight of those 10 man advantages, the penalty parade has slowed momentum at times, most notably in Game 1.
“It’s the same thing. You’ve got to keep your emotions in check and stay disciplined,” said Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo. “Sometimes it’s hard, but it’s happened to us the last couple of games here so we have to make sure coming home to control those emotions because we can see what they do on the power play.”
The last four months have been unforgettable for the Blues and their fans. At the start of 2019 they were thinking about the NHL Draft Lottery and how the core of the team could be ripped apart due to their poor start to the season. But then the turnaround happened and now they’re three wins away from winning the Cup. It’s an experience that the players have enjoyed sharing with fans helping to bring the city together.
“Just to be here with this opportunity is cool. We’re excited for everyone,” said O’Reilly. “We’re hopefully going to have a good game and obviously give them our best.”
Blues-Bruins Game 3 is Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET from Enterprise Center on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app.
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.