ST. LOUIS — Inside the St. Louis Blues dressing room in Enterprise Center hangs a mounted board on the wall near the entrance, a few feet to the left of Jake Allen’s stall. The six shelves filled with hockey pucks tells the story of the team’s wild ride during the 2018-19 NHL season.
As time expired in the Blues’ 2-1 Game 5 victory over the Boston Bruins, Alex Steen flipped the puck out the defensive zone. Hopping off the bench at the same time to celebrate with his teammates was David Perron, who scooped up the puck to add to the shelf.
The win Thursday night was St. Louis’ 60th of the season. The shelves on the puck board have enough room to hold 60 of them. At the top of the board, above the I and S in St. Louis, is a spot for one more puck, which was added once they reached the Stanley Cup Final. That spot signifies the 61st win of the season — the win that will make them champions.
The origin of the puck board goes back in training camp when the Blues took a preseason trip to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. There they met with Admiral Wallace E. “Ted” Carter, who presented then-head coach Mike Yeo with his personal military coin. The coin features the emblem of the Naval Academy crest, Admiral Carter’s three stars, his signature and aviation call sign, which happens to be “Slapshot.”
Yeo had the coin mounted on the board featuring six shelves inside the dressing room in hopes that they could look back at the end of the season as a reminder of how that trip played a role in a successful year.
Blues legend Bob Plager put the first puck up on the board on Oct. 11.
Yeo is no longer behind the bench but the puck board remains, even though it took a while fill up.
Only three pucks were added in October, and four more in November before Yeo was fired. New head coach Craig Berube decided not to take down the sparsely-filled board. He did, however, take down the standings board that players saw on their way toward the dressing room at their practice facility. It was a reminder to not look back and only worry about the future.
The shelves started to fill up after Berube took over and then things really took off beginning in January when the Blues won 15 of 18 games, which was boosted by an 11-game winning streak.
There are two pucks on the board that are meaningful to forward Ryan O’Reilly and signify a turn in the Blues’ season. They reside next to one another, marking wins No. 26 and 27. They’re from a February home and home sweep over the Nashville Predators.
“That was pretty monumental, just showed that we can do it,” said O’Reilly. “That was a very good hockey team that we beat two in a row that gave us significant points and pushed us ahead. Gave us some good belief that, hey, we’re an elite team here. We can do this.”
Now it’s June 9. The shelves are full with just that single slot ready to be filled. The puck board is a reminder for the Blues of how this season has gone and how, had there not be such a turnaround, the entire direction of the franchise could have been altered. How many core faces would have been traded away? Who would have been out of a job? All questions that no one has to answer any more.
“They all [tell a story],” said Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo of the pucks. “How long it took to fill it up and how quickly it started to fill up, that’s kind of the summary of our season. It was fun when those pucks kept going up after every game in that second half of the year. It was not fun to look at that board in the first half of the season not seeing any pucks up there.”
The Blues have two games to fill that final spot. They know the Bruins will give them their best and being able to earn that last puck will be a challenge.
“That’s the one we need,” said O’Reilly. “It’s not going to be easy.”
Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final will take place Sunday, 8 p.m. ET on NBC (live stream here)