David Perron

Lessons we should (and should not) learn from the 2019 St. Louis Blues

16 Comments

Another NHL season is in the books and for the second year in a row it resulted in a long-suffering franchise and fan-base getting its first taste of the Stanley Cup.

This time it was the St. Louis Blues completing one of the most incredible in-season turnarounds we have ever seen, going from the bottom of the NHL standings in early January to the top of the NHL mountain in June.

Now that the newest champion has been crowned it is time to begin my favorite offseason activity: Dissecting how they won and figuring out how the rest of the teams in the league can attempt to model their success.

As always there are some valuable and meaningful lessons that can be taken from this particular champion.

There are also a few that lessons that teams should avoid getting lost in.

We need to talk about both types of lessons.

Your last place team next January is NOT going to win the Stanley Cup

By now you have no doubt heard the story.

In the first week of January the St. Louis Blues had the worst record in the NHL and fought all the way back to not only make the playoffs, but also nearly win the Central Division and then went on to win the Stanley Cup once they made the playoffs.

It sounds amazing, because it is amazing, and an incredible turnaround that is worthy of praise and celebration.

Here is what you should not do: Take this as a “all you have to do is get in” lesson, or that your team that is in last place at the halfway point of the NHL season is going to be capable of turning its season around in this same way. Chances are, it is not.

Of the bottom 14 teams in the league standings on January 1 this season only two of them ended up making the playoffs — the Blues, and the Carolina Hurricanes, who were in 22nd place overall in the league standings on that same date.

If you go back to the start of the 2005-06 season when the NHL introduced the three-point game there have only been three teams in the bottom-five of the league standings on January 1 that came back to make the playoffs in that season.

Those teams were the 2019 Blues, the 2008-09 Blues, and the 2007-08 Washington Capitals. While this year’s Blues team won it all, the other two were eliminated in the first round winning just three total games between them in the playoffs.

There is also this when it comes to the Blues: They were not your run of the mill bad team at that point in the season. They were one of the NHL’s best defensive teams a year ago, had that same defensive core in place, and spent heavily over the summer to address its offense by acquiring Ryan O'Reilly, David Perron, Patrick Maroon, and Tyler Bozak, a series of transactions that added nearly $19 million to their cap, sending them close to the upper limits of the league’s salary cap.

This team was built to compete and win this season.

They were also not a team that just simply got hot and flipped a switch at the start of April.

Their early season record was a mirage that saw an otherwise good team get absolutely sabotaged by horrific goaltending. From January 1 on, especially after they found a competent goalie, they played at a championship level in every meaningful metric that we have to project future performance (and this isn’t 20/20 hindsight knowing the results … it is why I picked them to come out the Western Conference at the start of the playoffs. Yes, I also picked Tampa Bay in the East, but, hey, you win some and you lose some).

If your team is in the bottom-five of the standings next January it is probably there because it deserves to be there, and if your GM or coach starts talking about looking to the Blues for inspiration it is probably a sign something bad is about to happen in the form of a roster transaction.

The Blues winning the Stanley Cup is not the fluke here. Their record in January was the fluke.

Goaltending will crush you … and also save you

This is kind of related to the previous point, and it is not just good goaltending that matters.

Bad goaltending matters, too, in the sense that it significantly alters what happens to a team. This is the biggest reason why the Blues were in the position they were in at the start of the season to set the stage for this storybook ending.

From opening night through Jan. 1 the Blues’ goaltending duo of Jake Allen and Chad Johnson combined for an all-situations save percentage of .892 save percentage, a mark that was the third-worst in the NHL at that point. Goaltending that bad is nearly impossible to overcome (at that point only other team in the bottom-10 in save percentage — the San Jose Sharks — occupied a playoff spot).

It was crushing what was, for the most part, still a very good defensive team and made everyone think they were worse than they actually were.

At this point the jury is still very much out on Jordan Binnington because he still has such a small sampling of work to go on. Maybe he will be good, and maybe his career peaked this season. No matter what direction his career takes from here he gave the Blues what they needed in the second half to at least give them a chance to compete.

Maybe he did not steal many games for them, but he did the next best thing — he did not lose many games.

If you think your team that is built to win is not winning, do not assume you are worse than you thought you would be. You should start by looking at the performance of your goalies before you make more changes than you need to make.

At the same time, if your team is performing better than you thought it would do not automatically assume it is better than you thought it would be. Just assume your goalie is bailing it out.

Yes, big money stars still matter

Take a quick look at this Blues roster and name the biggest superstar.

Or the slam-dunk Hall of Famer.

Is there one of either?

Vladimir Tarasenko is probably the closest one in either category, and while I would definitely consider him a star player he is probably far from a slam-dunk Hall of Famer, if he even is one at all.

This is a team whose whole was far greater than the sum of its parts, and while general manager Doug Armstrong did a fabulous job building a well-rounded, deep team, this is a roster construction that is going to be nearly impossible to duplicate on a championship level.

Earlier in the playoffs when all of the big-name teams were eliminated there was a narrative starting to surface about big-money players and how teams that were winning didn’t have a lot of them. This postseason was very much an anomaly in that regard, but the Blues’ success is still probably going to push somebody out there in hockey-land to argue that their team is better off shedding its big-money player to build a more well-rounded team.

If (or when) it happens, it is going to be a mistake.

Here’s the thing about this Blues team: Even though it lacked a traditional “superstar” or a $10 million per year player it was still a team that carried some big contracts at the top of its lineup. Their top-five cap hits this season totaled $33 million, or 42 percent of the league’s cap ceiling. While recent Stanley Cup winners in Washington and Pittsburgh had slightly higher percentages (46 percent in Washington in 2017-18; around 50 percent for the Penguins in 2016 and 2017) it is still roughly in the same ballpark.

You still need stars to win. The Blues may not be overflowing with household name superstars, but they still have their share of big-money, impact players on their roster.

If you get the best player in the trade you will almost always win the trade

This also relates to the previous point where quality is better than quantity.

One impact player is better than two decent players.

The biggest move the Blues made before this season was to acquire Ryan O’Reilly from the Buffalo Sabres, and while O’Reilly isn’t a superstar he is still an excellent No. 1 center. He is a 60-70 point player offensively, he is a shutdown player defensively, and he plays big minutes against top players and does not take penalties. He can be a force on the ice. When the Blues traded Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, Tage Thompson, and a first-round draft pick for him it was viewed in some places as being a lot to give up and a solid return for the Sabres. But it wasn’t.

The Blues were still getting what was by far the best player in the trade, and a player that even before this season carried more value individually than all four assets going the other way did combined.

For the Sabres to come out ahead in this trade in the future Thompson and the first-round pick are probably both going to need to become top-line players, and the chances of that happening are just laughably small. Thompson is an okay prospect, but did not really take a step forward this season, and the historical track record of players taken with the No. 31 overall pick (or in that general vicinity) is not exactly a promising one.

The Blues feasted on a team that seemed almost desperate to get rid of an impact player and got him for what amounted to a pile of spare parts. Is it really a surprise to see the direction both teams took on the ice this season?

Play! To! Your!  Strengths!

Every word needs emphasized because the Blues’ championship is going to result in a bunch of think-tank discussions about the future of the NHL, the way the game is played, and the way teams should be built.

The only logical conclusion that anyone should come to is that there is more than one way to win and more than one style that can work.

It just depends on what your team is good at and if your team is getting the right players to fit that style.

Some teams, like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Chicago Blackhawks, have found success with speed and skill over the past few years.

Some teams, like this year’s Blues, found success with a bigger, more physical roster that played better defensively.

The 2017-18 Washington Capitals were kind of a blend of both, as were this year’s Bruins (though they are not anywhere near as big or physical as the Big Bad Bruins moniker will have you believe).

The key is finding your identity and sticking to it.

If your team is built around speed and skill, don’t deviate away from that just because you think you have to get bigger and stronger (See: Penguins, Pittsburgh). It will not work.

If your team is bigger and better defensively, don’t just find a bunch of lightning quick speedsters that have frying pans for hands and can’t defend. It will not work.

The Penguins and Blackhawks styles worked because their skilled players could score and defend. They were not fast for the sake of being fast. They were fast and good.

The Blues’ style worked because their big, heavy players could also score and play. They were not big and physical just for the sake of being big and physical. They were big and good.

This should be obvious and common sense, but I have watched, followed, and covered enough NHL hockey over the years to know there is a team out there (or two … or three … or even more) that is already sitting in its scouting meetings as I write this and wondering how they can get bigger because they feel they need to get bigger, whether it makes sense for them or not. If you are a team like Pittsburgh, Toronto, Carolina, or Colorado don’t think you need to get bigger just because the Blues won playing this particular way.

The 2018-19 St. Louis Blues were a unique team in a lot of ways, and there are definitely some lessons that we should take away from their season that can be applied to other teams.

They just may not be the lessons most teams will attempt to take away.

MORE BLUES STANLEY CUP COVERAGE:
• Jay Bouwmeester finally gets his Stanley Cup
• Blues fan Laila Anderson gets moment with Stanley Cup
• Ryan O’Reilly wins Conn Smythe Trophy
• Berube helped Blues find identity after early-season struggle
• Blues latest team erased from Stanley Cup drought list

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Wraparound: It’s all on the line for Bruins, Blues

Leave a comment

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

This is it.

It’s all on the line tonight for the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins (8 p.m. ET; NBC). One team will skate around the TD Garden with the Stanley Cup. Which team will that be?

“Winning and losing, it sticks with you forever,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. “You don’t forget everything that happens when you win, and you definitely don’t forget what happens when you lose. Unfortunately, there’s going to be both sides of that (on Wednesday), and we’ll see how it plays out.”

Of course, many Bruins know what it’s like to win it all and they also know what it’s like to lose in the Stanley Cup Final. As for the Blues, many of them haven’t been in this position. Will that make a difference tonight?

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

“It’s definitely hard when you lose, because you work for this your whole life,” Blues forward David Perron, who went to the Stanley Cup Final with Vegas last year, said on Tuesday. “So you want to make the best of it, definitely.”

The Blues had an opportunity to close out the Bruins at Enterprise Center in Game 6, but that didn’t work out the way they had hoped, as they dropped a 5-1 decision on home ice. That was clearly their best opportunity to win the Stanley Cup, but they now get another chance to do so on the road at TD Garden.

The good news is that the Blues have been a remarkably good team on the road in the postseason.

“I just think we get to our game easier on the road,” Blues forward Pat Maroon said. “Maybe (we’re) thinking too much at home. Being at home, there could be pressure or whatever. It should be no excuses, but I just feel like we get to our game (on the road). We find ways to make it difficult on the opponent and we do it pretty good.”

If St. Louis can play their simple road game and they get a strong performance out of goalie Jordan Binnington, they’ll be in prime position to come away with a victory in the biggest game in franchise history.

As for the Bruins, they’ll need their top players to come up big tonight. Their top line has been quiet during certain stretches in this series, but they are capable of blowing Game 7 wide open.

We’re only hours away from the biggest game of the 2018-19 season.

MORE:
Chara all action, little talk in Stanley Cup Final
Bruins hope to spoil Boston sports fans with another championship
Stanley Cup Final Roundtable: Game 7 x-factors, Conn Smythe contenders 

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Stanley Cup Final Roundtable: Game 7 X-factors, Conn Smythe contenders

1 Comment

Is Tuukka Rask the only Conn Smythe candidate at this point, win or lose? Is there Blues player who has a shot?

SEAN: With what Rask has done this postseason, he probably should take it, win or lose, but there is a strong case for Ryan O’Reilly. He’s second in scoring among all players and has picked up his offensive game in the Stanley Cup Final with four goals and seven points. Since the award is for the entirety of the playoffs, outside of the San Jose series where he had a measly one goal and five points, he’s produced regularly and played a huge part in shutting down the top offensive threats on the other side of the ice.

JAMES: Look, points aren’t everything, but it says a lot that only two players who’ve scored more points than Logan Couture‘s 20 (Brad Marchand with 23, Ryan O'Reilly at 21). Not ideal when Couture’s Sharks were eliminated on May 21, and even then, Couture was on a three-game pointless drought.

For years, I’ve grumbled about should-be Conn Smythe winners losing out just because their teams didn’t win. In my opinion, Jarome Iginla and Chris Pronger should have had at least one playoff MVP apiece. No one deserves the Conn Smythe more than Rask, whether the Bruins win or the Blues break their Stanley Cup curse.

ADAM: I am 100 percent certain that if the Blues win someone on their team will get it, that does not mean I have to agree with it. Rask is everything the playoff MVP should be, win or lose. He has been the best player on the ice the entire postseason, he has played at a historically good level for his position, and is quite literally the single biggest reason his team is here. Without him playing the way he has they lose to Toronto or Columbus in the first or second round, and he pretty much broke the Hurricanes early in the Eastern Conference Final series. While the Blues have a great team and a lot of excellent players having really good postseasons, there is not one player on the team that reaches that level we have seen from Rask. If I had a vote, it is Rask win or lose.

JOEY: I think Rask has been unbelievable throughout the playoffs, but I don’t think I’d give him the Conn Smythe Trophy if the Bruins don’t get the job done in Game 7. In my mind, there are a couple of worthy candidates if the Blues hoist Lord Stanley. First, Ryan O’Reilly has to be a strong candidate. He’s put up points and he’s been terrific on the defensive end, too. I know there was a point last round where he didn’t produce as much, but he has to be up there. I also think Alex Pietrangelo has to be considered. He’s logged some heavy ice time and he’s been productive, too.

SCOTT: Rask is the only choice, although history has defied that many times over. But you can’t tell me for a second that Rask hasn’t been the best player for the majority of it. I can field an argument for Ryan O’Reilly, but only because it’s become increasingly rare for a non-winning team’s player to get the award. Given that, if St. Louis wins, it likely gets placed into the hands of ROR. And that would be shame to not recognize, win or lose, what Rask has done to get the Bruins this far.

RYAN: Ryan O’Reilly has an outside shot of winning the Conn Smythe Trophy if St. Louis takes Game 7, but even then Tuukka Rask is the heavy favorite.  The only scenario where I think Rask would fall short of the award is if he absolutely collapses in Game 7.  Assuming he at least has an okay game, he’ll win the Conn Smythe even if the Bruins lose.

Getty Images

Who is your X-factor for each team and why?

SEAN: Ryan O’Reilly has been the engine for the Blues in the Cup Final. He’s played a strong two-way game that has put him ahead of the line on the roster for Conn Smythe Trophy consideration. For the way he leads that top line and how he’s been successful at helping neutralize the Bruins’ top line at times through six games, they’ll need him at his best one more time. Tuukka Rask has not had a game this postseason with a sub-.900 save percentage. That’s huge, and it’s a reason why the Bruins will need him again in an anything goes Game 7. 

JAMES: David Perron‘s been able to possess the puck in the offensive zone, and has 16 SOG in the series, but only a goal and an assist to show for it. A player with his skills could break open a tense situation like a Game 7. Speaking of being limited to only a goal during this series, Patrice Bergeron‘s stuck at a single tally despite 21 SOG (though his three assists give him a solid four points in six games). I’d wager that Bergeron is playing through an injury, but even with that in mind, the all-world, two-way center feels due for some puck luck. What better time for that to happen than Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final?

ADAM: Jaden Schwartz was so white-hot for the Blues for most of the playoffs and he’s just kind of disappeared in the Stanley Cup Final. He was never as good as he looked in the first part of the playoffs, he was never as bad as he looked during the regular season. There’s a middle ground there and the middle ground is a darn good player. I think he’s due to make an impact in this series and maybe score a big goal for the Blues. On the Boston side, I think I am looking at Jake DeBrusk. He has points in four of his past five games and seems to be getting better as this series goes on.

JOEY: I’m going back to Pietrangelo here. The Blues will need him to play 24 or 25 minutes (more if Game 7 goes to overtime) and they may need him to help set up some of his teammates, especially on the power play. All the players mentioned by others on this list will be key, but Pietrangelo is one of the key veterans on the team. As for the Bruins, I’m looking for David Pastrnak to come up with some big goals. He’s gone hot and cold at different points this postseason but Boston needs him to come up big on Wednesday night.

SCOTT: Brad Marchand. He knows how to get the job done in a Game 7 to decide the Stanley Cup Final. If you’ve done that once, it’s often more experience than anyone else has on the ice. The Bruins have five players who’ve been in this spot before. Marchand had two goals and three points as a rookie in 2011. The pressure didn’t seem to get to him that day. With several more years and now on a third Stanley Cup run, and the demons of 2013 still fresh enough pinch, I think Marchand plays a big role.

RYAN: Jordan Binnington has been more hit-than-miss in the playoffs, which is impressive for a rookie, but there nevertheless have been misses.  For the Blues to win Game 7, Binnington needs to be at the top of his game.  Patrice Bergeron is a big X-Factor for the Bruins.  He’s been somewhat quiet at times in this series, having been held off the scoresheet in four of the first six games.  He’s also minus-four and has averaged 17:31 minutes, down from 19:10 over the first three rounds.  He has the power to change the course of a game though, both on the ice and through his leadership.  A big night from him would make all the difference.

Finally, let’s hear it: Who wins Game 7?

SEAN: It’s Game 7, nothing that happened in the previous six games matters. Discipline, top players getting shut down, hot goaltending… this is the final game of the season and everyone knows what’s on the line. I think the Bruins shake off the Blues’ attempts at establishing their forecheck and rough and physical style and eek out a close out. Jordan Binnington has been fine, but Tuukka Rask has been unbelievable. 

JAMES: I’m on the record of having no sweet clue what will happen, and this series has been almost jarring in its tonal shifts, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Blues win it all. I picked the Bruins head into the series, and as impressive as St. Louis has been, this Boston team seems like it has that fabled “extra gear.” So, I’ll choose Boston, with about as much confidence as someone has picking an AFC team other than the Patriots to reach the Super Bowl.

ADAM: Have been picking the Blues in every series from the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and am not going to go away from that now. They have been better on the road all postseason, they have always bounced back after tough games, they have been an outstanding team from top to bottom for months now. They win it.

JOEY: I had the Blues winning the series in seven games at the start so I have to stick with that now. Jordan Binnington will have a big say in who wins this game. If he struggles like he did in Game 6, the Blues will have a hard time winning it all. If he turns in another solid performance, there’s a good chance that this game will be low scoring. Give me St. Louis.

SCOTT: I picked the Bruins from the beginning on the playoffs and they haven’t let me down yet. Rask has been unbeatable in games that matter most and Bruins top line and power play seemed to get back to form in Game 6. Boston wins 4-1.

RYAN: My prediction going into this series was Blues in 7, so I’ll stick with that.  St. Louis has done a great job of bouncing back throughout the playoffs.  They just need to do it one more time after dropping Game 6.

Blues-Bruins Game 7 from TD Garden in Boston will be Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC (live stream).

Bruins’ ‘Perfection Line’ far from perfect lately

Getty Images
2 Comments

They’ve been dubbed ‘The Perfection Line,’ but lately, in reality, they’ve been far from it.

Patrice Bergeron, with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak flanking, have been one of the talking points of the playoffs, especially heading into the Stanley Cup Final. In the first three rounds, the line combined for 46 points, at times taking games into their respective hands and conjuring up a win.

They earned the moniker, surely. But perfection has evaded them as of late.

Through five games, they’ve combined for nine points — four, if you take away a lopsided 7-2 win in Game 3. In pivotal games such as Games 4 and 5, they combined for just two assists.

It’s a slump the Bruins can ill-afford at the moment. Their top unit on the power play is manned by the same three players, and that power play is 0-for-5 in their past two games after going 6-for-14 in the first three.

Last I checked, perfection isn’t spelled s-l-u-m-p.

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy addressed the rut during the off-day on Saturday.

The line’s production dried up both Round 2 and 3, at times, and Cassidy believes that they can work themselves out of it again, particularly Marchand.

“We asked him to attack a little more,” Cassidy said. “What happens with Brad is if the puck’s not going in, he wants to make plays for Pasta, because Pasta can score, Berg, they’re all 30-goal scorers, so [Brad] defers a little bit.

“We tried to get him out of that mindset and just play. If the pass is there, obviously make it, but don’t be afraid to shoot. You saw it the other night, he rang one off the post, had one cross screen and nice blocker save, [Sean] Kuraly almost got the rebound, so there was some stuff going on there for him. I thought Pastrnak was closer than that, had a block on a wraparound, so he’s getting inside. That encourages me. So I feel they’re close, but St. Louis is tough. It’s tough to get inside, they defend well, goaltender’s playing well. So it’s a good battle right now.”

If there’s a good omen here, it’s that the first time Boston faced elimination in these playoffs, perfection was, indeed, the deciding factor.

The Bruins found themselves trailing the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in their Round 1 series. With their backs up against the wall, Marchand exploded for two goals and an assist, Pastrnak assisted twice and Bergeron added a helper of his own for a six-point night for the line and a win that forced a Game 7.

Given who the Blues have played the Bergeron line as of late, it appears Boston is going to need another one of those Herculean efforts on Sunday to send the series back to Boston for the 17th Game 7 in Stanley Cup Final history — and first, ironically, since Boston won it all in 2011.

“I do believe they were better, closer to scoring than they have been,” Cassidy said. “And I’ve said it: listen, we want them to score, but we’ve gotten production all playoffs from different players. It’s why we’re still playing. That’s the mindset tomorrow. Your best players need to be your best players, but if they defend well and we have a good defensive game, you know, we’re in it, I feel someone will step up. Probably them, because they usually do.

“But same token, we don’t want to put so much pressure on them they get outside their overall game, their defensive game, because they’re a good line all-around and we don’t want them to lose that.”

For what it’s worth, Boston pushed the pace with 39 shots in Game 5, 13 of which came from Bergeron’s line, and got very unlucky when Noel Acciari was slew-footed, leading to David Perron‘s 2-0 goal that would be all the difference in a 2-1 St. Louis win.

Give that line another 13 shots and the story could be vastly different. The Bruins will be hoping that’s the case.

Blues-Bruins Game 6 is Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET on NBC and the NBC Sports app.

MORE BLUES – BRUINS COVERAGE:
Bruins vs. Blues: Three keys to Game 6 of Stanley Cup Final
Blues looking to seize opportunity, close out storybook season
• Pucks tell the story of Blues’ rollercoaster season
• Bruins’ Chara was more than just brave in Game 5
• Chara, Dunn join jaw-dropping club of playing through pain
• Bruins, Blues in familiar places heading into Game 6


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Pucks tell the story of Blues’ rollercoaster season

Scott Rovak / St. Louis Blues

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)

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.