Revisiting St. Louis' Improbable Stanley Cup Victory

It was one of the most improbable events in the history of recorded sports

Dave Herholz, Flickr
  • Halfway through the 2018-2019 NHL season, the St. Louis Blues had 250-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup and were tied for the worst point total (34) in the league.

  • Blues notched a 30-10-5 record in their final 45 games and finished tied for second in the Central Division, just one point behind the first-place Nashville Predators.

  • Since 1967, no professional team in any of the four major North American sports leagues had won a championship after being in last place through one quarter or more of the season.

  • St. Louis then upset the Winnipeg Jets in a six-game first-round series, defeated the Dallas Stars in a seven-game second-round series, and beat the San Jose Sharks in six games to win the Western Conference championship before taking down the Boston Bruins in seven games to win it all.

An Unprecedented Turnaround

When the St. Louis Blues awoke on New Year’s Day, they had little to celebrate with just 34 points banked in the standings nearly halfway through their 2019-20 season. In fact, that total was tied with the Ottawa Senators for the fewest points earned by an NHL team to that point in the season.

With 45 games left, the Blues indeed had the blues, and the odds of them winning the Stanley Cup were set at a lofty 250-1. And here’s a big reason as to why: since 1967, no professional team in any of the four major North American sports leagues had won a championship after being in last place through one quarter or more of the season. 

Less than six months later, St. Louis stunned the hockey world by beating the Boston Bruins in seven games to capture the Stanley Cup for the first time in the team’s 51-year history. It was a remarkable and improbable turnaround, keyed by an interim head coach and a rookie goalie. 

How They Did It

Thanks in great part to veterans Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, Alex Pietrangelo and NHL freshman Jordan Binnington, who began the season fourth on the team’s depth chart for netminders, the Blues notched a 30-10-5 record in their final 45 games and finished tied for second in the Central Division, just one point behind first-place Nashville. St. Louis then upset the Winnipeg Jets in a six-game first-round series, defeated the Dallas Stars in a seven-game second-round series, and beat the San Jose Sharks in six games to win the Western Conference championship.

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Playing Boston for the title, the Blues trailed 1-0 and 2-1 in games during the seven-game series before winning three of the last four, including Game 7 in Boston in resounding 4-1 fashion.

Looking Forward

"It's an unbelievable feeling," Craig Berube, who replaced Mike Yeo as head coach on a temporary basis after the Blues fired Yeo in November, told the media during his Game 7 post-game press conference. "I'm just proud of our players. They just played so hard and really played for each other. I'm so happy that they're champs … To just get in the playoffs was an achievement in itself, but I felt good our guys weren't satisfied with that. I knew that going into the playoffs we could probably do something, make a little bit of noise, and here we are. It happened."

The Blues, who signed Berube to a three-year contract and changed their roster only slightly this off-season, are listed by DraftKings at +1800 to repeat as Stanley Cup champions in 2020. Eight other teams, including Boston, are favored to win the title ahead of St. Louis. That may seem odd, but repeating as Stanley Cup champs is challenging. Playing 82 games in the regular season and then having to win 16 more in the intense playoff atmosphere is a grueling task in one season, let alone two.  

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