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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Storybook (And I Called It)

Well, not the Stanley Cup. But there's a nun I see at Mass sometimes, and she LOVES St. Louis sports. She asked me in January--when we were the worst team, or near to it--if I thought they'd make the playoffs. "Yes," I replied, matter-of-factly. I think I caught her by surprise, and the way she responded let me know she was wondering if I was nuts.

But for me, watching sports is a mixture of faith, and a keen eye for talent. I had watched a couple games in November and December, and thought, These guys are really good. Most people just see results and scores, and that's not wrong. Eventually, to be a winning team, you have to win. But winners also are the people who do the right things when it doesn't matter, or doesn't seem to.

What I noticed right away is that these guys did their best to cover for each other's mistakes. They used most of their energy helping each other. The forwards came back to help the defense; the defense came forward to help the forwards. They'd rather block a shot, than have the goalie have to stop it. It doesn't matter how great your goalie is; the fewer shots he has to stop, the better.

They knew where each other were on the ice; they skated in concert, like a savage ballet. They are not the most individually skilled players. That may fall to players from Boston, Dallas, or San Jose. But together as units, I've rarely seen things like them.

And then, there's Jordan Binnington. In the early days of his rise, it seemed like he was a good luck charm. Then when I watched him closely, I saw it: He's the second coming of Curtis Joseph. (Joseph is a Hall of Fame goalie who played for the Blues in the '90s.) Curtis never won the Cup, but he got close. And we loved him. He made the miraculous look routine, and shrugged, as if it was supposed to happen. Sound familiar?

And then came the playoffs. They were underdogs every single round. Slowly, systematically, they ground each team down. They hit them into oblivion. Hockey is becoming a finesse game, and the Blues turned that on its head.

I believe there will be a movie. The actual story writes itself: being the worst team in the league, hearing "Gloria" in that bar, GM Doug Armstrong deciding to stick with this group, instead of trading the stars, hiring Craig Berube, unheralded coach cast off from other teams, and the rise of Binnington.

I guess the only thing to do now is to play "Gloria."

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