Rozner: It doesn't take miracle to win Stanley Cup
In light of the St. Louis Blues' extraordinary run from worst to first and a Stanley Cup championship, teams around the league will immediately begin to say -- again -- that anyone reaching the NHL postseason can win if they simply get in.
Well, there's just a few things wrong with that, the biggest being that it's an insult to the Blues.
In a league that frowns on hitting and physical play, the Blues were the most consistently physical team in the postseason.
They were big enough to play with the biggest teams.
They were fast enough to play with the fastest teams.
And while not as skilled as the teams they faced, they had enough skill because of their commitment to play a five-man defensive game.
That's because of their depth, somewhat reminiscent of the Blackhawks' first Cup team in 2010, not close in terms of skill, but in regards to their overall depth.
Witness 24-year-old Zach Sanford, who drew in for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on the fourth line, promoted by Game 4 to the second line and producing 4 points in five games, including a dagger of a goal in Game 7.
Like that 2010 Hawks team, the Blues could play it any way you wanted to play it, be it fast, slow, heavy or high scoring.
The Blues had home ice only in the second round and had 10 wins in 13 road games during the postseason, tying the record, which makes sense because they have a game more suited to playing away from home.
They were willing to win a patient, low-scoring game, ferocious on the forecheck, and committed to backpressure and helping the defense.
Teams often pay lip service to that commitment, but you don't get the result if forwards are hanging out at the opposition blue line while the rest of the group defends.
The Blues were truly in it for one another, something that was obvious in the way five guys came back full speed to help their goaltender.
Yes, Jordan Binnington saved them twice against Boston, holding off the Bruins in the first period of Games 5 and 7 when the home team could have blown out the visitors.
But a team that was in last place Jan. 3 was scarred from their misery and used that to their advantage during difficult times in the postseason.
Their big, long, physical defense handled speed and size while breaking out with confidence.
A smaller group would have struggled against the bigger teams, shorter sticks would not have clogged as many lanes in the neutral and defensive zones.
With defensemen the size of Colton Parayko (6-feet-6), Joel Edmundson (6-4), Jay Bouwmeester (6-4), Alex Pietrangelo (6-3) and Carl Gunnarsson (6-2), the Blues handled any and all who tried to intimidate them.
Just the opposite, it was St. Louis that did the intimidating.
Their forecheck was smothering and their physical presence was unrelenting, never passing up a chance to get a body on the puck, wearing down and wearing out the opposition.
Sure, hitting doesn't matter -- unless you're the one being hit every time you sniff the puck. The only expert who says hitting isn't important is an expert who's never been hit.
Every pounding adds up and soon defensemen are looking for the hit instead of the puck, avoiding pain whenever possible.
As for the pain of the Blues' early-season woes, it served them well when they got hot, a group that came together and held each other accountable.
In the end, that was perhaps their greatest attribute.
The coaching staff did its part as well, but the when the room holds you responsible, the impact is much greater.
The result was a parade in St. Louis and it was well earned.
Teams around the NHL will use the Blues now as proof that anyone can win, sell tickets based on the chance to get in.
They will say miracles can happen. And when they point to the Blues as evidence, they will be wrong.
There was nothing miraculous about it.