The St. Louis Blues have been playing NHL hockey since the 1967-68 season, and they are one win away from winning their first Stanley Cup.
The team that was last in the NHL on January 3 has taken a 3-2 edge over the Boston Bruins, and they have the opportunity seal the league's championship and the famed trophy by winning at home Sunday night.
Stanley Cup Final Game 6
When: Sunday, June 9, at 8 p.m. ET
Live stream: NBC Sports
Odds: St. Louis -120; Boston +100, per Covers. St. Louis backers must wager $120 to win $100; Boston bettors must risk $100 to win $100.
Blues Win Game 5 Amid Controversy
The Blues won the pivotal fifth game in Boston on Thursday night by a score of 2-1. A series that had been relatively free of officiating controversies saw that situation come to a halt when a non-call that should have gone against the Blues led to the goal that gave the visitors a 2-0 lead.
Midway through the third period, St. Louis were up 1-0 when Tyler Bozak came hurtling up the right side and took out Boston fourth-liner Noel Acciari with a hard trip that can also be described as a slew foot. Acciari hit the back of his head on the ice as a result of the blow, and Bozak immediately stopped, turned around and looked in the direction of the referee.
He did not hear him blow his whistle or see him call a penalty. The Blues were able to pick up the puck, and David Perron slid a puck across goal that Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask couldn't handle to increase the Blues' lead.
The Bruins were in shock because they thought they should be going on a power play with a chance to tie the score.
Reactions included Bruins president Cam Neely firing a bottle of water at the wall in his suite and head coach Bruce Cassidy lashing out the officiating after the game.
The Bruins may have been the victims of a poor non-call, but there have been several others in the playoffs, and St. Louis was hit hard by perhaps the most infamous when a hand pass in overtime of Game 3 of the Western Conference Final led directly to the San Jose Sharks' game-winning goal.
The Blues may have been upset, but they never let it show. They responded by winning the next three games of the series to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
There's a lesson there for the Bruins that they may or may not take on board. They lost an important game, but they have not lost the series. They have an opportunity to square the series and send it back to Boston for a decisive seventh game if they can win Sunday night.
Cassidy tried to turn the page on Friday by pointing to past success the team has had under adverse circumstances.
"I think the players know what the moment is," Cassidy said, per Frank Dell'Apa of the Boston Globe. He continued:
"We can draw on previous experience. This particular group went into Toronto, tough environment, first round, won a game on the road. Came back and won at home—that's why we're still playing, one of the reasons.
"The group that won the Cup [in 2011] had to win the last two. They were down, 3-2. Home first, then the road, but still. So we certainly know we're capable of it."
Barbashev to Miss Game 6
The Blues were hit with another one-game player suspension Friday. Forward Ivan Barbashev was disciplined by the NHL's department of player safety for a hit to the head of Boston's Marcus Johansson in Game 5.
St. Louis was hit with a similar punishment after Game 2, when Oskar Sundqvist was suspended for his hit to the head of Boston's Matt Grzelcyk. Boston responded by winning Game 3 in St. Louis by a 7-2 score.
The Blues have retaliated with two victories. They have blunted the Bruins' big-play offense, limiting Boston's top line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand.
If they can overcome the loss of Barbashev, continue to play tough, physical hockey and take advantage of their scoring opportunities, they will have a chance to celebrate the greatest moment in franchise history.
If not, they will take one more road trip to close out the NHL season.
The Blues are favored to win at home, but they will be somewhat shorthanded without Barbashev. They have answered every call to this point, and they are 3-0 when they have a chance to eliminate an opponent this season.
However, the Bruins are a special team, and as Cassidy pointed out, they were in this situation earlier this postseason when they trailed the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 and came back to win the series.
Boston is a smart, skilled, tough veteran team that knows how to win on the road. The Bruins will find a way to win at Enterprise Center and send the series back to TD Garden.
Hockey fans can anticipate two thrilling games to close the 2018-19 season.