On Jan. 3, the St. Louis Blues sat in the NHL basement at 15-18-4. Five months later, they are celebrating with the first Stanley Cup trophy in franchise history.
St. Louis defeated the Boston Bruins 4-1 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday night in Boston, ending a 51-year championship drought, which was tied for the longest in NHL history. Ryan O’Reilly opened the scoring for the Blues in the first period, his fourth straight game in which he scored. He was later awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason MVP.
The game-winning goal came about three minutes later, with eight seconds left in the first, as Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo netted a backhand goal to put St. Louis up 2-0.
— NHL (@NHL) June 13, 2019
Neither team scored in the second, but the Blues put the game away with two more goals late in the third. Boston finally got past St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington with just over two minutes remaining, but it mattered little.
The first to hoist the Cup, as is NHL tradition, was the captain. Pietrangelo is in his 11th year with the Blues, who drafted the defenseman at No. 4 overall in 2008, and this marked his third season with the “C” on his jersey. He took over that role after forward David Backes, the Blues’ captain starting in 2011, signed a five-year contract with … Boston.
To earn his first Stanley Cup, Pietrangelo had to defeat one of his best friends. Backes was a groomsman in Pietrangelo’s wedding (but unfortunately was a healthy scratch for Game 7). They put their friendship aside for the Finals but now that the season is over, you can be sure Backes has nothing but congrats for his friend — who is also a brother in Christ.
“His family … instilled good Christian values in him,” Backes told Hockey Ministries, “and he’s a guy that still clings to those faith-based items to keep himself grounded and humble.”
“I would say that they have a great friendship,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong told ESPN about Backes and Pietrangelo. “They’re both great men off the ice, great family men; they shared a lot of the same values away from the rink.”
This Sunday will be an extra special Father’s Day for Pietrangelo. Not only will he celebrate as a Stanley Cup champion, but he’ll do so for the first time with his three children. Triplets Evelyn, Oliver and Theodore were born to Pietrangelo and his wife, Jayne, on July 21, 2018.
This Saturday will also be special for Pietrangelo and his wife. It will mark two years since they met their first child, Gabriel, whom they lost on June 15, 2017, due to complications with the pregnancy. In a piece for the Players’ Tribune in March 2018, Pietrangelo expressed that he struggled with how God could allow such a tragedy.
“The single greatest thing we’ve ever been given was taken away from us, just like that,” he wrote. “I don’t care how strong of a person you are … you can’t help but ask yourself, ‘If God has done all of this for me in my life, and given me so much, and if there’s a plan for everyone, then why did this happen?’”
In an Instagram post six months after Gabriel was born, Pietrangelo wrote, “There hasn’t been a day I haven’t shed a tear for you but today my heart aches a little more knowing we should be holding you in our arms and not just our hearts. Many don’t understand why we chose to honor you the way that we did but we loved you even before you were formed in the womb, I’m just sorry they never got to know and love you too. So for now, I’m hanging on to the promise of Heaven to hold you and baby #2.”
Pietrangelo didn’t know then that he’d soon be holding babies No. 2, 3 and 4. Or that soon after those three blessings, he’d be the first St. Louis Blues player to hold the Stanley Cup trophy.
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