By Rob Rains
This is the eighth consecutive year STLSportsPage.com has spent the week before Christmas and New Year’s Eve counting down the top seven stories of the year in St. Louis sports.
Never has the choice of picking the top story of the year been any easier.
For the first time in their 51-year franchise history, the Blues won the Stanley Cup, defeating the Bruins in Boston in game seven of the final.
Winning the championship capped a remarkable run for the Blues, who were in last place in the NHL standings in early January. Rookie goalie Jordan Binnington took over as the starter at that point of the season, however, and the Blues would not be denied.
Their biggest win en route to the championship came in game seven of the second round, when hometown hero Pat Maroon scored in double overtime to beat the Dallas Stars and put the Blues into the Western Conference finals.
Earlier this week we revealed the other six stories which made our list for 2019:
Number 2 – Cardinals win division, reach NL Championship Series
After failing to make the playoffs for three consecutive years, the Cardinals won the NL Central and reached the NL Championship Series for the first time since 2014.
The Cardinals needed a win on the final day of the regular season to clinch the division title, then used an historic first inning to win game five of the Division Series over the Braves to advance to the NLCS against the Nationals. There, the offense sputtered as the Nationals swept the series and would go on to win the World Series.
To read our story on the division clinching game on the final day of the regular season CLICK HERE; for the story on the record-setting win in game five of the Division Series CLICK HERE and for the story on the final game of the NLCS CLICK HERE.
Here are the stories which were revealed earlier this week:
Number 3 – St. Louis gets an MLS expansion team
The news had been out there for a few days before the official announcement was made on Aug. 20 that the new teams, which still does not have a nickname, will begin play in 2022.
To read the story of that announcementCLICK HERE
Number 4 – Missouri changes its football coach
One day after the Tigers finished a 6-6 season, which included a five-game losing streak, Barry Odom was fired after four seasons. He was replaced by Eli Drinkwitz, who had been the head coach at Appalachian State.
Here are the links to our stories on Odom’s dismissal and the hiring od Drinkwitz.
Number 5 – Albert Pujols returns to Busch Stadium
For the first time since he left St. Louis as a free agent after the 2011 seaon and signed with the Angels, Pujols returned to play against the Cardinals in June at Busch Stadium.
It was a dramatic weekend, full of standing ovations and current calls. It also featured a Pujols home run and a near climatic moment when he came up to bat in the ninth inning on June 23 it what will almost certainly be his last at-bat ever in Busch Stadium.
With the bases loaded, Pujols’ fell short of hitting an historic home run by popping out.
Number 6 – Ted Simmons elected to Baseball Hall of Fame
Simmons, who was first eligible for the shrine in Cooperstown 25 years ago, was elected by a special veterans committee made up of Hall of Fame players, executives and media members on Dec. 8. He will go into the Hall of Fame next July.
To read our story from the night of Simmons’ election,CLICK HERE
Number 7 – Jordan Hicks suffers season-ending injury
Hicks, the Cardinals’ closer, came out of a game on June 22 with what was initially diagnosed as a cramp, but two days later the team said he had a torn ligament in his right elbow.
Hicks underwent Tommy John surgery a few days later. He is expected to be able to rejoin the team sometime around next year’s All-Star break.
To read our story on Hick’s injury, click here. CLICK HERE
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains