Franchise Best: St. Louis Blues 1968-69 Season

0

The Franchise Best Series comes to you to dive into the all-time best single season for every organization. This, of course, includes post-season results. Join us for a look back at some of the most memorable moments in each franchise’s history. Here is the St. Louis Blues best season.

Franchise Best: St. Louis Blues 1968-69 Season

The Blues have had some of the league’s best players on their team over the last 51 seasons including Brett Hull, Wayne Gretzky, Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger, Curtis Joseph, Martin Brodeur and many more. However, the Blues have only made the Stanley Cup Final three times, which were their first three seasons in the NHL. While the Blues did not win the Cup in these seasons, they made it further than any other St. Louis Blues team. Let’s take a look at the Blues 1968-69 season. This team included names Blues fans today recognize: Red Berenson, Al Arbour, Noel Picard, Barclay Plager, Bill Plager, Bob Plager, Jacques Plante, Glenn Hall and Jimmy Roberts.

The St. Louis Blues First Season in the NHL

The Blues were an expansion team in 1967-68. Coached by first-time NHL Coach Scotty Bowman for the majority of the season, captained by NHL veteran and Stanley Cup Champion defenseman Al Arbour and led offensively by NHL veteran and Stanley Cup Champion Red Berenson, the Blues were a good NHL team. However, no one expected them to be quite as good as they were. They finished the season in third place in the NHL West with 70 points and they went on to play in the Stanley Cup Final.

They ultimately lost, but it was still an impressive feat for the team. It should be noted that while it was guaranteed that one of the six expansion teams would make the Final, it was the Blues who emerged as the best team of the first six NHL expansion clubs in those early years. This Final loss led the Blues to be even more hungry for the Cup in 1968-69.

Jacques Plante Comes Out of Retirement

Jacques Plante played parts of 13 NHL seasons with the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers from 1952-53 to 1964-65 before retiring. After the 1967-68 season, Plante came out of retirement to play for the Blues. At the time, it seemed like the Blues were taking a chance on a goaltender who just had knee surgery and problems with management in Montreal. However, today, Plante remains one of greatest goaltenders to ever wear the Note. Splitting the goaltending duties with Glenn Hall is a big reason the Blues finished first in the West and went on to their second straight Stanley Cup Final in 1968-69.

Best Goalie Tandem in the League

Glenn Hall and Jacques Plante were outstanding goaltenders individually, but when you put them together, they were incredibly powerful. Hall played 41 games, had 19 wins, 12 losses, a 0.928 save percentage and a 2.17 goals against average. Plante played 40 games, had 18 wins, 12 losses, a 0.940 save percentage and a 1.96 goals against average. Hall and Plante combined for 13 shutouts, a Blues record at the time. They won the Vezina Trophy together that year.

Red Berenson’s Best Season of His Career

The Blues traded away Ron Stewart and Ron Atwell for Barclay Plager and Red Berenson after the start of the 1967-68 season. The next season, 1968-69, was the best season of his career. Berenson had 82 points in 76 regular season games along with 10 points in 12 playoff games. He led the team in scoring in the regular season, by an astonishing 38 points over the next closest Blue, Gary Sabourin. Berenson also scored ten more goals than Sabourin to also lead the team in that department.

One of the Best Defencemen Ever Joins the Team But Leaves Before the Playoffs

In the era before Bobby Orr joined the NHL, Doug Harvey was regarded by many as the best defenceman in NHL history. He won seven Norris Trophies and was part of the Montreal Canadiens dynasty of five straight cups. By 1967-68 though, Harvey was 43, and was toiling in the minors as a player/coach of the Blues AHL affiliate in Kansas City. When Kansas City was eliminated in the AHL playoffs, the Blues called him up for the 1968 playoffs, and Harvey played eight games.

That performance would convince the Blues that Harvey should play on the big club. He suited up for 70 games, scoring two goals and 22 assists. Even turning 44 in December of that year, Harvey proved he was still a very good NHL defenceman and played key minutes for the Blues. Unfortunately, Harvey, feeling that he could not live up to the standards he had set earlier in his career retired at the end of that season. He announced that the last regular season game would be the last of his career. He did not suit up on the Blues playoff run.

Playoff Performers

Gary Sabourin led the team in points in the playoffs with 11. Right behind him with 10 was Red Berenson. Larry Keenan had nine points. Offense helped the team through the first two series, in which they swept their opponents. Of course, with the goalie tandem of Hall and Plante, almost no one could score enough goals on them to beat the Blues.

End Result

The Blues finished the season in first place in the NHL West with 88 points. In the Quarter-Finals, the Blues faced off against the Philadelphia Flyers and won the series 4-0. In the Semi-Finals, the Blues had their second series sweep of the postseason against the Los Angeles Kings, sending the Blues to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second straight season. Unfortunately for the Blues, their opponent was the Montreal Canadiens for the second year in a row. After losing in four games to them in the previous season, the Blues did not want history to repeat itself. However, Montreal swept the Blues again to win the Stanley Cup. The Blues first three seasons in the NHL were the only times they made the Stanley Cup Final and the closest they have ever gotten to hoisting the Cup.

 

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images

LEAVE A REPLY

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.