The storylines to St. Louis' Stanley Cup triumph are spectacular: First championship in the franchise's 52 years. First team in history to ascend from last overall as late as January into the playoffs, never mind winning it all. First chance to celebrate for one of the league's most consistently committed fan bases.
It's a just reward, that 4-1 Game 7 roll last night in Boston. And it's legitimately a great day for hockey. I believe that.
I also believe we witnessed the rise of Ryan O'Reilly into stardom.
Not that he's ever been some Grade B talent. The Penguins' scouts loved him back in the 2009 NHL Draft, but Ray Shero bypassed him for Simon Despres, and the Avalanche picked him 33rd overall. He averaged 18 goals over a half-dozen seasons in Denver, then 22 over three seasons in Buffalo.
But this season, after being traded to the Blues last summer, he blossomed in every direction, setting career marks with 28 goals, 49 assists, 77 points, a plus-22 and nominations for the Selke and Lady Byng trophies. And that was before becoming an oft-unstoppable force in the playoffs, battling through an early rib injury to produce eight goals and 15 assists in 26 games.
In this Final alone, he scored goals in four consecutive games, the first to do so since Wayne Gretzky in 1985.