ST. LOUIS — The 52-year wait could end Sunday night.
After 4,046 regular season games, the St. Louis Blues play the 390th playoff game in their history when they meet the Boston Bruins in Enterprise Center.
For the first time, they can win the Stanley Cup with a victory.
"It's crazy. It's tough to sleep right now," Blues center Ryan O'Reilly said Saturday on the eve of Game 6 with the Blues leading the series, 3-2. "Your mind gets racing. But at the end of the day, it's one shift at a time. That's all you can do and all you can focus on."
"It's probably the biggest game of all of our careers in this locker room," said Blues winger and St. Louis native Patrick Maroon. "We've just got to focus on what the St. Louis Blues have to do, playing the right hockey and playing the right way."
A St. Louis win in this series would mark the second consecutive year that a long Stanley Cup drought was put to rest. The Washington Capitals, born in 1974, won their first Cup one year ago Friday with a Game 5 victory at Vegas. The Caps had been in the playoffs 28 times, played 47 series and 275 games before they finally got to raise the Cup.
The Blues' history dwarfs that of Washington. St. Louis has been in the playoffs 42 times — including 25 consecutive springs from 1980-2004 — and this is its 72nd playoff round.
"It's incredible how many amazing teams that have been here and haven't won," O'Reilly said. "Looking at it now, having that opportunity, seeing this group in here, seeing the city behind it. It's amazing.
"It's tough to put into words just running into random people around the city and how excited they are. Season ticket-holders for 30-plus years, just their excitement. It's so much more beyond these guys in this room. It's the whole city."
The Blues have taken the city on a ride that's unprecedented in NHL history. O'Reilly, traded by the 31st-place Sabres on July 1, 2018, found himself playing for the last-place Blues as recently as Jan. 3.
In fact, when the Sabres were at Enterprise Center for a 4-1 loss Dec. 27, they started the night 15 points ahead of St. Louis in the standings.
"It's crazy how training camp feels like a lifetime ago, but it's great." O'Reilly said. "It's been the most fun for all of us. We've enjoyed it. We've got a lot of work left here, but it's been a heck of a ride.
"I try not to think about [lifting the Cup] and prepare the same way. It's tough. We know there's a lot going on. It's been a big process to find a way to climb back into the race and give ourselves a chance, but we have to look at it as another game and take it one shift at a time."
As O'Reilly said, there's so much going on around this team. The 1982 Laura Branigan single, "Gloria" has become its post-victory anthem after a group of Blues players watched an Eagles playoff game in January at a Philadelphia bar where the song was a staple. The song is now blasted all over town, sometimes in 24-hour spells by one local FM station.
Laila Anderson, an 11-year-old battling a potentially fatal inflammatory syndrome, has become a daily inspiration for the team and city — and now even has her own bobblehead likeness commissioned by the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee.
And emotions will be at a fever pitch just before faceoff Sunday when 64-year-old Charles Glenn belts out the national anthem for the final time. Glenn, the team's singer for 19 years, announced earlier this year he was stepping aside due to the effects of multiple sclerosis but his career at the mic has been extended by the team's long postseason run.
With all those items swirling, the Blues' task will be to continue to get strong goaltending from Jordan Binnington; keep the clamps on Boston's top line, which has no even-strength goals in the series; and maintain discipline to stay out of the penalty box.
"This is all new for us," St. Louis center Brayden Schenn said. "You just worry about the little details of a game. Those will win you the game. You don't worry about the end result, the end picture of what might happen. Focus on having a good start, a good first period and go from there. Just like you always do."
O'Reilly said he tries to keep visions of lifting the Cup out of his mind.
"I try to occupy myself with other things," he said. "Obviously as a kid, it's what you've been dreaming of. Every time you lace them up it's the ultimate goal. It creeps in so often but it's one of those things you have to shut down, see it for what it is and know you have to stay in the present."