By: Kyle Watson
In the second frame of overtime in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals between the Dallas Stars and the St. Louis Blues, it was two former London Knights that combined to put an end to the game after 85 minutes of hockey.
Following a first period that saw the two teams deadlocked at one a piece, the Blues proceeded to pepper goaltender Ben Bishop with chances. After the first overtime period, they held a 52-27 shot advantage, but were unable to best the Vezina Trophy candidate.
Early in the second frame of overtime, 2017 Knights captain Robert Thomas received the puck at the top of the circle, made a move around Stars defenseman John Klingberg, and put one past Bishop short side. The puck rang off the post, but Patrick Maroon, who played in London during the 2007-08 season, was there to capitalize on the rebound.
This play perfectly exemplified the forwards’ relationship. Thomas is an energetic forward who looks to make something out of nothing and Maroon has established himself as a net-front presence in his six-year NHL tenure. The two former Knights have been on a line together since coach Craig Berube deployed them on either side of Tyler Bozak in January. Following that shakeup, the Blues have ascended from last place in the league to Western Conference champions. They are the first team in the expansion era to accomplish this feat.
The line of Maroon-Bozak-Thomas has gained recognition for their high energy and heavy forecheck. However, they have also been productive this postseason. Maroon also scored the winner in Game 3 versus Dallas. Speaking to NHL.com, Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo noted the importance of possessing a deep roster in the playoffs: “This time of year, those are the guys you really lean on. [Maroon] has really stepped up to the plate”
With an established reputation throughout the league, the only thing missing for the Blues 3rd unit is a nickname. Thomas told ESPN, “We don’t really have one. We haven’t talked about it too much. But it’d be funny if somebody came up with one.”
On top of the glory that comes with winning the Stanley Cup, conquering the NHL would be particularly sentimental for all three members of the line. Thomas is in his first season in the NHL and it would be an incredible feat to play such a significant role in a championship as a rookie. Bozak, who spent nine years with the Toronto Maple Leafs prior to arriving in St. Louis, was quoted stating he joined the Blues to win the Cup. Perhaps the most inspiring story, however, is Maroon’s. Growing up in St. Louis, he reportedly took a pay cut to play in his hometown and be closer to his family.
In the past six years, there has been a London Knight on five of the Stanley Cup winning teams. John Carlson, Olli Maatta and Patrick Kane have all had their names engraved on hockey’s Holy Grail. When the Blues kick off the Stanley Cup finals on Monday, Thomas and Maroon will have the chance to set themselves in London Knights history.