Before the start of Game 7, I posed a theory to Justin Bourne. Bourne was having a hard time believing the Blues would be able succeed because they had been beaten so badly in Games 3 and 6, the two biggest pressure games for the Blues. Bourne felt the Blues “didn’t just fail to rise to the occasion, they wilted, dropped and burned up in the bright spotlight”.
In my humble opinion that was a big oversimplification and almost seemed like box score watching. For me what was telling is that the Blues only played 20+ minutes of good hockey in Game 3 while that amount increased to around 40+ minutes in Game 6. The Game 6 goal differential was due to an empty net goal, a bad bounce, and a really bad play by a rookie. I surmised that the data seemed to suggest more that the Blues would continue to increase their number of good minutes, playing closer to 60 minutes of good hockey in Game 7.
As the early minutes of Game 7 progressed, I was getting pretty concerned regarding when the Blues good hockey was going to start. It appeared Jordan Binnington was going to be the only Blues player playing close to 60 good minutes.
While the Blues registered the 1st shot of the game 27 seconds in, they didn’t register their second shot for another 16 minutes. In between, Binnington stopped seven Bruins shots. Of course, the Blues would score on their 3rd and 4th shots of the period.
Sammy Blais would start the 1st goal sequence with a hit on Noel Acciari along the wall, transitioning possession to the Blues. Blais would get a shot and the rebound would eventually move around to Jay Bouwmeester at the left point. Bouwmeester just gets the puck toward the net and O’Reilly deflects it through Tuukka Rask’s five hole.
A little over three minutes later, Alex Pietrangelo would extend the lead to two thanks to a very curious play by Brad Marchand. It wasn’t much better than this play he made in Game Two.
Watch who he makes a weak challenge and then goes for the change.
It’s amazing to think that one of the Bruins better players made two huge gaffes that had significant impacts on those games. Of course, Marchand only had one even strength, non-empty-net point in the entire series.
The Blues would go into counter strike, lock down mode protecting the center of the ice, staying on the defensive side of the puck and players, and strategically counterstriking.
The first successful counter strike occurred eleven minutes into the third period when Brayden Schenn launched a low one-timer past Rask, converting a beautiful pass from Vladimir Tarasenko.
Zach Sanford would score about four minutes later, honoring his late father and scoring on his boyhood team thanks to a brilliant play by David Perron on the half wall.
Matt Grzelcyk would get the Bruins lone goal with just over two minutes left, breaking the shutout.
Watch the game highlights in Sega format here
It seems fitting to me that in the Stanley Cup clinching game, no Blues forward would play even 19 minutes and Jay Bouwmeester would lead all Blues in ice time with 28:34 and Binnington would stop 97% of the shots he faced.
Let us review Jammer’s keys in relation to the entire series.
Score 1st and survive the 1st period
The Blues were 4-2 in games where they were down one or better after the 1st period.
Goaltending, goaltending, goaltending
As I said before the series, “the Blues will need Rask’s save percentage to regresss down to around 91%”. Well he regressed down to 91.7%. For comparison, Binnington had a 91.2% save percentage in the final round.
Stay disciplined and at least be even on special teams
The Blues struggled to stay disciplined, giving up almost 3.5 power play chances to the Bruins each game. The Blues hold the Bruins to a 29% conversion rate, down from 34% in the first three rounds. If you remove Game 3 where the Bruins went 4 for 4, the conversation rate falls to 15%. Unfortunately, the Blues power play was poor.
Taking this a step further, Torey Krug, Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak average one even strength, non-empty net points.
Win the 3rd period, win the close games, win the series.
The Blues were 3-2 in games decided in the third period or overtime.
In the end, the Blues won each of the keys and the Bruins best players weren’t anywhere near as productive as their lesser players (Sean Kuraly, Charlie Coyle, Jake DeBrusk, etc). The only one of the Bruins’ best players that fully lived up to the role was Tuukka Rask.
The long wait is over for Blues fans and alumni. The season of Gloria and Laila is almost complete, I’ll be back later with some of the best moments of the season and a number of other things.
It’s a great day for hockey.
NHL Champions for Charity Playoff Edition
In what I hope becomes a Hockeybuzz tradition, Bruins Hockeybuzz writer Anthony Travalgia
will be making a donation to the Gateway Area Multiple Sclerosis Society
(@mssociety on twitter) whose mission is help each person affected by MS in St. Louis address the challenges of living with MS. They help by raising funds for cutting-edge research, driving change through advocacy, facilitating professional education and providing programs and services that empower people with MS and their families to move their lives forward. I picked this charity to honor Blues anthem singer, Charles Glenn. Read more about Charles’ battle with MS here
Sharks Hockeybuzz writer Steve Palumbo
and I placed a wager on the series. Since the Blues won, Steve should be making a donation to the Gateway Area Multiple Sclerosis Society
(@mssociety on twitter) whose mission is help each person affected by MS in St. Louis address the challenges of living with MS. They help by raising funds for cutting-edge research, driving change through advocacy, facilitating professional education and providing programs and services that empower people with MS and their families to move their lives forward. I selected the MS Society to honor St. Louis Blues Anthem singer Charles Glenn. Read more about Charles here
I hope that our wagers will inspire players and fans to pledge donations for each win their team makes in the NHL playoffs.
NHL Champions for Charity Regular Season
Given that the Predators pulled out the division title, all be it not without some controversial officiating in the last couple of games, Best Buddies Tennessee https://www.bestbuddies.org/tennessee/
is the beneficiary. Best Buddies Tennessee is dedicated to establishing a volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development and inclusive living opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As a side note, I recently got to experience a Best Buddies even in the St. Louis area that was led by the Eureka high school football team. It was a lot of fun and brought a lot of joy to those involved.
It’s a great day for hockey.