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Blues battle for 40, fade in the last 20. Now the winner takes all.

June 12, 2019, 1:46 PM ET [221 Comments]
Jason Millen
St Louis Blues Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT

While the score from Game Six may make it look like déjà vu of Game Three, the games only ended similarly in the end.

The Blues started the game in complete control, outshooting the Bruins 5-1 in the first eight and a half minutes. Unfortunately for the Blues and their fans, the officials then helped shift control to the Bruins thanks to two very questionable non-calls.

The first non-call occurred in the Bruins offensive zone when Zdeno Chara cross-checked Robert Thomas in the back, sending him head first into the boards. Without a stoppage for the penalty call, play continued and Brayden Schenn took a terrible boarding penalty about 10 seconds later.

Matters were made worse when the officials looked the other way on Brad Marchand’s two handed slash on the top hand of Ryan O’Relly as he was trying to clear the puck on the penalty kill. O’Reilly fought to keep control after the slash but then flipped the puck over the glass for the delay of game. Somehow the officials missed the slash which forced the Blues to be two men down, giving the Bruins a huge advantage and eventually the power play goal.

The Blues did well to put the sequence behind them, generating a lot of quality chances but Tuukka Rask was more than equal to the task. Rask was really the only reason the Bruins were able to stay in the game through two periods, sans the officials’ assist on their only goal. If the Blues continued to play the last twenty minutes like they had played the first forty minutes, I liked their chances at the come from behind win.

Unfortunately, the Blues would start the third period a little sloppy and the officials would assist the Bruins on their second goal as well, this time with the referee blocking Alex Pietrangelo’s pass/clear up the wall. The official’s block of the puck cost the Blues possession at a minimum and likely a zone clear. Things got significantly worse when Brendan Carlo’s shot bounced off the ice and by Jordan Binnington. Those type of shots are very hard to handle but Binnington did poorly in minimizing the risk and it burned him. It’s unreal how many times this post season the Blues clearing attempts or passes have been blocked by referees. It’s happened more this year than in the prior ten years with really poor consequences for the Blues. No. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s just bad luck and sometimes bad positioning.

Things degraded even further thanks to continued poor goaltending by Binnington, more poor clearing attempts by Pietrangelo, and bad giveaways from Sammy Blais among other things before ending in the 5-1 loss.

As you would expect from the Blues, neither O’Reilly or coach Craig Berube mentioned the Marchand slash that wasn’t called nor the dangerous hit on Thomas. They didn’t mention the slew foot of Sean Kuraly on Pat Maroon, the slew foot of Brandon Carlo on Vladimir Tarasenko or the cheap and dangerous slash by Torey Krug on Binnington’s glove hand in the neutral zone after Marchand’s slew foot/tripping penalty. The Blues seemed to be focused on moving on to Game Seven.

Maybe the Blues and their fans should blame the loss on the curse of the St. Louis Post Disgrace who lived up to their longstanding nickname yet again when they prematurely emailed out the queued-up advertisements that were supposed to run IF the Blues won Sunday night. The material was used as bulletin board material by the Bruins though I wonder how much of a real impact that has. Regardless, this was a big mistake, huge mistake, one that can’t occur by what should be a reputable print organization. I feel bad for Jim Thomas and Benjamin Hochman who likely endured a lot of stuff thanks to the errors of coworkers.

Maybe the Blues fans should blame John Hamm who inexplicably shaved his beard before Game 6. WTH John? You’re a long time Blues fan. You know not to change the luck. The Boston born director who said you had to shave it for the audition was never giving the part, they just wanted to change the Bruins luck. Whatever the part was, it wasn’t worth it. I kid, sort of, maybe only the last part. In comparison, a group of us split some 50/50 entries (almost 190k take home right now) and all of us said we’d trade the winning ticket for a Blues win. I promise you that winning is likely more material to our net worth than a new part for Hamm.

None of that really matters as tonight is now winner take all for the prize. The Blues had the right quotes and attitude in the post-game interviews after Game Six. While Vegas isn’t giving them much chance (last check was Boston at -180), some of the actual data may suggest otherwise even beyond the Blues 9-3 road record this playoff season.

The Blues will have their fourth line back in tact with Ivan Barbashev returning from suspension. With the line in place, the Blues are 3-1 in the series while outscoring the Bruins 11-9 while killing 86.7% of the Bruins’ power plays. Compare that to 0-2 without either Barbashev or Oskar Sundqvist, getting outscored 12-3 and only stopping a putrid 37.5% of the Bruins’ power plays. If you don’t think that 4th line is very important, you are kidding yourself.

A number of people seem to be making a big deal about the Blues underperforming in the games with the most pressure, their first home Finals game and their clinching opportunity. Those people are ignoring the significant lineup differences I already outlined. They are also perhaps more importantly ignoring the trend. In Game 3, the Blues looked overwhelmed much of the game, playing only about 20+ minutes of good hockey, some of that well after the game was decided. In Game 6, the Blues dominated almost the 1st half of the 1st period and controlled play through 40 minutes. They even survived the two questionable calls to continue to play well until the bad bounce goal. Will continue improving and deliver a full 60 minutes of relentless hockey? If they do, they have proven they can defeat any competition they have faced.

Tuuka Rask was giving up a lot of prime rebounds in Game Six, especially on high shots, but the Blues weren’t getting to the paint to cash in on them. Expect to drive the net and funnel pucks more tonight.

As to lineup changes, Robert Thomas has been called a coach’s decision to sit but if you don’t believe that is a result of his injury I believe you are kidding yourself. Sammy Blais will stay in and play with Tyler Bozak and Pat Maroon with Barbashev coming back in. Joel Edmundson will replace Robert Bortuzzo because Coach Craig Berube basically said that Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko will take almost the entire game on the right side. Edmundson will give him more options on the left side along with Carl Gunnarsson, and Vince Dunn after Jay Bouwmeester 28+ minutes.

For the Bruins expect Matt Grzelcyk in and Connor Clifton out. Expect David Backes to be watching again as well.

Overall Final notes include that the away team has won the last two Stanley Cup Final Game 7s. With a win tonight, the Blues would tie the record for most road wins in a playoffs. The last team to do it was last year’s Capitals. Every team that has reached 10 road wins has won the Cup expect the 2004 Flames. The Bruins have a two game Game 7 winning streak while the Blues have a three game streak.

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 and I placed a wager on the series. If the Blues win, Anthony has agreed to make 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. If the Bruins win, I will donate to the JDRF (@JDRF on twitter) whose mission is improve lives today and tomorrow by accelerating life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat T1D and its complications.

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.
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