After about sixteen minutes of ice time, the Boston Bruins appeared to have brought their A-game to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final vs the St. Louis Blues. TD Garden was rocking as all of Boston’s and St. Louis’ celebrities were in attendance for a raucous game (probably because they were the only ones who could afford the game’s absurd ticket prices).
The Bruins had struggled five-on-five all series and yet, in the opening period, they dominated the Blues in this area. It was the opposite of Game 6 in terms of the Blues dominating the Bruins until they scored after being outmatched for much of the first period. In this game, the Blues flipped the script and scored a deflected goal through Tuukka Rask’s five-hole.
The team who scored first had won the past four games, so the Blues getting the first goal was immense, to say the least.
With time running down in the first, the Bruins just needed to head into the first intermission down one and then re-group so that they could break through the next period. With about seven seconds remaining, Brad Marchand took an ill-advised attempted check on Jaden Schwartz who dished the puck to defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. With one fell swoop from his forehand to backhand, Pietrangelo lifted the puck under the blocker of Rask and when it hit the net’s twine, every Bruins fan in attendance gasped as though they were re-living the Chicago Blackhawks two-goal stunner back in the 2013 Final.
There were still two periods left to be played in this game, but life was sucked out of the building and the Bruins players and the lead the Blues had built seemed daunting to overcome.
The second period provided minimal chances for the Bruins to get back into the game as they spent most of the time in their own zone or turning the puck over (in their own zone). By the time the Bruins gained any sort of momentum in the third period, the Blues had scored their third goal that ultimately put the game away. They tacked on another one a few minutes later just for good measure and although Matt Gryzelcyk added a goal to make it 4-1, it was about 10 minutes too late.
The whole game sort of felt like a blur in the sense that once the Bruins had their push throughout most of the first period, the Blues scored twice and then lulled everyone in the arena to sleep by playing a prevent-style of defense with simple plays and an ultra-aggressive forecheck. Don’t get me wrong, the Bruins had plenty of opportunities to get on the scoreboard sooner than they did, but their lack of a net-front presence, both in their offensive and defensive zone, was their downfall. Too many times did the Bruins fail to create traffic in front of rookie netminder Jordan Binnington and too many times did the Bruins fail to pick up a streaking Blues skater who was out in front of Rask.
The whole Stanley Cup Final was truly a Jekyll and Hyde between both teams as every other game seemed as though one team did not even deserve to be playing against the other team.
In Game 7, the pressure that had been on the Blues shifted towards the Bruins as they were expected to hoist the Cup. In combination with some uncharacteristic, yet not unfamiliar mistakes (looking at you, Brad), the Bruins were not able to gain any momentum outside of the beginning of the game. The Blues waltzed into TD Garden with no pressure on them and took the Cup away from a Bruins team who should have been the ones hosting it.
It’s a shame the Bruins were not able to come away with a victory given the path that was cleared for them during the playoffs. The defending Stanley Cup champions and Bruins-kryptonite Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Pittsburgh Penguins were all eliminated in the first round. After that, the Bruins had home-ice throughout the remainder of the playoffs and it was their Cup to lose.
I really believe the momentum of the whole series changed in the one-two minute span during overtime of Game 2. The Blues dominated play in the Bruins’ defensive zone and then scored shortly after with a shot from the blue line. This initial stretch of domination in the Bruins’ zone foreshadowed this similar situation numerous times throughout the Final.
This was a tough series to analyze as a fan because the world knew the Bruins were the better team. Sure, the Blues outplayed the Bruins at times, but the Bruins shot themselves too much in the foot to claim what was theirs.