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ST. LOUIS… It’s Sunday evening June 9th, it’s 9:57pm, and the Gateway City has just experienced a major wind event. No, it’s not weather related if you were at all worried about the local residents and the safety of their persons and property. Rather, it was all the air going out of the Enterprise Center here, the 18,890 fans inside who gathered to see a potential Cup win by the St. Louis Blues and the approximately 40k fans gathered outside of the arena in the immediate area awaiting the chance to let loose and celebrate a Blues victory. Thankfully, no tornadic vortexes were spotted on radar, but there were several trees in the vicinity that were stripped bare of their foliage from the powerful release. Unfortunately, for all the gathered St. Louisans the Boston Bruins had other ideas on this night and won Game 6 here by a 5-1 final tally, thus sending this epic series to a Game 7, a “Seven Heaven” if you will, (WED 700PM-CT) and I can absolutely not wait for this. This will be the first Seven Heaven in the Cup Final since 2011 when the Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks to win their last Cup.
My headline to this article? Yes, that’s strictly a guess my friends. When you see this, I’ll be a genius or a dork. I could not possibly overstate the tension and anticipation in the air prior to this game here. I wasn’t here for the 1970 Cup Final, and the Blues were swept in 4 games so the feeling in this city here today was non-existent at that time. I’ve seen it when the baseball Cardinals were close to a World Series title, but in 1970 I was in my neighbors living room watching the STL-BOS G4 with my best friend in the North Suburbs of the Twin Cities Metro. I was in High School back then. That was the series with the winning goal being scored in OT by Bobby Orr who was immediately launched airborne afterward thus creating one of the most iconic photographic sports moments in history. My friend and I sat there in momentary silence, jaws dropped and then the words “oh, mannnnnn” coming from both of us simultaneously. We laughed at that. My friend was tragically taken from us that next summer. I have been thinking about him a lot during this series. Some 48 years later the pain is still there at times…
ON THIS NIGHT the Blues played a good game, the Bruins played a better one. No matter what level I have been in or coached at, it’s not hard to look at one sequence or mistake and see how an entire contest hinged on it. For the Blues it may have very well been in the 1st period when on their first penalty kill of the evening the Blues Ryan O’Reilly got a shorthanded breakaway and came in on Bruin netminder Tuukka Rask and could not convert, Shortly after that play O’Reilly got a delay of game penalty putting the Bruins on a 5 on 3 situation and they capitalized shortly afterward on a beautiful play with a pass from Krug to Pastrnak to Marchand who converted high short side. That goal stood until early in the 3rd frame when Bruins D-man Brandon Carlo lofted a shot toward Blues goalie Jordan Binnington that bounced in front of him then hit the side of his blocker and deflected in for a 2-0 lead. Former UMD star and Esko native Karson Kuhlman, who was inserted into his 1st action since April 30 tallied at mid-frame and the Bruins weren’t looking back. The Blues scored less then 2 minutes later, but the Bruins git it right back within another 2 minutes. They would add an ENG for the 5-1 final.
As you read this, it will be yesterdays news. By the time you flip through the pages here, the Seven Heaven will have been played as well, a new NHL Stanley Cup Champion will likely still be partying from the night before, or crashed out in total exhaustion from a season well played and thus rewarded, with perhaps some level of hangover building within. But no matter what, even as I had questioned pre-tournament whether this tourney, this epic event could keep delivering on the total hockey nirvana that it provides every season, I am happy to say that this has been another awesome tournament. Sure, there has been some bumps in the road. A couple of glaring officiating gaffes raised everyone’s eyebrows a bit. But the NHL GM’s and Board of Governors will be in conference soon and this will likely be the top item on the agenda. I have faith it will be addressed and fixed. The NHL Awards Gala is close by too, as well as the upcoming annual Entry Draft, so there will be a couple of more major events to observe, and then July 1st and the Free Agent frenzy will unfold.
But first, there is that matter of the Seven Heaven. Who will do what with which and to whom? In a quick pre-game overall analysis, the Bruins are 15-8, STL is 15-10. BOS-78/GF and 47/GA. STL is at 71 and 69 respectively. BOS is at 32.4/PP and 88.4%/PK. STL is at 16.3% and 75.0%. FO win pct. has BOS at 51.4% and STL at 50%. In the Final its BOS w/21GF and 14GA, and vice versa for STL. The Bruins have achieved 2 blowout type wins. BOS is outshooting STL in the series 179-174. Rask has a .938SV% and a 1.93GAA, with Binnington at .911SV% and a 2.52GAA.
Why BOS will win; if you are going on stats and available data alone, the Bruins are out in front of STL in all phases of the game. They are better 5 on 5, have a better PP and PK, are slightly more disciplined, have a more solid veteran core and presence, they have more players that produce in “big game” situations and the not so secret weapon Rask in goal leads all tourney netminders in stats. They also have home ice, but I’m not certain that’s worth anything at this point.
Why STL will win; their resiliency and no-quit mindset is unparalleled at this point, they are better away from STL in this tourney then they have been at home, 9 of their 15 wins thus far have been as road warriors, they have already won 2 of 3 tilts in BOS, they have fared well in closeout games going 2-1, and whenever Binnington has had a tough game, he has followed that up with a strong performance. And IMO they have been good at making post-loss adjustments going into their next games.
Make no mistake, the Bruins have an excellent team, on paper they are likely better overall then the Blues. But the Blues seem to have a bit of destiny on their side. Will destiny have prevailed by late Wednesday eve? PEACE