By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Stanley Cup Final is heading to a Game 7. Thank goodness. We deserve this.
It’s just the 17th time the Cup Final has ever gone to a Game 7, and the first time since 2011. As people who enjoy sports, we’ve earned this.
Perhaps we didn’t realize it from 2001-11, when the Cup Final lasted seven games six times, but we were spoiled then. That should make this one all the more easy to savor.
It’s going to be great. It’s going to be nuts. If anyone tries to tell you what’s going to happen, ignore them. (Except for me. of course.) They have no clue. (Ditto.)
It’ll be great. The Bruins deserve it and the Blues deserve it but most importantly, you deserve it, champ. Let’s make it a date.
Before that, though, we’ve got to hit on some leftover thoughts from the Bruins’ 5-1 win in Game 6, which kept their season alive and forced the upcoming Game 7 … which you deserve.
–The biggest thing for the Bruins in this one was that their best players played like their best players. Patrice Bergeron battled in front to help set up the Bruins’ first goal, a one-timer by Brad Marchand off a feed from David Pastrnak. David Krejci picked up the lone assist on Karson Kuhlman’s goal. Marchand sent a nifty backhand feed to Pastrnak in the third, and Pastrnak promptly delivered a disgusting goal.
Add in a bonus goal on a bouncing puck by Brandon Carlo (a goal that served as the game-winner — LOL), and it was exactly the recipe for a comfortable Bruins victory. (Well, as comfortable as a win can be this time of year.)
–In addition to putting four shots past him, the Bruins appeared intent on messing with Jordan Binnington. Never before can I remember getting into so many low-speed collisions while the teams skate to their respective benches during TV timeouts. It’s almost comical.
The series began with the Blues straight-up running Rask three times in the first two games. (That’s calmed down, but I wouldn’t be stunned to see a Blues forward crash the net with a little bit of reckless abandon on Wednesday night.) It’s ending with the Bruins gently grazing Binnington several times during breaks in play. What a sport. What a world.
–It was weird when Brad Marchand swept his leg under Alex Pietrangelo’s, thereby sending the Blues captain to the ice and drawing a two-minute minor for tripping.
It was weird because … where was the frame-by-frame analysis by “experts” who were eager to point out that Pietrangelo flopped? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do after skaters have their legs taken out from under them on ice? I just thought that was the standard set in Game 5. No? We’re not doing that?
I’m going to need a pregame memo next time.
Seeing Hockey Twitter lose its collective mind and start calling for a Marchand suspension there was just comical. Those were the same people saying that Noel Acciari embellished in Game 5.
People aren’t really in tune with how clearly they broadcast the things they want to see. Fortunately, I’m here to point it all out for you. You’re welcome. Feel free to send me seven dollars.
–The Blues did go into straight-up goon mode at the end of that game. Whether that was just a product of frustration or whether Craig Berube wanted his charges to SEND A MESSAGE THAT EVEN WHEN WE LOSE 5-1 WE WON’T GET PUSHED AROUND, it was pretty weak stuff.
Sammy Blais having a meltdown because Connor Clifton hit him was one thing, but Robert Bortuzzo straight-up assaulting Noel Acciari with 17 seconds left in a 5-1 game was pure garbage. The wink only solidified that fact.
That’s not to get all hysterical about hockey players trying to hurt each other in a hockey game. Please. It’s really just to further the fact that when Berube goes on and on and on and on about how his team is the least penalized team in the playoffs, it’s nonsense.
–Speaking of being CLASSY (the worst word in sports), would it be CLASSLESS for the Bruins to play this video and then show Lyndon Byers on camera during a break in the action Wednesday?
Probably would. Never mind. Forget I said anything.
–OK but like, we know Don Sweeney will be in attendance Thursday. Can they play this one?
No? OK. Fine. Again — forget it.
–Don’t let the 5-1 score fool you — Tuukka Rask was a monster. He had 19 saves through 40 minutes, 12 of which came with the Blues on power plays. The degree of difficulty was steep for the Bruins’ netminder, and he was more than up to the challenge.
Which leads me to Game 7: For everyone who’s knocked Rask for “being afraid of the big moment” or whatever, well, first of all, you’re a bozo. Read a book. Second of all, the moment of Game 6, on the road, while facing elimination? To these amateur eyes, that strikes me as a more demanding and challenging moment than a Game 7 on home ice.
Rask was outstanding in this one. He didn’t allow any pucks to hit the net, though he lost his shutout by about 1.5 inches. His play, plus the contributions from the star forwards, plus the secondary scoring, should have Bruins fans feeling somewhat good heading into Game 7.
–I say “somewhat good,” because, let’s be honest. You can never really feel good heading into a Game 7. Unless your definition of “good” is “constant nausea.”
–I do feel like we, as a people, have lost all sight of what constitutes “diving.” Ed Olczyk, a wonderful analyst, said that Charlie McAvoy was flopping on this play.
Hey, maybe Ed is right. But … maybe he’s wrong. And to state it as fact on a national broadcast and to repeat it a few minutes later was a bit odd. Do we forget what a real dive is, people?
–Speaking of McAvoy, what a huge game from him. The captain’s face is falling off, and the Bruins needed their 21-year-old D-man to rise up to the challenge. Boy did he ever.
McAvoy skated a team-high 25:22. He showed off some killer Long Island lax skills by batting a puck out of mid-air, likely keeping the game-tying goal out of the Boston net.
He delivered a team-high five hits. He did take a penalty, but that came as the result of an aggressive play. He also had the pass of the night, even though it didn’t end up on the score sheet.
McAvoy was great on the ice, and after the game, he was honest and open about his emotions leading up to the biggest game of his life.
“Man … I’m going through this and this is my first Stanley Cup, and it’s just a lot. I’m just gonna be honest with you. Like the emotions of all — like, I mean, crap. It’s a lot. Our backs are against the wall and you have so many mixed emotions. You do whatever it takes. This is your dream to win this thing and when your backs are against the wall and you know they’re one away, it hurts a little bit,” McAvoy said. “But I think I got a different perspective when our guys stepped up and just talked. It was an element of honesty to it about being in this position and knowing that if we just do our jobs, we’re a family. We believe in each other. And we all love each other. Just the thought of it being over tonight was terrifying. Like, you know, we’d come all this way. We come together when it matters, and I think tonight was a good example of that. We’re thankful. We’re blessed with a chance to play in Game 7 now. It’s going to be the same thing. I mean, it’s a lot. It’s a roller coaster and you’ve just got to ride it.”
That’s great stuff. If the Bruins end up winning the Cup, someone needs to print T-shirts that just say, “Like, I mean, crap. It’s a lot.”
Gotta love a young player just keeping it real with the media, even when he doesn’t have to.
–The league would never suspend Brayden Schenn for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, but for the sake of record-keeping, this hit was every bit as bad as Oskar Sudqvist’s hit on Matt Grzelcyk — if not worse.
Schenn only saw numbers but nevertheless drove through the body of the opponent by the boards. You can’t do that.
And that needless penalty led to Ryan O’Reilly’s flip over the glass, which led to the first goal of the game that allowed the Bruins to dictate play throughout. The Blues — a team Craig Berube might still believe is the least penalized team in the NHL all postseason long — finally had to pay for one of their unnecessarily violent hits.
–Back in 2013, Sidney Crosby’s agent created a Zapruder tape to show how big, mean, scary Zdeno Chara unleashed a violent haymaker on Crosby’s still-recovering jaw in a scrum. That video in real speed showed it was nothing more than your standard post-whistle pushing and shoving.
I do not think Chara’s agent will be slowing down this video and distributing it to friendly media sources.
Though, Brayden, if I may: You’ve caused enough damage to that big man’s jaw already. No need to go pawing at his chin.
–Speaking of Chara, let’s not let his empty-net goal go without mention. That puppy was pretty sweet, as far as ENGs go.
Chara flipped that puck from the edge of the left faceoff circle, and it landed precisely between the faceoff dots all the way down the other end of the ice. I mean, yeah, it’s an empty-net goal. But that’s as slick as they come.
–I have an announcement to make: I’m going to adopt Brett Hull. And we’re going to have a rip-roaring good time everywhere we go.
–Bruce Cassidy’s decision to put Karson Kuhlman in the lineup was so bold. The kid has eleven games of regular-season NHL experience. He had played in just six playoff games this spring, notching two assists in games where the Bruins went just 3-3 against Toronto and Columbus. He had not played in a game since … April 30!
Yet more than a month later, Kuhlman stepped right in on the second line. He was immense in keeping possession in the Blues’ zone, he intercepted a centering pass to the slot from behind the net to break up a Blues scoring chance, and he freaking sniped the top corner from about 40 feet out.
What the hell is that? Seriously?
For Cassidy, putting Backes into the lineup was the safer, easier choice. You know what you’d be getting out of Backes, who would clearly be motivated to win in St. Louis. He’d be willing to sacrifice his body for 60 minutes to get it done. He may not have made an offensive impact, but he would have at least made his presence felt.
Going with Kuhlman was much more of an unknown. And it paid off. As a result, Cassidy already has his Game 7 lineup filled out. Now it’s just a matter of dropping the puck.
–In terms of strategy for Game 7, the Bruins need to put 147 percent of their focus on No. 90 in white. Ryan O’Reilly is a problem.
The Bruins got a little lucky in this one, as O’Reilly made Torey Krug and David Pastrnak look like fools as O’Reilly navigated right through the two Bruins for a shorthanded break. The puck was on edge, though, and O’Reilly never got a shot off.
If the Bruins lose the Stanley Cup Final, it will be because of Ryan O’Reilly. The fella deserves some extra attention.
–Officiating has been and will continue to be a major storyline of this series. I thought Chris Rooney and Gord Dwyer were mostly fine in this one.
My one gripe was when they sent only Zdeno Chara to the box for this one, which was the definition of matching minors.
Alas, when one of the involved parties is a hundred feet tall and possess the strength of a thousand men, these things tend to happen.
(Though, why Colton Parayko didn’t get a minor penalty for tackling Jake DeBrusk into the St. Louis net, I’m not sure.)
–Just in case you didn’t see Zdeno Chara addressing the media on Saturday and telling the world “IFEELFINE,” here you go.
–Matt Porter of The Boston Globe shared this fun fact:
I’d like to add this fun fact: The 2019 Blues are the only team with Craig Berube (3,149 career penalty minutes) and Steve Ott (1,555 penalty minutes, multiple suspesions) on the coaching staff. Huh. Funny how that works.
–In the “Some Game 7 Stats You May Be Interested In” department, here’s the experience of Boston’s top line when playing in a Game 7.
Patrice Bergeron: 11 games, 10 points (6-4-10)
David Krejci: 10 games, 9 points (0-9-9)
Brad Marchand: 8 games, 7 points (3-4-7)
–Millions of people are highly invested in this sport, even though moments like these dictate their results:
Gotta love it.
–Jordan Binnington got a bit snippy with a reporter when asked what happened on that Brandon Carlo goal.
Reporter: What happened on the second goal.
Binnington: Uh. Did you watch it?
Binnington: Did it bounce there, or … ?
Binnington: That’s a good eye.
I, for one, appreciate some good old-fashioned sass in a locker room scrum.
–All right. Game 7. Wednesday night. Your butts — hold on to ’em.
Good luck sleeping over the next couple of nights.