BOSTON (CBS) — It all comes down to this. The Bruins and Blues will battle one final time for NHL supremacy, for the right to lift the Stanley Cup over their heads and call themselves champions.
Wednesday night is Game 7, two of the best words in all of sports. The Bruins are looking for their first Cup title since 2011, while the Blues are looking for their first in their 52-year existence.
What have we learned over the six games in the series so far? Not much, or at least not much that carries water Wednesday night. No team has really been able to generate much momentum. If any of that does exist, it would be on Boston’s side — for now — thanks to their Game 6 win in St. Louis on Sunday night. But any momentum will quickly evaporate after the pucks drops around 8:15 p.m.
And if there is a team that has kicked momentum in the gut, it’s been the Blues, who are 7-2 following a loss this postseason. St. Louis is also 9-3 on the road, while the Bruins are just 7-5 at home this postseason.
But in the end, nothing that happened before tonight’s game will matter. Everything that happens after the puck drops will. Here’s what you need to know heading into Wednesday night’s Game 7 at the TD Garden.
First Stanley Cup Final Game 7 in Boston EVER
There have only been 16 Game 7’s in Stanley Cup Final history, and none of them have happened in the 617 area code. Tonight will be the first time a winner-takes-all battle will take place on Garden ice.
This has quickly become one of the biggest sporting events in Boston history. Ticket prices are astronomical, and Bruins players are expecting fans to get their money’s worth once all the fun (and anxiety) gets underway.
“We’re expecting the fans to be awesome,” said forward Patrice Bergeron. “Obviously the energy is going to be electric. The atmosphere is going to be … I can’t even imagine how it’s going to be like. You have to manage that in a way, use that to your advantage and you get energy. Also make sure you’re focused on the game.”
History is obviously on Boston’s side, with home teams winning 12 of those 16 Game 7’s. However, it should be noted that road teams have won the two previous Game 7’s, one of which Bruins fans are pretty familiar with.
B’s Have The Experience
The last time the Stanley Cup came down to a Game 7 was eight years ago, when the Bruins stormed into Vancouver and flummoxed the Canucks with a 4-0 clinching victory. Captain Zdeno Chara, Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci and Tuukka Rask (then Tim Thomas’ backup) were all part of that team.
The picture of Chara lifting the cup over his monster-like frame is featured inside the TD Garden, and many of Chara’s younger teammates would love to see their captain recreate that moment Wednesday night.
“You see that picture everywhere,” fellow blue liner Brandon Carlo said Tuesday. “That’s one that really stands out. So much passion and energy involved with that.”
Chara is Mr. Game 7, having played in 13 of them throughout his career, and he’ll set an NHL record Wednesday night for the most Game 7 appearances. Bergeron has 11 Game 7’s under his sweater — with 10 points in those games — while Krejci has 10, Marchand has eight and Rask has played in five Game 7’s. The foursome of Chara, Bergeron, Krejci and Marchand have 42 Game 7’s between them.
The Blues obviously have much less experience on this front. The 18 skaters who played in Game 6 have played a total of 38 Game 7’s.
Let’s Talk Tuukka
Rask’s Game 7 numbers aren’t great. He is 3-2 with a 3.18 goals-against average and an .877 save percentage with it all on the line.
Rask’s 2019 postseason numbers, though, are ridiculously great. And he’s been even more incredible in elimination/clinching games, going 5-0 with a .973 save percentage.
When Boston went for the kill in their previous three series, Rask allowed just one goal in those three games, which came against Toronto in the opening round. He stopped 32 of the Maple Leafs’ 33 shots that night, and followed it up with a 39-save shutout over Columbus in the second round and a 24-save blanking of Carolina in the Eastern Conference Final.
And some silly people say Tuuk can’t perform under pressure.
Better Late Than Never For Bruins Top Line
Boston’s special teams have been outstanding this series. Their power play has scored on seven of their 23 chances, and they’ve killed off 17 of their 18 infractions (with a shorty mixed in for fun). But given we’re on to Game 7, that may not matter. Officials tend to let a lot slide in a winner-takes-all game, and that would greatly benefit the Blues Wednesday night.
It would also put a bigger emphasis on Boston’s 5-on-5 play, which has been less than stellar this series. The Blues have outscored the Bruins 11-10 on even strength, and Boston’s top line is the biggest reason why. David Pastrnak’s third period goal in Game 6 was the top line’s first five-on-five tally of the series.
It’s better late than never for the B’s top line to bust out of their slump, and they played their best game on Sunday night. Boston’s secondary scoring has been solid, but they’re going to need their top three to play like their top three if they want to raise another banner next fall.
Binnington Bounces Back
Jordan Binnington hasn’t let too many bad goals beat him throughout the postseason, but he let a few sneak in Sunday night. If you think that’s a good sign for the Bruins, you’d be mistaken.
Binnington has been a master at bouncing back since taking over midseason, going 13-2 with a 1.83 goals-against average following a loss. In the playoffs, he’s gone 7-2 with a 1.86 GAA and a .933 save percentage.
Bruins Need To Focus On O’Reilly
Ryan O’Reilly has been killing the Bruins this series. He has seven points and all four of his goals have come in the last three games. He had a hand in both of their Game 5 goals and was the only Blues player to beat Tuukka in Game 6.
He’s also seething after Sunday, taking the blame for St. Louis’ loss after a bad clear led to a first period delay-of-game penalty and an early 5-on-3 chance for Boston. The Bruins took advantage of that giant miscue with a Brad Marchand score to give them a 1-0 lead.
O’Reilly is going to be a man on a mission Wednesday night. The Bruins should probably be aware of that.
The Bruins have had seven opportunities in their history to clinch the Stanley Cup, and they’ve been victorious in six of them. Pretty good record to have in this situation.
Of course, once the puck drops, none of what you just read will really matter. But at least we’re a few minutes closer to game time.