By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Hello.
The Boston Bruins have lost the Stanley Cup Final.
In seven games.
On home ice.
If you care about the local hockey team, you’re probably feeling like this right now:
If you spent thousands of dollars on tickets to witness that fiasco, you probably feel like this right now:
I get it.
If you care to explore some aspects of that game, feel free to venture forward. If not, and you stumbled upon this here internet space by a series of unfortunate cosmic events, then no offense taken. I do, though, leave you with this parting message: Only 303 days until the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin. Gotta toughen up.
For the rest of you, here goes, leftover thoughts from Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
–It was a great postseason run and all of that, but it would be appropriate to play the blame game to explore exactly how this Game 7 loss took place on home ice. Credit to the Blues, of course, for weathering an early surge from Boston and really stealing a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes. The game was effectively over at that point, and the Blues earned this Cup.
But the Bruins should have been better than that. The team failed to capitalize on scoring chances. Brad Marchand had an entire half of the net open, but shot into Jordan Binnington’s chest. David Krejci walked in all alone, but couldn’t finish. Joakim Nordstrom had an easy goal, if only he could have lifted the puck. Tuukka Rask could have been more aggressive on Alex Pietrangelo’s goal. Charlie McAvoy could have stayed above the goal line, too. And, well, Marchand could have just finished the period without catching his breath with a line change for the final 12 seconds.
David Pastrnak could have successfully gotten off a one-timer on just one of his four or so opportunities.
Someone — Charlie Coyle, Sean Kuraly, Patrice Bergeron — could have found a way to either clear out the Blues’ D-men in front of the net, set a screen on Binnington and/or redirected a basic point shot to jump-start the offense. (That would be called pulling a Ryan O’Reilly.)
Here’s a simple question: Which member of the Bruins had a good performance in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final?
The answer would be a firm “nobody.”
Some players were fine — Zdeno Chara and his broken jaw, Torey Krug, Marcus Johansson, Jake DeBrusk, to name some — but nobody was very good. That’s going to lead to a loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final 10 times out of 10.
There’s a lot of blame to go around after that one.
–Don’t take my word for it, though. Here are the words of head coach Bruce Cassidy:
“They outplayed us at certain moments of the game at all positions and that’s why they won. … They finished some plays when they had to and we didn’t. … I don’t think anybody is leaving the building tonight in our locker room saying they put their best foot forward, unfortunately. And that’s the whole group. We didn’t get it done at every position, coaching staff, whatever. They ended up being better than us and did what they had to do to win. It’s that simple.”
Cassidy is nothing if not honest, even when the truth is painful.
–It would be wrong to single anybody out … but I really didn’t like David Pastrnak’s game in Game 7, right from the jump. On Pastrnak’s first shift of the night, he skated toward a loose puck along the wall in the Boston end, with the big-bodied Pat Maroon heading in the same direction.
Pastrnak bowed out of the contact, and the puck stayed in the Boston end.
Pastrnak had a tough angle of a one-time attempt later in the period and ended up whiffing. He flubbed another one-time attempt later in the period. He did the same in the second, falling over after missing the puck. He didn’t land a shot on net until 23:58 into the game, and he didn’t register his second shot on goal until 38:25 had elapsed. His third and final shot on goal came after the Blues took a 3-0 lead, when the game was all but over.
For a guy with such high-end talent, it was a brutal ending to what was an up-and-down postseason.
–Stanley Cup Final stats for that top line:
Brad Marchand: 2 goals*, 3 assists, 5 points
Patrice Bergeron: 1 goal, 3 assists, 4 points
David Pastrnak: 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points
*One of Marchand’s goals was an empty-netter.
Of those 13 points, eight came on the power play.
From a sheer numbers perspective, it’s not terrible. But in terms of impacting the Stanley Cup Final, the much-ballyhooed “Best Line In Hockey” didn’t fully live up to the moniker.
And, even though we’re not allowed to use plus-minus like the cavemen who came before us, it does still tell part of a story. In this case, Pastrnak was a minus-7, Bergeron was a minus-4, and Marchand was a minus-2.
–If you really want, though, you could play the “What If?” game.
What if Brad Marchand had shot this shot literally anywhere else?
And what if Jordan Binnington wore a jersey one size smaller than whatever he had draped over his pads on Wednesday night?
If Marchand puts that shot where’s more than capable of putting it, then the Bruins are up 1-0 just 8:52 into the game. Considering the team that scores first in Game 7 of a Cup Final has now won eight straight games, that would have been significant.
If Krejci’s shot squeaks through the five hole of the rookie netminder, then the Bruins have that 1-0 lead at the midway point of the first period.
If both goals happen? Good gravy. It’s party time in Boston.
Alas, as a fake person once said in a movie, “The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in every break of the game, every minute, every second.”
In sports, an inch here or there can be the difference between ecstasy and agony. Game 7 was only the latest reminder.
–The Marchand line change was really bad. That can’t be stressed enough. He’s obviously a veteran player, and he obviously just made a mistake, but it could not have looked worse, nor could it have brought about a worse result. Even if Marchand had been completely out of gas, all he had to do was stay in his lane and Pietranglo never even would have gotten the thought to jump up into a play like that.
The best angle of what happened came on the replay on the Sportsnet telecast, 16 seconds into this clip:
He wanted a change but nobody was ready. Marcus Johansson then straddled the boards, but it was too late; Marchand had to try to slow down Schwartz. That didn’t work, and then to compound the issue, Marchand got off the ice anyway instead of looking up to see a speeding Pietrangelo flying down Main Street.
Given that referees Chris Rooney and Gord Dwyer were letting literally every infraction go, Marchand could have probably form-tackled Pietrangelo if he wanted. Instead, he got out of the way. Yeesh City. Population: 63.
–We do have to talk about the refs, because they have been a central storyline in this series. Clearly, Rooney and Dwyer subscribed to the “Literally Everything Is Legal” principle, as the only penalty assessed in this game was a puck sent over the glass by Colton Parayko.
That’s fine, for the most part, as ticky-tack interference or hooking or roughing penalties would have taken away from a game like this. Both teams took advantage by finishing checks up high and utilizing some aggressive stick work. All good.
There were but three exceptions. One came when Charlie McAvoy stepped to the front of the St. Louis net looking to score and sent through the air like Bobby Orr.
When a clear trip ruins a would-be scoring chance … that probably has to be called.
Another call that had to be made was a Pietrangelo elbow to the head of Johnasson. That certainly exceeded the threshold of standard post-whistle pushing and shoving.
It looked like Rooney thought Johnasson was selling it, based on the “get up” motion he offered to the downed Bruins forward. But considering a head shot on Johansson in Game 5 of this series was not penalized but led to a suspension, one might believe that another violent hit to the head might have warranted a call. Alas. it did not, and the Blues ended up doubling their lead during what would have been the resulting power play time.
And lastly, there was when Brandon Carlo and Oskar Sundqvist (one of two Blues suspended this series for hitting a Bruins player in the head) were allowed to wrestle well behind the play. Just like with Krug and David Perron in Game 1, the arms of the refs stayed down. Which, again, is fine. But one could argue that Sundqivst maybe stepped over the line toward the end of the altercation, which came almost eight minutes into the second period and helped the Blues maintain possession in the Boston end.
Was that illegal? Who is to say, really? A matter of interpretation.
In any event, you can’t discuss any game in this series without discussing the refs. An extra power play — and certainly one at the end of the first period — absolutely could have changed so much about this game. But given that the Bruins really didn’t show the requisite fight after giving up that second goal, it’s hard to turn up the sympathy.
–Ryan O’Reilly. Are you kidding?
Come on now.
O’Reilly scored five goals against the Bruins. They were scored from:
Game 7: 19 feet (tip)
Game 6: 16 feet
Game 5: 25 feet
Game 4: 9 feet (wraparound)
Game 4: 16 feet (tip)
(No, I don’t know why a wraparound that is literally placed into the net from the goal line is registered as coming from 9 feet away. I don’t make the rules.)
Playing with a cracked rib he suffered earlier in the playoffs, O’Reilly simply outworked the Bruins to earn those goals. Look at what he did to Carlo to completely tilt Game 7 on its head:
There’s an obvious skill there, but that goal is all about effort.
They weren’t flashy goals, but they were proof that sometimes hard work does get rewarded.
–A number I keep circling back to is the distance that each of the Bruins’ shots came from in the second period. All Boston needed was one single goal in that middle period, and a one-goal deficit in the third would have been a believable climb.
The Bruins’ 11 shots came from an average distance of 57 feet away from Binnington.
Even if we remove the 175-foot shot credited to Carlo, their other 10 shots came from an average of 45.3 feet out.
Again, credit to the Blues for limiting the chances. But O’Reilly’s goal showed that sturdy defenses can be broken by will and determination. The Bruins, for whatever reason, didn’t really show much of that in Game 7.
–If you’re looking for a positive, Boston sports fans, you can know this: Julian Edelman is willing to immediately throw down with anyone who bumps him from behind, even if it’s just steps away from the ice before Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
–This was also fun for a moment:
Rask was actually very good in the second period, and he stopped consecutive shots off a 3-on-1 as well as a Vladimir Tarasenko partial break in the third. But, well, yeah. As he would say, too bad.
–Like most people, I wasn’t blown away by Binnington in Games 1-6. But he was dynamite in Game 7, and that’s what matters most.
His best save, I think, came on Jake DeBrusk, who spun around and threw a backhand on net through the legs of O’Reilly. Somehow, Binnington saw the puck and kicked his right leg to prevent the Bruins from tying the game with 1:20 left in the first. (1:30 mark of the video below.)
Instead of a 1-1 tie, the Blues kept their lead. A minute later, they doubled it.
Same thing in the third period, when Joakim Nordstrom could have used a few inches of lift on his doorstep bid:
Timely saves. Binnington had ’em. A very good, if not eye-popping performance, in Game 7 of a Cup Final for a rookie netminder. Not bad.
–This is brutal:
–If you were a neutral observer of this Final, you’d have to be blown away by these three facts:
–The Blues had guts and earned the title. But for the Bruins, this one will leave a bitter taste forever. It was a missed opportunity. They may get another chance in the near future, either with this core or with an entirely new cast. But even if they end up winning another one in the years to come, that shouldn’t make this one any easier to swallow.
It’s one thing to lose a Game 7 of a Cup Final when you play your best but get outplayed. When you don’t really put forth even a B-minus showing in the biggest game of your season/career? That’s going to linger for quite some time.