The city of Boston has celebrated more than its fair share of sports championships in recent years, but never before has it played host to Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final.
That will change after Wednesday, when the Bruins take on the St. Louis Blues in the winner-take-all showdown. The matchup marks the 17th time the finals have gone seven games, with the home team winning 12 of the previous instances.
“We’re expecting the fans to be awesome,” Boston forward Patrice Bergeron said. “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.”
The Bruins are looking to capture their seventh NHL championship, having last hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2011. The Blues seek their first after entering the series 0-12 between three previous trips to the finals.
St. Louis had a chance to close things out at home in Game 6 on Sunday, but Boston, invigorated by a pregame speech from Bergeron, dominated the contest from the start, ultimately winning 5-1.
“When he talks, everyone listens,” Bruins defenseman Torey Krug said. “Any time a guy like that speaks up, you listen. Obviously a huge motivating factor, got the guys going for sure.”
Bergeron’s top line also got going in the game, with wingers Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak each registering a goal and an assist. The trio was off to a slow start early in the series, paving the way for players such as Charlie Coyle (three goals in the finals) and Sean Kuraly (five points) to carry the offense.
“The big players tend to step up because they’re the better players, but when it’s the other guys, it’s because the rest of the guys have done their job so the game hasn’t gotten away from you,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “That’s been our deal all year.”
The Blues, conversely, are still looking for more from some of their biggest offensive threats. Jaden Schwartz, the team’s leading goal-scorer in the playoffs with 12, has yet to find net this series, while Vladimir Tarasenko has gone without a point the last two games.
“It’s been a tight series,” Schwartz said. “This time of the year, it’s dirty goals. Even from the goal line, we can do a better job of jamming pucks, finding guys open.”
On the power play is where the Blues could use the biggest boost. While Boston is 7 of 21 with the man advantage in the finals, St. Louis is 1 of 18, its only marker coming in Game 3.
“I thought the adjustments we made for Game 6 at home, we had good looks,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “But I know we need results.”
Coming back from last place in the NHL as recently as Jan. 2, the Blues continue to hitch their wagon to rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington. The 25-year-old allowed four goals on 31 shots in Game 6 but is 7-2 following a loss this postseason.
On the other side, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask appears to be the front-runner for the Conn Smythe Trophy awarded to the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Rask stopped 28 of 29 shots Sunday and has a 1.93 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage this postseason.
The Blues will get forward Ivan Barbashev back after he was suspended for Game 6 following an illegal check in Game 5. Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (concussion) practiced in a non-contact jersey Tuesday and is likely to be a game-time decision Wednesday night.
A Game 7 victory for Boston would be the city’s 13th championship across the four major North American sports since 2000. Both the MLB’s Boston Red Sox and NFL’s New England Patriots have won in the past year.
–By Kyle Brasseur, Field Level Media