Well, are you ready?
Or experiencing a mixture of feelings?
On this Sunday morning-afternoon of Stanley Cup Final Game 6 the emotions are so intense that we’d need some control rods to cool everyone down.
(Or, you might want to follow my lead and go to Spotify and take a listen to the magnificent “Jelly Roll Blues,” which was recorded by the great Jelly Roll Morton on this day in 1926. This will calm your innards and make you happy.)
After all, this will be the biggest, most dramatic, most anticipated, most expensive (as in ticket prices) game in St. Louis Blues history.
At last check at TicketIQ, the cheapest ticket for Game is going for $1,610.
The most expensive: $10,712.
This should surprise …. no one. The Blues franchise came into existence If the Blues win and eliminate the Boston Bruins, this would be the No. 1 victory in St. Louis sports history.
The Beatles released “Magical Mystery Tour” in 1967, the year the Blues were born. So here we go. The Blues own magical mystery tour could end tonight. Or the journey could continue for one more evening: Wednesday’s Game 7 in Boston.
Here’s my offering for the day, pregame:
Five Reasons why the Blues will win Game 6.
And Five Reasons why the series could be shipping up to Boston for Game 7.
Let’s start with the worrisome side of this breakdown. The nervous breakdown, if you will.
FIVE REASONS WHY THE SC FINAL WILL BE BOSTON-BOUND FOR GAME 7
1. Boston’s top-line guys have to bust out at some point, right?
Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak don’t have a 5-on-5 point through five games and are collectively a minus 6. That has to change, right?
2. Can’t trust NHL officiating. Ever. But especially now.
Caterwauling coach Bruce Cassidy’s tantrum following Game 5 already prompted the NHL to give the Bruins an obvious make-up kiss for the notorious non-call in Game 5. The league’s Department of Player Safety went through some video to find something and evidently saw a hit to the head that resulted in a one-game suspension for Blues forward Ivan Barbashev.
Cassidy’s squealing paid off, because that’s how it goes in the National Hockey League. No big deal. But … the Blues and their fans have to hope that this suspension was the last of the dozen roses and box of chocolates that the league sent to Cassidy to make him quit pouting and feel better. I assume that the on-ice officials will play it straight in Game 6, but good luck trying to understand this league and the psychology of its officials.
3. In a related note: Beware the Boston power play. Yes, still.
If the officiating isn’t on the level, or if the Blues simply lose discipline and get penalized repeatedly for doing foolish things, the dangerous Boston PP will have opportunities to reignite. The Bruins burned the Blues for four PP goals in a Game 3 rout at Enterprise Center. The Blues made some tactical changes and rebounded nicely by killing five Boston PP (total) in their consecutive victories over the Bruins in Games 4 and 5.
4. Boston’s core-nucleus veterans have displayed admirable survival skills in the recent and distant past.
In the 2011 Stanley Cup Final the Bruins were down to 3-2 to Vancouver going into Game 6. The situation wasn’t the same as now; the 2011 Bruins had Game 6 at home. But the relevant point is, the Bruins rallied to win the final two contests including Game 7 at Vancouver. Their ‘11 roster included four current Bruins: defenseman and captain Zdeno Chara, Marchand, Bergeron and forward David Krejci. The ‘11 Bruins won the final two games by a combined 9-2 score. In the two victories that grabbed the Stanley Cup from Vancouver’s grasp Krejci, Marchand, Bergeron combined for five goals, two assists and were collectively a plus-13.
In the first two rounds of the 2019 tournament, the Bruins trailed Toronto 3-2 with Game 6 in Ontario. It didn’t matter. The Bruins won that sixth game (4-2) and blew away the Maple Leafs 5-1 in Game 7.
After trailing Columbus 2-1 after three games in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Bruins swept the next three games (combined score 11-4) to end CBJ’s threat.
Given the history it would be a mistake to dismiss or even discount Boston’s chances of at least getting this SCF back home for a Game 7 showdown.
5. The Blues’ home record this postseason is 6-6; that includes a 1-1 home mark in this series.
The Blues’ .500 record at Enterprise during the tournament is only one game worse than Boston’s 7-5 home ledger at TD Garden. And the Blues — as I’ll relay in a couple of minutes — have been strong at home in the late stages of a series. That said, it’s a bit unsettling to realize that the Blues have been outscored 26-22 at home at even strength this postseason.
And now …
5 REASONS WHY YOU’LL BE CELEBRATING LATE SUNDAY NIGHT
1. The Blues have turned themselves into relentless closers.
You’re probably well aware of this by now, and it’s a statistic that I’ve used several times in recent days. But just in case this hadn’t crossed your screen…
The Blues are 7-1 in Games 5, 6 or 7 this postseason … and have outscored Winnipeg, Dallas, San Jose and Boston by a huge margin of 25-10 in those games.
2. Related but relevant: when given the opportunity to knock out a visiting team that’s facing elimination, the Blues have delivered at Enterprise Center.
The Blues are 3-1 overall in Games 5, 6 or 7 of a series in home games, outscoring visitors 11-6.
But more than that the home-secure Blues have gone 3-for-3 in bouncing visiting teams from the postseason. A 3-2 win at Enterprise to close out Winnipeg in Game 6 … a 2-1 double-OT win over Dallas in Game 7 … and a withering 5-1 blowout of San Jose in Game 6.
3. The Blues have been better than Boston at 5-on-5 play. And at even strength, for that matter.
The Blues have a 10-7 edge in goals at 5-5. And it’s 12-9 in all even-ice situations.
Over this entire postseason the Blues are plus 14 in goals at 5-5, outscoring opponents 51-37. Boston is a plus six at 5-on-5, with a 39-33 edge in goals.
4. His name is Jordan Binnington. He is Kurt Warner.
He’s 7-1 with a .954 save percentage in Games 5, 6 and 7 during a series. Since Boston pelted the Blues for the four PP scores in Game 3, Binnington responded by stopping 59 of 62 shots (.952) overall in Games 4 and 5.
That includes stopping all six shots on goal over the last two games with Boston on the power play.
But take the special teams out of it — remember, the Blues did give up a short-handed goal in Game 4 — and Binnington has a .962 save percentage over the last two games, stopping 50 of 52 shots.
5. The Blues’ punishing physical style has slowed the Bruins down, and taken its toll on the top Bruins’ players.
First of all, the Blues have inflicted 100 official hits on Boston’s defensemen over the first five games. The Blues’ defensemen, on the other hand, have been hit 64 times in five games. Big difference, especially considering Boston’s undersized defense (except for Chara.) But Chara is playing with a jaw injury and didn’t look good in Game 5.
Blues forwards have been much more physically engaged in this series, delivering 156 hits compared to the Bruins’ count of 126 hits applied by their forwards.
This pattern of gradual, effective damage has been a substantial factor in the Blues postseason success. And, of course, an important factor in STL’s strong showings late in a series.
+ In losing the last two games of the first-round series, Winnipeg’s top line of Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler did not get a goal or a point at 5-on-5 in Games 5 and 6 … and were collectively a minus 7 at even strength.
+ With the Blues eliminating Dallas through consecutive wins in Games 5 and 6, the top Stars’ line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov combined for one goal and assist and were collectively minus 6 at even strength.
+ San Jose lost the final three games of the Western Conference Final to St. Louis. And in the Blues’ three-game win streak that ejected San Jose, the Sharks’ top line of Gus Nyquist, Logan Couture and Timo Meier had no points and were collectively minus 13. (Whoa.)
The trend has continued against Boston in the Stanley Cup Final. The Blues’ style works. And the heavy hockey should put the Bruins away in Game 6. Unless, of course, there’s an intervention by the on-ice officials who believe it is their obligation to provide succor for the bawling Bruins.
What do I think?
Before the start of the Stanley Cup Final, I picked the Blues in six.
I see no reason to move away from that.
Thanks for reading …