Hello again, friends.
Hey, what’s going on tonight? Is there anything happening?
Oh, that’s right …
EVERYTHING is happening.
Game 7. Stanley Cup Final.
Blues at Bruins.
Winner take all.
Let’s hope that “Binner” takes all.
I’ll begin by slashing and spearing a popular narrative to slow it down, make it limp.
It’s a predictable theory, soaked in cliche: The Bruins will defeat the Blues in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final because of an edge in experience.
That bit of conventional (read: lazy) wisdom is based on the five players on the current Boston roster who hoisted the Stanley Cup as NHL champions in 2011.
Never mind that only four of the five Bruins played in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final: Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara and David Krejci. Goaltender Tuukka Rask was on the 2011 postseason roster but didn’t play. He was a backup to Tim Thomas.
The same Tukkaa Rask that had a 14-16 record in his three previous postseasons with Boston before 2019.
Just wanted to point that out, and it leads to my first question:
⇒ If championship-winning experience is so crucial, then why have the Bruins sputtered so often in the playoffs?
⇒ The Bruins — with this hugely important nucleus of champions — got booted in the first round in 2012.
⇒ Granted, this hockey-royalty group of champions for life reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2013 — but lost to Chicago on six games. In fact, after taking a 2-1 lead in that series, the Bruins had their Boston butts kicked by the Blackhawks for three consecutive losses.
⇒ Um, why didn’t this extraordinary championship pedigree kick in? Where did it go? Shouldn’t an amazing championship-class team put up more of a fight instead of losing three in a row?
⇒ The 2014 Bruins were eliminated in the second round … must have misplaced that championship character.
⇒ The 2015 Bruins failed to make the playoffs.
⇒ The 2016 Bruins failed to make the playoffs.
Gee. What happened?
This media-served “Breakfast of Champions” narrative is losing some fiber, eh?
⇒ The 2017 Bruins were dumped out of the playoffs in the first round.
⇒ The 2018 Bruins were tossed out in the second round.
Damn. I’m confused.
If this unbelievably essential championship lineage was so powerful and fail-proof for the Bruins in a big game, then why did the Bruins get their asses thrown into the postseason dumpster so many times since 2011?
Bergeron, Marchand, Chara, Krejci and Rask were on those teams, right? So why didn’t they flash their championship rings, blind opponents with that Boston championship radiance and keep collecting Stanley Cups?
Given their remarkable championship bloodline, why were the Bruins slapped around like rodeo clowns in multiple Stanley Cup tournaments?
And it’s not like 2011 was, say, two years ago. Assuming that the Bruins will prevail over the Blues in Game 7 because of something that took place in 2011 … well, I’m surprised by the level of ignorance that fills these gasbag theories.
This would be like picking the 2019 Cardinals to whup the Houston Astros or New York Yankees in the ‘19 World Series because two members of the current STL roster, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, were World Series champeens in 2011. (Wainwright was on the DL for all of 2011 after having elbow surgery, but you get the point.)
Question: if previous championship achievement was such an overriding factor, then why did the 2004 Boston Red Sox win the World Series? That franchise hadn’t won the World Series since 1918.
Question: if championship stock leads to additional titles, then the 2001 St. Louis Rams should have won Super Bowl 36. After all, the St. Louis Rams won Super Bowl 34, right? And the “Greatest Show” nucleus was intact. But the 2001 Rams lost the 36th Super Bowl to the New England Patriots — a franchise that had competed over 41 consecutive seasons before finally winning the league title.
Question: if championship heritage is so critical in determining the outcome of a Stanley Cup Final, then why did the 2011 Bruins win the Cup and get it done in Game 7 — on he road — at Vancouver? The Bruins franchise had gone 37 years since winning the Stanley Cup. The 2011 Bruins should have been doomed. But they weren’t.
Question: if the heart of a previous champion carries over through the years, then why have the Bruins lost two of three at home to the Blues in this series? Why did the Blues win three of the previous four contests before losing in Game 6?
That’s why this narrative is a chowder bowl filled to the brim with dumbness.
The Blues may lose Game 7 on Wednesday night in Boston, but it won’t be because four Bruins players skated around the ice with the Stanley Cup in 2011.
This series comes down to one game.
One game played on June 12 of 2019 …
Not June 12 of 2011.
And the team that plays better — or benefits from the random luck of fortuitous bounces and deflections — will lift Stanley at the end of Game 7 this evening. That’s really how this game will boil down.
The Blues didn’t lose Game 6 because the Bruins won a Stanley Cup eight years ago. The Blues lost Game 6 because, for whatever reason, they’ve played their worst postseason hockey on home ice.
The Note went go 6-7 at Enterprise Center this postseason, and four of the losses came by two goals or more. In total the Blues were outscored at home by a 30-23 margin in all situations and 30-23 at even strength. I can’t explain it.
But as more nimrods begin yammering about how the Bruins’ championship genealogy was a big part of why the team won two of three games in St. Louis during this series, I’d like to point out a couple of things.
Dallas went 2-1 at Enterprise Center in the second round.
The Blues have won two of three games played at Boston. And even though they let it get away, the Blues had a 2-0 lead in Game 1.
This isn’t about how the Blues played at home … or how the Bruins played in St. Louis.
Far more relevant is the Blues’ sensational 9-3 road record in this tournament.
* In their 12 road games, including the three setbacks, the Blues have:
— Scored 56.7 percent of the goals in all situations
— Scored 64.1 percent of the goals at even strength
— Scored 65.3 percent of the goals at 5-on-5 hockey.
Even when we take the special teams into account, and factor in Boston’s superiority on the power play and the penalty kill, the Blues and Bruins have each scored seven goals in the three games played in Boston.
Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington has been at his best inside the TD Garden. In three games at North Station, Binnington has an overall .930 save percentage — and it’s even better at even strength (.936) and 5-on-5 (with an impressive .946.)
If the moment was too large for the Blues in Game 6 — with STL going nuts in anticipation of a Cup-winning triumph, and tens of thousands filling the streets around Enterprise — then the Bruins face a similar challenge tonight.
Boston is an “Original Six” franchise but has never hosted Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final until now. This will be the first time. And the pressure is on the Bruins — I say that simply because the Blues are being dismissed outside of St. Louis as a pretender team that choked away its chance to win a Stanley Cup by getting throttled 5-1 at home in Game 6.
The Bruins are the strong betting favorite. And the analytics-based MoneyPuck gives the Blues only a 45.5 percent chance to win Game 7.
I like this situation for the Blues. The road is their home sweet home. The road is the site of their finest hockey. The road brings out their best performances. The road plays into, and sharpens, the Blues’ underdog mentality. The road is free of distractions, demands.
The Blues could lose, but it won’t be because of TD Garden. For some reason, this factoid is being ignored by national pundits: the Bruins are 8-3 on the road this postseason … but only 7-5 at home. In other words, the Blues better on the road than Boston is at home.
The Blues thrive in hostile environments. This is just another road trip. Since Binnington took over as the starting goaltender on Jan. 7, he’s 19-6-1 on the road including the postseason. And the Blues have road record of 24-9-5 since Binnington entered their sphere.
Sure, you are worried. This is a BIG road game. The biggest the road game the Blues have faced. The biggest road game that any professional STL sports franchise has confronted.
With the Game 7 faceoff approach, it’s natural for the Blues, and their fans, to experience feelings of anxiety.
I’ll leave you with a passage from Jack Kerouac’s famous coming-of-age novel, “On the Road.”
“They have worries, they’re counting the miles, they’re thinking about where to sleep tonight, how much money for gas, the weather, how they’ll get there — and all the time they’ll get there anyway, you see.”
Enjoy the game…
Thanks for reading…