What the Blues did right was score
The Blues could barely do anything right in the first period — except score. Sometimes that’s enough.
On Wednesday night, it was enough to bring the Blues their first Stanley Cup, and right here on Causeway St., the place Bobby Orr’s famous “Flying Bobby” goal sank their chances in 1970.
The Blues landed only four shots on net in the first, and two of them went in the net — the first on a Ryan O’Reilly deflection, the second one compliments of a brain cramp by Brad Marchand that allowed Alex Pietrangelo to skate down Broadway and pot a doorstep backhand lift.
Bad time for a mental boo-boo.
Marchand chose the wrong time for his line change, and Pietrangelo took advantage of the ill-timed gaffe. Jayden Schwartz chipped the puck behind Marchand, who butchered his attempted line change with Marcus Johansson, and a rushing Pietrangelo picked up the mail and made the deposit past a defenseless Tuukka Rask.
When it was over at 10:41 p.m., to fit in the scope of New England disappointment, it felt a lot like Super Bowl XX: Bears 46, Patriots 10.
Stand down, Duck Boats, stand down.
■ O’Reilly, the ex-Sabre who continued to get better throughout the series, picked up his fifth goal of the series with the night’s opening strike. It was also the third time in four games that ROR struck for the game-opening goal. The Blues won all three games in which the rugged, broad-shouldered pivot put up the first goal.
O’Reilly was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason MVP.
■ While the Blues were making the most of their popgun offense, with only one shot on net in the opening 16:39, goalie Jordan Binnington had the Bruins in fits in the first period. He turned back all 12 of their shots, including three good chances during a power play awarded the Bruins at 7:57 when Colton Parayko was whistled off for delay of game (puck in the stands).
■ Shot attempts, first period: Bruins 22; Blues 8. And it felt more lopsided than that. It was the Bruins version of leaving eight runners in scoring position, and perhaps five of them on third base. #InsideBaseball.
■ The vocal “Tuukka’s Fault” crowd again will hammer on the veteran Bruins tender. Particularly because the Blues scored on two of their first four shots, and four of 18. Could Rask have stopped all of them? Sure. Could he have been expected to stop any of the four? No. But that’s not how the narrative will go, especially on talk radio. Until he wins the Cup, if he ever wins the Cup, he’ll be the scapegoat for all the failed runs up the hill.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy labeled Rask the club’s best player in the playoffs, and said “there really shouldn’t be” any criticism of the veteran tender.
“They outplayed us at certain moments of the game at all positions and that’s why they won,” he said. “They finished some plays when they had to, and we didn’t.”
“I don’t think anyone is leaving the building tonight, in our locker room, saying they put their best foot forward, unfortunately,” added Cassidy. “That’s the whole group. We didn’t get it done. That’s every position — coaching staff, everyone — they ended up being better than us.”
■ Matt Grzelcyk was back on the job for the first time since Game 2 of the series — when was concussed on a hit by a hard-driving Oskar Sundqvist. The move bumped Connor Clifton to the sidelines, and forced Grzelcyk, a lefthanded shot, to shift over to the right side in a pairing with lefthander John Moore. Grzelcyk scored the only Bruins goal of the night, zipping home a wrister with 2:10 left in regulation for the 4-1 final.
■ In Feb. 2017, the Bruins were 26-23-6, going nowhere, and ditched bench boss Claude Julien in favor of Bruce Cassidy. They were on the verge of a third straight playoff DNQ and the narrative around town was that they had few legit prospects in the pipeline. Twenty-eight months later, they began the night 60 minutes from winning the franchise’s seventh Stanley Cup.
■ Only 1:52 after Curt Schilling and wife Shonda made their appearance on the center-ice vid board, Marchand messed up and Pietrangelo potted the 2-0 lead. Normally, Schill has to be in Rhode Island for things to go upside down that quickly.
■ The Bruins in the second period still looked in shock over not potting one of their 12 shots attempts in the first period. They landed another 11 shots on net (for a total of 23), but still couldn’t solve Binnington. Of greater concern, their chances weren’t of the Grade A caliber they landed in the first period.
■ The officiating crew was perfectly invisible. In other words, just perfect. The league opted to go with the same crew as in Game 6: Gord Dwyer and Chris Rooney as referees and Scott Cherrey and Derek Amel on the lines. It was a tough postseason for the guys in stripes as a group, they made some brutal decisions and non-decisions, but the Game 6-7 guys turned in a Mount Rushmore performance. It doesn’t have to be so hard.
■ The trademark St. Louis forecheck, at times too much for the Bruins to defuse during the series, was not evident in Game 7.
Territorially, the Bruins owned the first period, only to be stymied by Binnington. The two goals late in the first allowed them the luxury of not having to push the tempo in the second. That sometimes can be costly, but the Bruins didn’t take advantage of the Blues’ relaxed approach.
■ There has never been a hat trick scored in all the Games 7 of the Stanley Cup final. A total 17 games. Not a surprise, considering the high stakes of a winner-take-all.
■ Game after game in the first three rounds, the Bruins owned the advantage in lead time. Not in the Final.
The Blues held the advantage Wednesday night for a total of 43:13 and finished with a total 138:56 lead time over the seven games. The Bruins owned the clock for 125:23.
■ The unsuccessful first period, according to Cassidy, gave the Blues “more life.” And a Bruins team that had been resilient all season was unable to provide sufficient pushback.
“The hockey gods really aren’t on your side,” said Cassidy, summing up the first period. “They did what they had to do to put the puck in the net and we didn’t, at the end of the day, in the first period. I think it gave [the Blues] a lot of life . . . we knew it was an uphill battle, but the game wasn’t over.”
Technically, 40 minutes remained on the clock, but the Bruins never got back on the clock or in the game.
“We knew we had to play a certain way,” said Cassidy, acknowledging the effort needed to stage a comeback, “and I guess we didn’t in the second period.
“I don’t think we played the proper way to generate offense, considering the way their goaltender played in the first period. You’re going to have to get some screens and second chances and I don’t think we did enough of that in the second period to give us some life.”