The St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins spent the final shifts of Game 6 pounding each other on Sunday.
Boston had a big lead in its 5-1 win. The result was not in doubt.
But each team wanted to send a message to its foe that the Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final on Wednesday night (CBC, CBCSports.ca 8 p.m. ET) will be the most physical game yet in this fabulous back-and-forth series.
Game 7 will be an opportunity for the Blues to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. The Bruins have a chance to claim their first championship at home since 1970. That was when the legendary Bobby Orr scored that iconic overtime-winning goal flying through the air against, yep, the Blues.
TD Garden and outside the rink, as well as the viewing party back in St. Louis will be the places to be.
“We’re expecting the fans are going to be awesome,” Bruins veteran centre Patrice Bergeron said.
“Obviously, the energy is going to be electric. The atmosphere? I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like. Obviously, you have to use it to your advantage and manage it in a way to use that energy. And make sure you’re focused on the game.
“You put everything on the line for 2½ months to get to this point. So, you’ve got to enjoy it, be in the moment and give it everything you’ve got.”
Bergeron was credited for his passionate pre-game speech to inspire his teammates before Game 6, although the Bruins wouldn’t divulge what he said.
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Whether the Bruins victory song, Dirty Water by the Standells, or Laura Branigan’s Gloria will be blaring at the viewing party back in St. Louis is anybody’s guess.
These two clubs have been evenly matched. Now the Bruins have to deal with the pressures of playing at home, a situation they fumbled in Game 5, and the Blues failed miserably with in Game 6. St. Louis head coach Craig Berube will have his team focused on their best trait — being physical.
“You’re going to be nervous, that’s natural,” he said. “You should be. It means you care, and you want to do well. But once you drop the puck, you get a shift in or two shifts in, that goes away, you just play hockey. That’s what it really boils down to.
“It’s just about the effort and competitiveness and getting some bounces, winning your one-on-one battles. That kind of stuff is what you focus on out there.”
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Both teams have lineup issues entering the finale. For the Blues, Ivan Barbashev will return to the fourth line after his one-game suspension. That means Berube will have to sit either physical forward Sammy Blais or rookie Robert Thomas, who is hindered by a wrist injury.
Bruins defenceman Matt Grzelcyk, out since he suffered a concussion in Game 2, practised with his teammates on Tuesday. He wore a non-contact sweater, so he still is a long shot to return. Besides, Boston head coach Bruce Cassidy admitted he was reluctant to alter his blue-liners because they were brilliant in Game 6.
This is the first Stanley Cup final to be extended to seven games since the Bruins defeated the Canucks in Vancouver in 2011.
Here are some interesting stats to contemplate:
- The Bruins have gone 3-0 in elimination games in this playoff run, while the Blues are 2-0.
- Boston has gone 7-5 at home this spring. The Blues have the best road record among playoff teams at 9-3, including wins at TD Garden in Games 2 and 5.
- Home teams have a 104-73 record in Game 7s, including 12-4 in the final and 4-1 in 2019.
- The team that scores first has gone 131-46 in Game 7s, 11-5 in the final and 3-2 this spring.
- Both teams won their only Game 7 in 2019. The Bruins defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-1 in the first round. The
- Blues beat the Dallas Stars 2-1 in double overtime in the second round.
- Blues rookie goalie Jordan Binnington has a 7-2 record after a loss in his first NHL post-season.
“Just like our team, he gets through it, gets on with it, moves on, focuses on the next game,” Berube said. “He’s done a good job of that, being levelheaded, understanding that things always don’t go your way, you don’t get the bounces all the time. I think that’s why he’s responded well.”
The rookie’s response, his team’s response as well as how the Bruins handle being at home will be one fascinating final chapter to this series.