Last Updated: 2019-06-12
STANLEY CUP EDITION – Wednesday, June 12th
This it is. Game 7. Stanley Cup Final. It’s the moment every kid dreams about when they’re on the pond shooting the puck around or in the driveway playing ball hockey. The scenario where the game is tied in overtime and you wind up and hammer the final shot past the goaltender to win the Stanley Cup. And the crowd goes wild.
If you’ve ever held a hockey stick at any point in your life, it’s a dream you’ve no doubt experienced. Tonight, that dream becomes reality for each member of the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins in a winner-take-all slugfest. After an 82-game regular season and two full months of playoff action, this is what it all comes down too. Whoever loses tonight, it won’t be for a lack of determination and commitment.
Who will be the hero who emerges and lives out their childhood dream? Will it be Ryan O’Reilly who needs just one more point to own the St. Louis record for points in a single postseason? Does Brad Marchand have one strong sniper shot left in him as he guts through a wrist injury? Could it be a youngster like Zach Sanford or Karson Kuhlman who emblaze their name in history among the all-time greats? Or will it be the goaltenders who steal the show. Tuukka Rask and Jordan Binnington have both hit historic marks this postseason and one key save could be enough to turn the tide tonight.
Whoever it is, it’s going to a legendary moment and we’re all blessed as sports fans to bear witness.
It’s here. It’s now. It’s Game 7.
Last time out, we lost a heartbreaker on the under 5 at a nice plus-number. A 1-0 game entering the third period saw a fluky knuckle-puck bounce oddly in front of Jordan Binnington and sneak by him. The Blues then unraveled, and Boston poured it on, scoring four times in the period with a final empty-netter to get over the total with the 5-1 final. It’s been a tough Final for us here, dropping the postseason profit to +7.95 units with a 10.3% ROI. As always, you can see a full tracking breakdown for all the series and game-by-game wagers below just after today’s report.
We’ll look to finish off the playoff run with one more winner tonight and another stab at the under which has historically been the bet in Game 7 of the Cup Final. In 16 Stanley Cup Final Game 7s, only once has the game seen more than five goals (seven, in 1950). Over the past 20 years and six Game 7s, total goals scored has been 4, 3, 4, 3, 3 and 4. It by no means guarantees tonight’s game stays under, but grabbing the 5 at plus-money is a very prudent wager.
I’d like to thank Eric Poole (@EPoole88) once again for permission to use his beautiful artwork for the graphic you see above. Check out his Twitter for more cool designs in various sports.
PS. If you missed my Stanley Cup Final Preview, you can still click the link to check it out. A huge THANK YOU to everyone for supporting my little space here this year and especially to those who have shared kind words. It is always very much appreciated!
Holler at me on the Twitter, @kreatture. And be sure to sign up for a free account here at BangTheBook and turn on the notifications so you get a pop-up each time an awesome article is posted or updated.
The Boston Bruins capitalized on their very first 5-on-3 this postseason early in the first period of Game 6 to grab a 1-0 lead and held St. Louis to just four 5-on-5 shots on goal. After allowing just three more (5-on-5) in the second, the Bruins were controlling the game but letting the Blues hang around thanks to multiple trips to the penalty box.
After outstanding penalty killing once again (an area which has been just as impressive as the Bruins powerplay), early in the third Boston would begin to put the game out of reach after finally getting a bounce go their way. To say St. Louis has been on the fortunate end of more bounces this series wouldn’t be a stretch, but Brandon Carlo’s knuckle-puck found its way past a surprised Jordan Binnington for a 2-0 lead. The floodgates would open later in the period as the Blues pressed on offense, opening up holes in the defensive end which the Bruins again took advantage of on their way to a 5-1 final, forcing a Game 7 back at TD Garden.
A quick look at the box score shows Boston really dominated this game while 5-on-5, a trend which has been prevalent throughout the series when they’ve been at full strength. The overall stats were close with shots on goal just 32-29 in Boston’s favor, but take a look at the Blues powerplay numbers. They had 12 of their 29 shots and 11 of their 27 Scoring Chances with the man advantage. The blowout which resulted in the third period maybe wasn’t as surprising as one might think.
St. Louis had a chance to tilt the ice in their favor with four full powerplays over the first 40 minutes, but Boston stood strong again and has allowed just one Blues powerplay marker this entire series, despite now over 34 minutes of being shorthanded. The powerplay numbers on each side are quite striking and as expected entering the series, Boston’s Special Teams have been the difference. The Bruins powerplay has seven goals to just one for the Blues powerplay, even though St. Louis have had more shots, chances and Expected Goals.
While the Special Teams have been lopsided, many think the Blues have been the better 5-on-5 team. I disagree. If you’ve been reading along each game, you know how much I’ve emphasized the St. Louis wins in Game 2 and 4 where Boston lost a defenseman early in each game (Matt Grzelcyk with two minutes left in first period of Game 2 and Zdeno Chara three minutes into second period of Game 4) and were forced to alter their playing style with just five defenders. Outside of those four periods, Boston has controlled the play overall and by a wide margin.
Boston will have a full defense tonight, at least to start. They’ll dress the regular 12 forwards and 6 defenders, but two of those will be Chara and Grzelcyk. Chara seems fine for major minutes despite a fractured jaw but Grzelcyk is coming off a concussion and never had a full contact practice. The Bruins must feel confident he’s close to 100 percent as rookie Connor Clifton had been playing pretty good hockey (even with a couple of poor penalties taken).
Although statistically everything points to a Boston win tonight, the Blues do hold a pair of wild cards up their sleeve. Both these teams have dominated on the road this postseason, especially the Blues who are 9-3 on the highway and look to become just the sixth team in NHL history to win 10 road games in a single postseason. They’ll be comfortable at the Garden tonight.
Rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington was 6-0 after a loss in the regular season and he’s 7-2 here in the playoffs, with a 1.86 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. That includes a 2-0 mark here in the Final, although he’s allowed two goals after each loss with just a .913 save percentage in each (21-of-23 saves in Games 2 and 4). The rookie has shown veins of steel flowing with ice and I don’t expect this moment to be too big for him, but outside of Game 5 where he stole the show, I don’t feel he’s been particularly sharp this round. He’ll need his Game 5 effort again tonight for the Blues to win.
I’m entering this final game expecting the worst – a Bruins win – but I’m also extremely optimistic that St. Louis will win. Numbers-wise, almost everything points in Boston’s favor, but the story of this Blues team just won’t be complete without the storybook ending, one which just has to come true, right? It’s the ultimate grudge match of skill versus the will to win. For the sake of our Blues Cup Futures ticket (which we screwed up by not hedging before Game 6), let’s hope the underdog story prevails one last time. As for an official wager, we’ll be on the under 5 which was discussed in the intro above.
St. Louis Lineup Update: The Blues will have a couple of changes to the lineup tonight. Ivan Barbashev returns from his one-game suspension to bring the pesky fourth line back to full strength. Sammy Blais took his spot last game, so will slide up to the left wing on the third line with Tyler Bozak and Pat Maroon. Robert Thomas will come back out of the lineup after missing Games 2-5 and returning for Game 6. He played just under 10 minutes and didn’t look comfortable. On defense, Joel Edmundson will replace Robert Bortuzzo on the third pair and partner with Vince Dunn. Edmundson was a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6, but brings added experience along with his size as this will be his fourth Game 7.
St. Louis expected lines for tonight:
Boston Lineup Update: The Bruins will see one change to the lineup tonight as defenseman Matt Grzelcyk is expected to return, although officially he’s a game-time decision. He’ll replace rookie Connor Clifton on the third pair and play alongside John Moore. Grzelcyk hasn’t played since Game 2 when he was hit by Oskar Sundqvist. He’s an underrated defender who is a great puck-mover and can really help the Bruins withstand the Blues’ forecheck, but there could be a bit of concern considering he skated twice with the team in a non-contact jersey and never went through full contact reps. Not ideal for a player returning from a concussion but let’s hope he makes it through the game, as Boston will dress just six defenders and we’ve seen how detrimental it is when they lose one.
Expected lines for Boston tonight, based on yesterday’s practice. Rookie Karson Kuhlman stays in the lineup over veteran David Backes and Grzelcyk in for Clifton on the third pair:
– END OF JUNE 12 REPORT –
REGULAR SEASON WEEK-BY-WEEK RECORD TRACKING
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