It starts in October. 31 teams, 31 fanbases. We hope, we dream, and we pray to the Hockey Gods (I imagine they’re big-bellied, beer-guzzling, bearded bad-asses who show one another affection by fighting). We all want one thing: the Stanley Cup. This year it came down to the Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues. It took all 7 games, but the Bruins ultimately fell to the Blues, who won their first Stanley Cup in their 51-year history.
The Bruins were on home ice at TD Garden in Boston. The crowd was chanting “Let’s Go Bruins”, they were loud, and they were proud. The Black and Gold came out swinging. They fired at Blues goalie Jordan Binnington from every angle, and limited the Blues to one shot on goal in over 10 minutes to start the game. The Bruins outshot the Blues 12-4 in the first period, but that ultimately didn’t matter. With 3:13 left in the first period Ryan O’Reilly scored on a deflection to put the Blues up 1-0. Later, Brad Marchand went to the bench for an ill-timed line change, leaving Alex Pietrangelo a wide-open lane and shot at Rask. Pietrangelo scored with 7.9 seconds left in the first.
In the second period the Blues fed off their momentum. Neither team scored in the second, but St. Louis was taking over. They established a defensive stand at center ice, limiting offensive opportunities for the Bruins by forcing turnovers and pouring the puck back into the Bruins zone. Rask stood tall, denying all shots, but the Blues wouldn’t be deterred. They hit more and stayed on the puck, bringing the momentum with them into the third period.
Entering the third period down 2-0 the Bruins were still alive. They pushed, making great entries into the St. Louis zone. But Binnington was a brick wall, allowing nothing. He made easy saves on weak shots, he made brilliant saves on nearly unstoppable shots. No matter what the Bruins gave him, Binnington was equal to the task. With 8:35 left in the game Brayden Schenn scored, putting the game all but out of reach at 3-0. Four minutes later the final nail was put in the coffin when Zach Sanford scored. Up 4-0 with 4:38 left in the season, the Bruins got desperate. They pulled Rask, putting six men on the ice for Boston, but they couldn’t get anything past Binnington until Matt Grzelcyk scored with 2:10 left. It made little difference in the outcome of the game, but it did prevent a St. Louis Game 7 shutout in Boston.
After the game Brad Marchand told Boston Sports Journal’s Conor Ryan, “It’s a heartbreaker. It’s tough to describe. You know, they just took our dream, our lifetime dream from us, and everything we’ve worked for our entire lives, and it’s 60 minutes away from that. You can’t describe it.”
The loss brings many offseason questions. Zdeno Chara signed a one-year contract extension. Will the 42 year-old actually come back and try to get to the Finals again next year? Or will he retire after coming to the brink and losing? The Bruins core is getting older, and some of the young guys will need new contracts. There’s a lot of work to be done to try to get back to the Cup. In October we’ll start over. We’ll hope, we’ll dream, and we’ll pray to those often insufferable Hockey Gods.