The Boston Bruins are no strangers to Game 7. They won the Stanley Cup in the decisive game against the Vancouver Canucks in 2011.
But Wednesday night marks the first time Boston will host the ultimate game of the finals in its 95-year history.
“You’ve got two good teams who have gone toe to toe here,” Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy told the Associated Press. “The whole hockey world loves a Game 7. It should be a great night in Boston and may the best team win.”
Home ice has its advantages. Overall, the home team has a 104-73 record in the playoffs, which improves to 12-4 in the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, the coach of the home team gets to dictate the matchups on the ice with the benefit of last change. For the Bruins, that’s a considerable strength considering their roster depth. Karson Kuhlman’s goal in the third period of Game 6 gave Boston 21 different players with at least one goal in the 2019 Stanley Cups playoffs, tying them with the 1987 Philadelphia Flyers for the most unique scorers during a single postseason. The Bruins have 19 skaters with at least two goals, the most ever by a team in a single postseason. The Blues, by comparison, have 14.
Overall, Boston is generating more shots, scoring chances and high-quality attempts per 60 minutes at even-strength at home than they are on the road in this series, a good sign even if the goal output hasn’t caught up to the shot volume like we would expect.
This Bruins squad also gets plenty of contributions from their defense: seven different blue-liners have at least one goal during this playoff run, tying them with the 1988 Calgary Flames, 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins and 1994 Washington Capitals for the most scoring defensemen during the playoffs. Torey Krug leads the way for Boston with one goal and six assists in the Stanley Cup Final, the most by a Bruins defenseman since Bobby Orr in 1974. But Krug doesn’t provide offense at the expense of defense. The 28-year-old blue-liner has been on the ice for 19 even-strength goals for and 14 against during the playoffs in addition to a 67-to-55 edge in high-danger scoring chances, those shot attempts originating in the slot or the crease.
“That’s that line that I flirt with on a nightly basis, whether it’s regular season or playoffs,” Krug told the Boston Herald. “Obviously, it’s more magnified now. Obviously, I have to find a way to compete and play on that line while really hanging onto my swagger because that’s what ultimately allows me to make plays as a defenseman. If I’m not playing with that swagger, then I’m not making those high-end plays that I normally do. It’s tough. You have to find that line and ultimately that good solid first pass is what helps our forwards move along with the puck.”
Puck movement is key and Krug was on the ice for three of Boston’s five goals in Game 6, including an assist on the first goal of the game by Brad Marchand during a power play.
The top trio of Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron have yet to score an even-strength goal in this series but they have the edge in shot attempts (28 to 20) and are nearly break-even in high-danger chances (5 to 7) against the Blues in this series. Perhaps Cassidy can get that top line more ice time against Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko in Game 7: Marchand’s trio has seven shot attempts with only one against in seven minutes of ice time against the Blues’ threesome in the Stanley Cup Final.
Marchand has also shown he can rise on the biggest of stages. His seven career goals in the Stanley Cup finals is tied for the second-most in franchise history, and only one fewer than Orr and John Bucyk. Boston is also 24-1 all time when Marchand scores in the postseason.
“A lot of us have been in the finals a couple of times,” Boston netminder and Conn Smythe Trophy favorite Tukka Rask told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. We haven’t had a chance to have a clinching game at home. So obviously the city will be behind us and very excited. We’re just going to focus on our game. We have a hockey game to win. That’s all that really matters.”