NHL: Stanley Cup Final-St. Louis Blues at Boston Bruins

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-St. Louis Blues at Boston Bruins

Jun 12, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; St. Louis Blues left wing Zach Sanford (12) kisses the Stanley Cup after the Blues defeated the Boston Bruins in game seven of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

BACK ON Jan. 17, I was dispatched to TD Garden to do a feature story on local product Zach Sanford, who was injured and unable to play that night against the Bruins.

Sanford was my focus, but I couldn’t help noticing another media member talking to Brayden Schenn — and the apparent likelihood Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko would be traded away by a St. Louis team seemingly going nowhere.

There was talk of Schenn being traded to the Bruins, who were looking for more scoring up front and would eventually acquire Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson in two savvy moves that helped fuel a charge toward a Stanley Cup.

Flash forward less than six months later. The Blues, who lost in Boston that January night, soon went on an 11-game winning streak and wound up defeating the Bruins 4-1 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. All after being dead last in the standings before the arrival of goalie Jordan Binnington.

It shouldn’t go unnoticed that Tarasenko set up Schenn for the third Blues goal and Sanford, who grew up in Manchester a diehard Bruins fan and went to and played for Boston College, scored the fourth goal.

The Cup capped a roller coaster season that saw Sanford endure the death of his dad, Mike, and then carry thoughts of his dad all the way to hockey’s ultimate.

“I don’t know if you could write it any better,” Sanford said after the game. “I think he helped us out a lot along the way, and me, especially. I miss him. I think about him all the time. I guarantee he’s smiling, cracking a nice cold beer up there.”

It would have been special enough playing on the Cup winner. But scoring the final goal of the NHL season?

“I couldn’t dream of scoring a goal in a game like this, let alone winning,” Sanford said. “I know that (my dad is) watching and how proud he probably is. All the effort he put in over the years along with my mom, too, driving me to practices, all that stuff, and making me the person and player I am. I owe it all to them.”

Coming up short

Tuukka Rask, the goalie folks around here love to hate, didn’t have his best game in the finale, but that doesn’t mean this was his fault. Heck, it doesn’t even mean there’s a lot of fault here.

As things turned out, this was an even matchup and the Blues, once considered dead, went 10-3 on the road (6-7 at home) in the playoffs. The regular season standings show the Bruins finished just eight points ahead of St. Louis in the final stands – and the Blues were on the charge.

Rask would have won the Conn Smythe Trophy had the Bruins won Game 7. Ryan O’Reilly was deserving – and it would have been more than awkward giving it to the losing goalie after he didn’t play very well in the final game.

Rask knew he could have been better.

His teammates knew they SHOULD have been better.

Anyone seen the B’s top line? One can only think Patrice Bergeron was playing hurt.

“Love these guys,” said Brad Marchand, whose ill-advised run to the bench for a change helped the Blues take a 2-0 lead. “We had a hell of a year and we came very close. I’m very proud of everyone that worked their (butt) off all year to get to this point. We’re like a family.”

Said Zdeno Chara: “It’s hard to find words, it’s not easy. I’m sure everyone pictured it differently. We believed it was there for us but that’s sports. You have to take those and move on.”

Bruins fans flooded the internet with talk of Chara being all done – that he should retire. He’s already signed for next year and will, barring a change of heart, be back next season.

Great note: the Bruins and Blues both went through four rounds of playoffs without a single fighting major. Plenty of rough, nasty stuff, but no fights.

Drafts next

The NBA and NHL drafts are next week and the next seven days could tell us a lot about the immediate future of your basketball team.

In news that shocked no one, Kyrie Irving will not opt in with the Celtics for next season. That doesn’t mean he’s gone, it’s just that his new agents will be negotiating a new deal — somewhere.

Anthony Davis says if he’s traded to Boston he’ll play only one year here before free agency. Does Danny Ainge take a chance, and hope it turns out like things did with Kevin Garnett? Apparently, that’s exactly what he’s doing – or trying to do.

Remember, KG said he didn’t want to come to Boston, either, but when lengthy talks continued on and off between Ainge and Kevin McHale, the Celtics acquired Ray Allen, making it apparent to Garnett, who originally wanted warm weather and a chance at a title, there would be a new Big Three.

Garnett didn’t get the warm weather. He DID get a title.

If Irving leaves, and the Celtics can’t bring in another of the star on the market, why would Davis want to be in Boston?

The landscape of the NBA will change in the next 17 or so days, through the draft and the opening of free agency.

While Irving is opting out, the useful Aron Baynes has opted in, exercising his player option that will pay him $5.9 million. Yahoo Sports’ Keith Smith wrote: “A source close to Aron Baynes says about him picking up his option for 2019-20: No-brainer. Boston is the first place where he’s felt truly at home in the NBA. They want him and he wants to be there. And $6 million bucks doesn’t hurt either!”

Another TE

The revolving door that’s already begin to spin with Rob Gronkowski gone continued its spin Thursday with the Patriots reportedly acquiring tight end Michael Roberts from the Lions for a conditional seventh-round draft pick.

Injuries have limited Roberts to 23 games over the last two seasons with 13 catches for 146 yards and three touchdowns.

Running back Sony Michel had a procedure done on his knee. He is expected to be ready for training camp late next month. His battle with knee trouble goes all the way back to high school, where he tore an ACL. He also missed the start of last season after a scope done during training camp.

The Pats, of course, added depth at running back by drafting Damien Harris in the third round. They also have James White, Rex Burkhead and Brandon Bolden.

Disturbing news

We’re all thrilled that David Ortiz is clearly on the way to recovery, but the details leaking out on this assassination attempt are more than troubling.

What did Big Papi do in his native Dominican Republic, where he is a god, to get someone to offer a lousy $7,800 to eliminate him from this earth?

We will likely know more in the coming days and weeks, but this is an unpleasant story that will have more unpleasant details.

Still, bottom line is he appears to be OK.

--Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.