It wasn’t supposed to end this way. When the Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues first skated the ice together at the beginning of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, Boston was the heavy favorite. As an original six team with an all-star roster that finished second in its division, analysts said the plucky men from Missouri who climbed their way from dead last in January to secure a spot in the playoffs stood no chance.
Well, everyone was wrong.
On Wednesday, the Blues bested the Bruins 4-1 in Game 7 to win the team its first Stanley Cup since 1970 in a series that saw two teams push each other to their limits. In a series dominated by heavy hits, a broken jaw, and major on-ice collisions, Game 7 was a remarkable departure from the norm. Understanding that focusing on the physical game against the Bruins was a losing strategy, in their final match-up, the Blues controlled the ice with finesse and stick-work.
It wasn’t St. Louis’ offense that won them the cup — it was a spectacular defense that saw them outmaneuvering the Bruins, deking when necessary, and keeping the puck out of the Bruins' hands with an aggressive use of the poke check. In the first period, nearly every time the Bruins gained possession of the puck, St. Louis didn’t spare a second before taking it out of their hands. Two goals from St. Louis’ Ryan O’Reilly and Alex Pietrangelo put the Blues at a comfortable lead.
Then it was Boston’s game to lose.
First it was a missed pass to David Pasternak that bounced off the back of his skate. Then there was a poor pass that sent Torey Krug spinning, and sent the puck out of the offensive zone. A missed opportunity from an impressive wrap-around attempt from Charlie Coyle inadvertently sent the puck hurtling back into the Bruins’ zone. Not to mention the several slap shots that just didn’t connect. If the Blues’ stick-work wasn’t a big enough barrier to victory, the Bruins also had to contend with error upon error that could have tilted the momentum back in their favor.
That’s not to say that St. Louis didn’t play well. Coach Craig Berube’s backline of defensemen will surely be looked back on as integral to the team's win, and rookie goalie Jordan Binnington, who made his first NHL start on Jan. 7, deserves credit for stopping 32 shots.
“You get in the room and you figure, you know, the hockey gods aren’t really on your side,” Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy said following their loss. “They did what they had to do to put the puck in the net, and we didn’t at the end of the day.”
Late in the third period, Boston managed to get its only goal of the game, thanks to a hard shot past Binnington by returning player Matt Grzelcyk.
But it was too little too late.
Two more goals from St. Louis ended the game 4-1, and left a stadium — which began the night packed to the brim with fans chanting, “Let’s go Bruins!” — a shell of itself. By the time the Stanley Cup was presented to the Blues, the stadium was nearly empty, save for the Blues fans who were brave enough to venture into enemy territory.
So, the 2019 Stanley Cup Final comes to a close with one team making history and the other looking towards next season.
“I think we’re going to keep playing,” Cassidy said. “We’re a resilient group, we have [been] all year. We’ve played through a lot of stuff.”
This piece was reported and written by Arjun Singh. The audio version of this story was reported by Esteban Bustillos.
This article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Matt Grzelcyk's last name.