Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR) SCF, Gm 7 - STL 4, BOS 1 - St. Stanley
Just because the Flyers aren't playing in it doesn't mean I still can't call it an FFR.
After all, I am still a Flyers fan, and I'm still reacting to hockey games. But this time, it's Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, where the St. Louis Blues won, 4-1, over the Big Bad Boston Bruins, taking home their first Stanley Cup since the franchise was founded back in 1967.
Practically everyone in the civilized world outside of a five mile radius from TD Garden has been rooting for the Blues all series, even if most didn't think they could pull it off. St. Louis had seemingly blew their best chance of the series, losing Game 6 on home ice 4-1 on Sunday. Even with a stellar 9-3 road record coming into Wednesday, many were picking the Bruins to win the decisive game.
Early on, they looked pretty smart. This might not have been a Flyers game, but it sure felt like it. For the first fifteen minutes, the Blues decided to play the role of the Flyers. They looked sluggish, going over fifteen minutes without a shot on goal and spent most of the frame in their own zone. The Bruins, feeding off the energy from their sellout-home crowd, ran the Blues show.
However, Jordan Binnington made sure his squad weathered the storm. Much has been made of Binnington's incredible stat line coming off a loss, which was the position he was in for Game 7. Binnington kept that run up with several ten bell saves early on, stopping A+ chances from Sean Kuraly and David Krejci, among others.
Thankfully, the Blues decided to wake up late in the first. Ryan O'Reilly got a rare shot on goal, then retrieved the puck behind the goal, passed to the point, and went to the front of the net. It was there that he re-directed a low shot from Jay Bouwmeester through the wickets of Rask, starting the scoring for St. Louis.
Considering how badly the Blues played most of the first period, coming out of it with even a one goal lead would have been a massive success. But St. Louis wasn't done. With less than ten seconds remaining, a lazy change by Brad Marchand gave Alex Pietrangelo a chance to walk in from the point. The Blues captain made a quick move to his backhand before shoveling the puck past Rask with under eight seconds to go, doubling up the Blues lead.
Boston still outplayed St. Louis in the second period, outshooting the Blues 11-6 thanks to a tenacious forecheck that made breaking the puck out havoc for St. Louis. Once again though, Binnington stood tall. The Blues were helped out by the referees keeping their whistles quiet - only one penalty, a delay of game on Colton Parayko - was called throughout the whole game.
The Bruins kept applying pressure early in the 3rd, but were still down 2-0 at the period's halfway point. That was when the Bruins got their last best chance to get back in the game. Joakim Nordstrom seemingly had an open net to shoot at after a rebound in front, only to be robbed by the right pad of Binnington.
At the time, it looked like another tremendous save by Binnington. But time proved it to be the true turning point in the contest. Less than two minutes later, the Blues put the game away. Vladimir Tarasenko, usually the guy scoring the goals, set up ex-Flyer Brayden Schenn for a one-timer in the slot that Rask could not reach. Zach Sanford added insult to injury a few minutes later, and though Matt Grzelyck broke the shutout with 2:10 to go, the Blues lead was never in doubt after Schenn's tally.
The entire city of St. Louis collectively embraced once the clock hit zero. Their fans had sold out Enterprise Center and took up over 25,000 seats in Busch Stadium, the home of the Cardinals. Laila Anderson, a super Blues fan and an 11-year old girl fighting a life-threatening disease, was there to see it in person. The sight of one team celebrating their minds off every summer is always amazing. But it was even more special for the first-time champion Blues.
The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs taught us that nothing is impossible in the sport of hockey. All four division winners were defeated in the first round. The Lightning, who tied the record for most single season wins, were swept. And the Blues, who were last place in the NHL on January 2nd, rode to the promised land on the shoulders of a stable core and a red-hot rookie goalie.
General manager Doug Armstrong deserves gobs of credit for this victory. Last summer, he brought in Tyler Bozak, David Perron, and Patrick Maroon to fill roles up front, then pulled off the blockbuster trade for Ryan O'Reilly, who won the Conn Smythe. The summer before, he dealt two first round picks to the Flyers to supplement the core with Brayden Schenn. Most importantly, he did not panic when things went south, even if the Blues might not have been that far off from a fire sale, according to multiple reports.
The last two messages are ones the Flyers should take to heart this offseason. If Chuck Fletcher is aggressive and fills the holes on the Flyer roster, which are certainly fill-able, who knows what happens next year? If a team as far down in the dumps as St. Louis was can win the Cup, than who can't? Ok, maybe the Senators, but other than them? It's pretty wide open.
Next year finally came for the St. Louis Blues. For another group of players, coaches, and fans, their's will come in twelve months. If you want that to be you, well, it's time to get to work.
Ryan O'Reilly, who was tied with Brad Marchand for playoff-leading scorer with 23 points, was the first offseason acquisition to win the Conn Smythe in his first year with his new team since Bernie Parent for the Flyers in 1974.
This was the first time the Stanley Cup Finals have gone to seven games since 2011, when the Bruins defeated the Canucks on the road.
The last time both the NBA and NHL had their finals go to 7 games? 1994, when the Rangers defeated the Canucks and the Rockets beat the Knicks. That could happen again if Golden State beats the Toronto Raptors in the final ever game at Oracle Arena Thursday night.
One incredible thing to note about the Blues - no one on the team had ever won a Cup. Only one player (David Perron, in 2018 with Vegas) had even been to the Finals before.
Lastly, congratulations to former Flyers center Brayden Schenn, left winger Patrick Maroon (a former Flyer prospect), Michael Del Zotto (who spent the whole series in the press box), and coach Craig Berube on their first Stanley Cup.
June 15: First Buyout Window Opens
June 21-22: 2019 NHL Entry Draft (Flyers Hold #11 Pick)
June 23: Legal Tampering Period for UFAs Begin
July 1: Free Agency Begins at 12 PM EST