An 82-game regular season and two pressure-packed months of playoff hockey have taken NHL fans on an exhilarating adventure, one filled with myriad memories and answers to every question except the identity of the champion. The wild ride enters its final turn on Wednesday as the visiting St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins battle for supremacy in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
While the City of Boston prepares to host its first Game 7 in a championship round since the NBA's Celtics in 1984, the core group of Bruins -- namely Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, captain Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask -- previously traversed this terrain by suiting up in a winner-take-all contest in Vancouver in 2011. "(The) leadership group's been there; they've been in a Game 7 before, in the Stanley Cup Final," Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. "They've lived it. We've been in Game 7 at home against Toronto this (season). Stanley Cup's not at stake, but if you don't win (that game), you have no chance at (the Cup)." St. Louis' chances for its first championship in franchise history looked bleak at best just three days into the calendar year, with the club residing in the basement of the league's standings. "Listen, if you told me four months ago we were going to be in the finals in Game 7, I think I'd take it," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "We've been a good road team (9-3 in the playoffs). We've won twice up there in this series, so we're a confident group."
ABOUT THE BLUES: Ryan O'Reilly has scored four goals and set up another in his last three games to push his overall playoff point total to 21 (seven goals, 14 assists), matching a franchise record with Hall of Famers Doug Gilmour (1986), Bernie Federko (1986) and Brett Hull (1990). Jordan Binnington, who yielded four goals on 31 shots in a 5-1 setback in Game 6 on Sunday, will have a second chance to set the single postseason rookie win total of 16 should he rebound after a loss. The 25-year-old has posted a 7-2 mark with a 1.86 goals-against average in games after defeats in the playoffs.
ABOUT THE BRUINS: Rask added to his potential Conn Smythe Trophy-winning resume by turning aside 28 shots on Sunday, including 12 while St. Louis was on the power play. The 2014 Vezina Trophy recipient sports a sparkling .938 save percentage in the playoffs, a total that elevates to .973 (145 saves on 149 shots) in elimination games this spring. Rask, who served as a backup to Tim Thomas on Boston's 2011 championship-winning team, was stellar for all but a disastrous 17-second span in the Bruins' eventual Stanley Cup Final run that resulted in a heartbreaking loss to Chicago.
1. Home teams own a 12-4 record in Game 7s of the Stanley Cup Final, although the road club has won each of the last two (Pittsburgh in 2009, Boston in 2011).
2. Like the Bruins, the Blues also captured a win in Game 7 of the 2019 playoffs after St. Louis native Patrick Maroon scored in double overtime against Dallas on May 7.
3. Chara will play in his 14th Game 7, passing Hall of Famers Patrick Roy and Scott Stevens for the most in the NHL.