Jordan Binnington, Blues Head to Finals

Dan Dobish

The St. Louis Blues are headed to the Stanley Cup Finals to face the Boston Bruins. It will be their first trip since 1970 when they faced ... the Boston Bruins. It was an amazing night along the banks of the Mississippi River, as the Blues dominated the Sharks for a second consecutive game after winning 5-0 in Game 5 back in the Bay Area to take a 3-2 series lead. It was more of the same in Game 6, as the Sharks forgot how to score in one of the most crucial games of the season. Let’s get started!

It didn’t take long for the home side to get the raucous crowd at the Enterprise Center into a frenzy, as David Perron notched his sixth goal of the season on assists from Sammy Blais and Ryan O’Reilly just 92 seconds into regulation. The first period was going well for the home side, and it was about to go a lot better. At 16:09 of the first, Barclay Goodrow was whistled for tripping to give the home side a power play chance. It didn’t take long to cash in, as Vladimir Tarasenko collected his eighth goal of the postseason just seven seconds into the man advantage on helpers to Colton Parayko and O’Reilly, and the Blues took a 2-0 lead into the room after 20 minutes.

In the second period is when the Sharks struck for a goal, and it came off of the stick of Dylan Gambrell, who notched his first of the postseason on helpers from Joonas Donskoi and Martin Jones. That is the good news for San Jose. The bad news is that their goaltender had more points than the likes of Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Kevin Labanc, Timo Meier and Joe Thornton. It was a feel-good moment for Gambrell, but it was all downhill from there.

At 10:57 of the second period, Justin Braun was sent off for hooking. The St. Louis power play has been clicking lately, and this game was no exception. Brayden Schenn banged home his second of the playoffs on assists from Alex Pietrangelo and Robert Thomas, restoring the two-goal lead for the home side. It was about to get much worse. So much for that lack of depth from the St. Louis forwards, eh?

In the third period it was Tyler Bozak collecting his fifth of the playoffs on apples to Perron and O’Reilly, who finished with a three-assist night. That was the back breaker which sewed up the victory for the home side, and Ivan Barbashev tacked on his second of the playoffs on an empty netter, giving the Blues a 5-1 win, as Oskar Sundqvist also got onto the board with an assist.

It was more than enough support for Jordan Binnington, who allowed just one goal on 26 shots. The rookie, who burst onto the scene with a 1.89 goals-against average in 32 regular-season appearances, will face the organization he spent the 2017-18 season with for all of the marbles. Last season he went 17-9-0 with a 2.08 GAA and .927 save percentage in 28 games for Providence of the AHL, the top minor-league affiliate for the Bruins.

In Game 6, O’Reilly was the hero with the three helpers, but he also posted a plus-2 rating and a hit. Perron ended up with two points and a plus-2 rating. Sundqvist also finished with a game-high six hits, as no other Blues player had more than three hits. Joel Edmundson went scoreless, but he led the way with five blocked shots and a hit over 20:38 of ice time across 37 shifts. No Blues player managed more than three shots on net, as it was a very balanced attack. And only St. Louis native Patrick Maroon spent any time in the sin bin for the home side, finishing with three shots, the minor penalty and two hits over 10:10 of ice time.

As mentioned, it’s the first time the Blues are playing for the whole ball of wax since 1970 when they lost 4-0 in a series sweep against Bobby Orr and the Bruins. That was the series when the iconic diving goal-scoring photo of Orr was snapped, as the Parry Sound, Ontario native slipped one between the legs of Glenn Hall just 40 seconds into overtime, and NHL history was made. Who will make history in 2019 for either the Blues or the Bruins?

The teams first met on Jan. 17 in Boston, with the Bruins winning 5-2 behind 28 saves from Tuukka Rask. Torey Krug, Chris Wagner, Brad Marchand and Sean Kuraly each netter even-strength goals for the B’s, while David Backes notched a power-play marker against his former employer. O’Reilly and Carl Gunnarsson scored for the visitors, who were overmatched in that one. Jake Allen made the start, but took the loss. On Feb. 23, it was the Blues returning the favor with a 2-1 shootout win behind Binnington. He stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced, and goals by Alexander Steen and Wagner were the only markers of regulation.