Ignore the 5-1 final score. Far from a blowout, Game 6 had the feel of a rain-swollen reservoir. With the Blues one game away from their first Cup in franchise history, and 18,000 fans screaming so loudly that NBC didn’t even have to juice the crowd mic, and another 30,000 watching on screens outside, St. Louis was so ready to turn the game into a nightlong celebration that it felt like one Blues goal, one crack in the dam, would have brought a deluge.
It felt like that even after Brad Marchand got the Bruins on the board in the first, as Boston clung to a 1-0 lead for the next 34 minutes of game action. The Blues continually challenged, getting increasingly good chances on power plays, and momentum, such that it exists, was firmly in their favor despite trailing. All it would have taken was one St. Louis goal, but the dam held. Tuukka Rask held back the floods with a masterful 28-save performance, and is now 3-0 in elimination games this postseason with a .953 save percentage and a 1.33 GAA. But in this one, he got by with a little help from his friend.
Watch and listen to the crowd as daylight appears between the puck and Rask’s back on this chaotic chance midway through the second—the crowd is ready to lose its damn collective mind.
What isn’t clear in realtime is that the goal was saved by defenseman Charlie McAvoy, batting the puck out of the air and onto Rask, somehow—dark magic?—sliding up his back, under Rask’s arm, to be carried out of trouble.
It can be easy to forget the baseline superhumanity of top athletes, even on routine plays. Sometimes I remind myself just how incredible it is to be able to do something as routine as deflecting a slapshot on a tip drill. To do what McAvoy did here, to whack a moving puck out of mid-air with basically no warning that the puck would even be in mid-air, is basically unfathomable to a normal human being. “Just reflexes,” McAvoy said.
McAvoy was blasé about his save that might’ve saved so much more than just one goal, falling back on athletespeak until one reporter asked him about the feeling of knowing the entire season is perched on a razor’s edge. Only then did the 21-year-old blow out a big breath and acknowledge the pressure of being up against elimination.
“Man, it’s just like—I’m going through this and this is my first Stanley Cup and it’s just a lot, to be honest with you. Like the emotions involved. I mean, crap. It’s a lot.
“Our backs are against the wall. You have so many mixed emotions, you do whatever it takes. This is your dream to win this thing. When your back’s against the wall and you know they’re one win away, it hurts a little bit ... We’re a family. We believe in each other, we all love each other. Just the thought of it being over after tonight was terrifying.”
It’ll be over Wednesday in Boston, one way or another. It’ll be the first Game 7 in a Cup final since 2011—which was won by the Bruins, of course. Home teams are 12-4 in winner-take-all finals games, though road teams have won the last two. McAvoy won’t be thinking about any of that.
“Been dreaming of this moment my whole life, to win this trophy,” McAvoy said. “That’s really all it is, is just a dream. And then all of a sudden you’re here. You know, it’s gone by fast, we’re already in Game 7. I’ll be damned if I blink.”