Game 7 and thus the Stanley Cup Final ended in a 2:34 stretch in the third, and, on one level, Brayden Schenn’s goal to put the Blues up 3-0 was anticlimactic. Yes, it put the game functionally out of reach for the Bruins. But what it really meant was a stoppage in play, and so was the first time we’d get a look at replays of Jordan Binnington’s unbelievable save.
Binnington, so good bouncing back after losses in these playoffs, was a rock in the first period, standing up to a Boston barrage and stopping 12 shots, somehow keeping things scoreless until St. Louis could steal a couple in the final minutes. “Binner really set the tone for us early,” said Tyler Bozak. “They came out really hard. They got a lot of good scoring chances. And he shut the door.”
The Blues’ vaunted forecheck and neutral-zone harassment finally emerged after intermission, and the Bruins didn’t really get anything in the way of good chances until midway through the third. It’s not true that 2-0 is the most dangerous lead in hockey, but one goal would have completely changed the complexion of the game, and Joakim Nordstrom, gathering a rebound in front, should have scored that one goal. Binnington wasn’t having it.
Binnington stoned Nordstrom with his customary cool. Yes, every pro athlete has high levels of self-confidence, or else they don’t make it to the pro level, but the 25-year-old rookie has been unflappable from the moment he took over the starting job back in January. So why should that change at all in Game 7? “I wasn’t spending 6k on tickets [for friends and family] and not winning,” Binnington told teammates.
Or, in slightly more inspirational terms: “Man. Fuck everyone. You just got to believe in yourself and work hard and just keep believing.” Binnington finished second in Conn Smythe voting, but in a sign both of his youth and of how many of his teammates had waited so long for something like this, was only 14th in line to touch the Cup.
His 32 saves on the night were the most by a rookie goalie to clinch a Stanley Cup since the NHL started tracking shots, but none were bigger than the pad save on Nordstrom. Even if it was hard to see in realtime and from the press box angle, you could tell from the exasperation of the crowd and Doc Emrick’s voice breaking through to a dog-only register, that it had been a beaut. But the puck stayed in play for a comically long time, and it was still on the very same sequence, right around when you started wondering if hockey should take a page from soccer and show replays on a split screen, that Vladimir Tarasenko found Schenn for the one-time dagger.
What could have, should have been the Blues hanging onto a 2-1 lead was now 3-0 and all over but the swearing. We’ll never know what might’ve happened in a one-goal game with 11 minutes left, and the Bruins not forced to cheat up in their defensive end. Boston may wonder for a long time; St. Louis, thanks to Binnington, never has to.