Bruins vs. Blues: 3 keys to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final
It all comes down to this.
On Wednesday night, the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins will do battle in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final - the NHL's first winner-take-all championship contest since 2011 and fourth of the salary-cap era.
The Blues fell short of clinching their first-ever Stanley Cup with an underwhelming performance in Game 6, but get another shot at glory. The Bruins, meanwhile, forced a Game 7 on home ice for the second time this postseason and seek their seventh Cup. If they win it, they'll move ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for the fourth-most championships in NHL history.
Before any hardware gets handed out, let's go over three keys to determining the newest champions of the NHL.
Tuukka Rask and Jordan Binnington have gotten their respective teams to this point with displays of dominance throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While both players will be a major factor in who comes out on top Wednesday, it's nearly impossible to declare who has the edge.
Rask has posted a .938 save percentage across 23 playoff games so far and is a shoo-in for the Conn Smythe if he secures his 16th win of the tournament. The 32-year-old Finn has been at his best with the Bruins facing elimination, allowing only four goals in three games with a .953 save clip.
Binnington is no slouch either, though, and has delivered time and time again with his Blues facing adversity. St. Louis' unflappable rookie netminder is 7-2 - and 2-0 in the final - coming off a loss this postseason.
Special teams vs. even strength
Penalty trouble immediately sunk the Blues in Game 6, as Brad Marchand's five-on-three opener gave the Bruins momentum they never relinquished. It wasn't the first time this series Boston's taken over a game with its lethal power play, doing the same in Game 3 with an absurd 4-for-4 performance. The B's enter Game 7 operating at 33 percent with the man advantage in the final and will surely look to seize any opportunity handed to them.
The Blues' penalty kill has been torn apart and their power play hasn't been great either, going just 1-for-18 so far against the Bruins. Ensuring the game is played at even strength has to be a major focal point for coach Craig Berube and his squad, who've owned a slight advantage in most metrics.
(Advanced stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick)
Anyone can become a hero with a big performance in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, and depth scoring can often play a big role in determining the winner of a do-or-die matchup.
The Blues could use some extra production in the season finale, as only eight skaters have scored a goal and just three have recorded more than one. That said, St. Louis will be back at full strength for Game 7 with Ivan Barbashev set to return from a one-game suspension.
The Bruins, on the other hand, have benefited from contributions across the board, with 15 different skaters finding the back of the net in the Cup Final and 21 overall in the playoffs, matching an NHL record, according to Sportsnet Stats.