I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish.” That certainly applied to game one of the Stanley Cup Finals for St. Louis against Boston. It couldn’t have gotten off to a better start for the Blues, surviving some early tests and holding onto the lead. After that point, the whole game changed, and not for the better.
Binnington making an early impact
Among the storylines heading into the finals, the comparison between Jordan Binnington and Tuukka Rask was one of the most impactful. You look at Rask, a proven veteran who had led the Bruins to a Stanley Cup in the past decade. On the flip side, Binnington has rookie status, has a very good chance to win Rookie of the Year and has helped the Blues get to the finals for the first time in a half-century.
Binnington has the chance to be one of the best rookies in history if he finds a way to win the Cup. Already showing he can bounce back from poor performances in net, he is the real deal.
Boston was able to test him early, throwing several attempts at him, but none actually got through. After the Blues started to get their legs, the chances went down for the Bruins and increased for the boys in Blue.
Some extended pressure allowed for St. Louis to turn the tide, putting some pressure on Rask and the Bruins defense. Rask made an initial save but was no match for the comebacker off the stick of Brayden Schenn.
That would be the only goal the Blues would score, but they maintained the lead with their rookie standing strong.
St. Louis didn’t have many opportunities to cash in on mistakes by the Bruins, but a costly one early in the second would swing their way. What can only be explained as a poor play on defense, expecting a pass to be picked up by their teammate, went awry. Schenn stole away the pass off the boards, centered it to the front of the crease, and Vladimir Tarasenko did the rest.
Just like that, it was 2-0 and everything seemed peachy for the Blues. They couldn’t have asked for a better start considering their overwhelming inexperience matched with playing in a hostile environment.
But then, things came unraveled and in a hurry. What’s really to blame for the change of pace? Well, there are a couple of explanations.
All downhill from here..
It’d be easy to say that Binnington somehow looked more human in the second and third periods, but then again, he faced 18 shots alone in the second. Once Boston shook off their rust, it was a lot of the Blues playing defense and rarely getting chances to take back some momentum.
His teammates really weren’t providing much support though. While they managed to affect some shots of the Bruins, they didn’t deflect enough and turned the puck over too much. One instance when Oskar Sundqvist turned over the puck in the neutral zone, eventually leading to a Boston goal.
Another key element to the Blues losing their momentum? Penalties. Big time penalties. Though their PK was solid through half the game, the chances kept coming for Boston. To make matters worse, they were dumb penalties. One example is when Joel Edmundson was called for High-Sticking. Playing the role of instigator all night, Edmundson clearly checked his opponent in the mouth, and for extra measure, checked him in the head when he was down.
Follow that up five minutes later with a cross-check into the boards from Sundqvist. This time, it would be costly, as Boston would tie the score 2-2. At that point, all the momentum had vanished, and the crowd had become a factor as well.
By the time the Blues had another quality chance, they trailed 4-2 after giving up a goal early in the third and an empty net goal late. A final charge in the last seconds, after pulling Binnington again, but came up empty.
So, are the Blues in trouble? They very well might be if Boston picks up where they left off. However, it’s just one game and a lot can happen in 60 minutes. If trends continue, Binnington will be even better for game two but that won’t matter if his teammates don’t do their job.