There was a great Game Seven played in St. Louis last night between the Stars and Blues. The two Central Division rivals gave everything in a do or die situation that required double overtime to decide.
Despite remarkable dominance and puck possession by the Blues in the second and third periods, they could not beat Ben Bishop. He was a brick wall. Astonishingly, the Vezina candidate was a one man wrecking crew who prevented the home team from winning the deciding seventh game more comfortably.
Instead, they had to dig very deep to earn an emotional 2-1 win in a memorable Game Seven won by deserving hero Pat Maroon at 85:50 of the second overtime. That’s because following a evenly played first period in which Vince Dunn and Mats Zuccarello exchanged goals 2:25 apart, Bishop basically kept his team alive by himself.
Unbelievably, the Blues outshot the Stars 31-4 in the second and third periods. That included a lopsided 18-1 in period two. No matter what they threw at him, St. Louis couldn’t solve Bishop, who was heroic making a career high 52 saves in defeat.
Once it reached sudden death, anything was possible. The Blues continued to be aggressive searching for the one goal they needed. They had 11 of the first 17 shots in the first overtime including some close calls on Bishop, who was seeing everything.
As the overtime went on, the Stars’ confidence grew. They had a couple of close calls against Blues rookie Jordan Binnington. Zuccarello passed up a shot opportunity on a point blank chance. He passed across for Alex Radulov, who was open. But the pass just missed due to a St. Louis stick breaking it up. What if Zucc had taken the shot? We’ll never know.
Given how dangerous the St. Louis top line of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko were, Blues fans had to be worried about Bishop stealing it. All it would take is one chance for the Stars to break Blues hearts. A wrap around by Jamie Benn almost ended it, but Binnington got the puck on the goal line with his outstretched pads to keep it out. That close.
Both NBCSN studio analysts Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp liked how Blues rookie Robert Thomas was playing. He had been creating chances. Already with an assist on the lone St. Louis goal scored by Dunn, he made the emotional OT winner happen.
Off a clean face-off win from Tyler Bozak, Thomas got a small pick from Maroon. That allowed him to skate in and get free of Dallas defenseman John Klingberg and fire a good shot off the goalpost. The puck took a favorable Blues bounce off the back of Bishop right to Maroon, who deposited the rebound for the biggest goal of his life. It touched off a great celebration.
The former Devil, who phoned St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong last summer about wanting the chance to play for his hometown team, became an unlikely hero. The kind you love if you’re a hockey fan. Maroon’s son Anthony was brought to tears by the emotional winner scored by Dad. It’s the kinda heartwarming story we love.
True enough, I picked him to win the game in the famous #bucciovertimechallenge. That was for the first overtime. So, I had a hunch he’d get a garbage goal. But was off by 5:50. I took David Perron in the second overtime.
It’s always cool to watch a team celebrate a series win. Especially when it requires an all or nothing Game Seven and sudden death. There’s nothing more dramatic.
I also felt bad for Bishop, who played the game of his career. He previously was 2-0 in seventh games with two shutouts. One I’d soon rather forget. In his first loss, he allowed two goals on 54 shots. A truly remarkable performance in a heartbreaking defeat.
The handshake is one of the best traditions in the playoffs. After such a hard fought series in which the two rivals gave it all they had, you could see the mutual respect between players and coaches from each side during it. There were lots of hugs and well wishes.
A pretty cool behind the scenes look at Maroon’s heroics and postgame celebration with proud teammates in the winning locker room. Plus his son wearing his t-shirt and watching Dad bask in the moment.
That was only the Blues’ second home Game Seven since 1986. They won that one too over the Maple Leafs. Also a Round Two victory before losing to the Flames in the Conference Finals.
Ironically, the last time they reached the Final Four was in 2016. They lost to the Sharks in the Western Conference Final. A San Jose win tonight on home ice against Colorado would guarantee a rematch of three years ago.
Don’t forget at one point in early January, these same Blues were 31st in the standings just after interim coach Craig Berube took over. They’ve been incredible since Binnington became the starter. Now, they’ve beaten both Winnipeg and Dallas in two closely fought series.
The Blues haven’t made the Stanley Cup Final since 1970 when they made a third consecutive appearance following Expansion. They were swept by the Bruins. The losses in ’68 and ’69 were to the Canadiens. Also sweeps.
This is the fourth chance St. Louis will have to get back to the Final. They’re not here without the hometown hero. Maroon also notched the game-winner in Game Three. Now, he and the Blues await the winner between the Avalanche and Sharks in another Game Seven.