Playoffs Dayoffs: Preview and discussion thread, 6/9

The Cup is in the building. This is not a drill

Despite reports to the contrary, the St. Louis Blues are still one win away from their first ever Stanley Cup championship. In what has become a dishearteningly recurring theme this postseason, the Blues’ run to what could have been a historic moment for the franchise and the league is tainted by controversy.

That controversy was thrust into the spotlight when Ryan O’Reilly opened the scoring with six Blues skaters on the ice. That controversy was thrust another, different spotlight when David Perron scored what stood up to be the Blues’ game winning goal just seconds after Tyler Bozak slew footed murdered obliterated slammed head first into the hard ice tripped Boston Bruin Noel Acciari, removing him from the play.

Maybe this is a normal result of a league whose parity is ever increasing. When teams are as evenly matched as they seem to be, especially in the playoffs, a missed call here or there can have huge implications, and it’s possible that we aren’t seeing more bad officiating, just that its impact is greater.

Maybe it’s a result of officials who have spent decades defending their roles as game managers, and a fan base and media who look at a lopsided penalty count at the end of the game and assume the lesser penalized team got away with one. If officials are concerned with the number of calls each team is getting in relation to each other, it was only a matter of time before one (or in this case, two) team(s) learned that subsequent infractions in a game or series would be punished less to maintain some veneer of equity.

Maybe it’s a grand conspiracy, and the league and their officials are holed up in a board room right now planning how to spin this script into a triumphant and historic win in a huge and lucrative hockey market like Boston St. Louis, cackling maniacally in front of a fireplace as they watch their stock tickers churn out their millions and swirl cognac in snifters.

Or maybe Blues head coach Craig Berube was on to something when he complained loudly (and inaccurately) that his team had been the least penalized through three rounds and that the standards had changed. Maybe in order to create an officiating imbalance, all the team needs to do is create a perception of an officiating imbalance, truth be damned. If that’s the case, will Bruce Cassidy’s comments after Game 5 have an impact tonight? Tune in to find out, if your blood pressure can handle it.

What’s on tap

Boston Bruins at St. Louis Blues Game 6 (STL leads 3-2)
5 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS
On the ice, the big story of Game 5 was how well the Blues weathered the Bruins storm through the early parts of the game. With captain Zdeno Chara playing with a broken jaw and a cage, the Bruins game out blazing hot at home, out shooting St. Louis 17-8 and out chancing them 15-7. The difference wasn’t entirely Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington, but he sure helped. Binnington has been solid, if unspectacular this postseason, with a .913 save percentage and a goals saved above average of -2.38, but his performance in Game 5 was excellent.

Heading into this series, we were all very concerned with how the Blues would solve Tuukka Rask, but if Binnington can keep holding the Bruins to one goal on every 39 shots on goal, they won’t have to solve him nearly as often.

Who’s hot?

Charlie Coyle: With three goals and four points in his last four games, the former Sharks prospect has become the linchpin of Boston’s offense. However, on a team with Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Patrice Bergeron on the top line, having the linchpin of offense be Coyle is probably not a good thing. Just a thought.

Zach Sanford: With Berube’s decision to promote Sanford up onto O’Reilly’s wing, the former Washington Capital has thrived. Three primary assists in three games later, the most recent a filthy no look pass from behind the net to O’Reilly in Game 5, Sanford has arrived a Stanley Cup Final hero, the gravity of which has yet to be determined.

We’re watching

The Cup. Lord Stanley’s all important chalice is in the building in St. Louis for tonight’s game, and one of these teams will leave with it. Boston would just be taking it home to store in their building for three days or so, but the overly poetic prose still applies.

Every team that makes it to or through a Stanley Cup Final gets a lot of breaks, and whether those come in the form of lucky bounces and missed calls, or within the bones of their opponents, they help. The Blues have done an excellent job of making sure both of those types of breaks work in their favor, as Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk will miss his third game after being hit in the head by Oskar Sundqvist and Chara will likely play fewer than ten minutes because of his broken jaw (to be clear: I’m not trying to equivocate those two events, I think the Sundqvist hit was reckless, dangerous, irresponsible, and endemic of a pattern of this type of behavior from this team and the Chara injury was a freak accident).

The Blues, for their part, will play without Ivan Barbashev, serving a one game suspension for a high hit on Tomas Hertl Marcus Johansson. The 2018-19 season could end tonight and, as many Blues fans have undoubtedly told you, they don’t ask how, just how many. On the other hand, there are probably more than a few Dallas Stars fans who remember their 1999 Cup win who will remind you that, sometimes, they actually do ask how.