Who played well in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final? Sometimes it's easy to tell, sometimes it isn't. NHL.com graded the players in the 4-1 victory by the St. Louis Blues against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Wednesday that gave the Blues their first championship. Here are the players and trends that stood out the most.
[RELATED: Complete Stanley Cup Final coverage]
Ryan O'Reilly (Blues) -- The center has been the best player in the Final and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. O'Reilly, who had three goals in his first 22 playoff games this season, has five in his past four games and is the first player since Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers in 1985 (seven goals) to score in four straight games in the Final. Fourteen players have scored in four straight games in the Final series in NHL history. O'Reilly is also the second player in NHL history to score the first goal in three games of the same Final, joining Alf Skinner of the PCHA's Vancouver Millionaires in 1921.
Video: STL@BOS, Gm7: O'Reilly receives Conn Smythe Trophy
Jordan Binnington (Blues) -- The goalie bounced back yet again, winning for the eighth time in 10 games immediately following a loss, a postseason record. He also became the first rookie to win 16 games in a postseason and the first to win 10 road games, tying a record held by Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils (1995, 2000), Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings (2012), Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals (2018) and Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames (2004). Binnington, who made 32 saves, is the fourth rookie to win a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final, joining Frank McCool of the Toronto Maple Leafs (1945), Ken Dryden of the Montreal Canadiens (1971) and Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes (2006).
Video: STL@BOS, Gm7: Binnington dazzles in Game 7 victory
Alex Pietrangelo (Blues) -- The captain's fingerprints were all over this game. He was on the ice for each of the four goals by the Blues, made a beautiful shot to score the game-winning goal and had an assist on the game-opening goal. He had three shots on goal and blocked four shots in 25:56.
Video: STL@BOS, Gm7: Pietrangelo beats Rask late in 1st
Zach Sanford (Blues) -- He scored his first postseason goal on a one-timer off a pass from David Perron to make it 4-0 at 15:22 of the third period. The goal came against the team he cheered for as a kid growing up in New Hampshire and with his family looking on. In five games against the Bruins, after he was inserted into the lineup for Game 3, he had four points (one goal, three assists) and eight shots.
Torey Krug (Bruins) -- The defenseman played 26:26, the most among any Bruins skater, and led the team with four shots on goal, nine shot attempts and eight hits.
Blues fans (up) -- St. Louis supporters claimed every ticket for the watch party at Enterprise Center for Game 7 in a matter of minutes, so they opened up Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, and the fans packed that stadium as well despite some passing thunderstorms. As a bonus, Blues fans in the Philadelphia area packed The Jack's NYB in Philadelphia beyond capacity to watch the game. At TD Garden, a large contingent of Blues supporters pressed against the glass around the rink to see the players with the Stanley Cup.
Sammy Blais (up) -- The Blues forward did not have much of an impact in the first six games, held without a point and was minus-3 with eight penalty minutes. But he made the play to set up the first goal in Game 7, winning a battle along the boards to get the puck to Pietrangelo at the blue line for the pass to Jay Bouwmeester, who took the shot that was tipped by O'Reilly for a 1-0 lead at 16:47 of the first period.
Brad Marchand (down) -- The Bruins forward made a critical mistake on his last shift of the first period. After the Bruins had some sustained pressure in the attacking zone, Marchand was stranded as the last man back as St. Louis carried the puck up the ice. He tried to stand Jaden Schwartz up at the blue line but missed and went for a change. Schwartz than won a race for the puck in the corner and fed Pietrangelo, who went forehand-backhand over Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask for a 2-0 lead at 19:52 of the first.
Charlie McAvoy (down) -- The Bruins defenseman, so effective for much of the series, struggled in Game 7. He played 26:02 and had one shot attempt, a missed shot in the third period. He was one the ice for the goals by Pietrangelo and Brayden Schenn.
Craig Berube (up) -- The Blues coach made all the right moves in this series. He never panicked and he believed in his group, even after two very difficult loses in Games 3 and 6 at home. He rode his big three defensemen hard in Game 7 -- Bouwmeester (28:34), Parayko (27:37) and Pietrangelo (25:56) -- and with devastating effect, particularly against Boston's top line of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, which struggled to produce at 5-on-5 throughout the series.
Video: STL@BOS, Gm7: Berube on winning the Stanley Cup
What we learned
First-period dominance wasted by Bruins
The Bruins played exactly the game they wanted for the first 16 minutes, dominating the Blues for long stretches and forcing Binnington to make several big saves. The Bruins had seven shots when O'Reilly scored on the third shot of the period by the Blues. They had a 12-4 advantage in shots when Pietrangelo scored in the dying seconds of the period. After two periods, the Bruins had a 23-10 advantage but trailed by two goals.
Blues surgical with their opportunities
The Blues were not good offensively. They could not create zone time on a regular basis and their cycle only appeared for isolated spurts. As a result, they were outshot 33-20. But they made the most of their opportunities, especially on the counter. Pietrangelo's goal was a perfect example, coming on a counter-attack at the end of a long shift by the Bruins top line. It gave the Blues two goals on four shots heading into the intermission and they never looked back.