Every kid who grows up playing hockey, dreams about playing in the Stanley Cup Final for their hometown team. For Zach Sanford that dream will become a half reality in Game 3, as he suits up for the St. Louis Blues, not the Boston Bruins.
Sanford, who is originally from Salem Massachusetts but grew up in Manchester New Hampshire after the family moved there when he was young, bonded over hockey with his father Mike Sanford, specifically watching Bruins hockey. Unfortunately, Mike will not be there in person to see his son play as he passed away in September when Zach was in training camp.
“I’ve thought about him a lot this year, wishing he was there for different things,” Sanford told the media. “He’s definitely watching up there and he’s definitely freaking out right now. He was a huge Bruins fan, so to go on the ice in the Cup finals against a team like that is pretty special.”
Sanford finds himself in the lineup for the Blues as Oskar Sundqvist was suspended one game for his hit on Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk.
“It’s a little weird playing against your team growing up,” Sanford told the media on Friday. “I was even talking to my mom. She was at the games in Boston and she caught herself cheering for the Bruins here and there and had to fix that.”
Sanford has not seen action in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the first round against the Winnipeg Jets. Through 60 regular season Sanford had 20 points (8 goals, 12 assists) and was a plus 8. Head Coach Craig Berube is confident Sanford can make an impact in Game 3 against the Bruins.
“He’s got some experience this year in the playoffs,” Berube told reporters prior to Game 3. “He’s a good defensive player, penalty-killer, so that was one of the reasons we went with him.”
Even though he has not seen game action since the first round, Sanford continues to prepare through hard post practice work on the ice to go back in the lineup whenever he name was called. He has also kept mentally sharp when he has watched games from the press box.
“That’s been a lot of my mentality trying to get ready, is just being ready for that physical game,” Sanford told the media. “Being one of the bigger guys, I think I need to bring that and be throwing the body around and getting in on the forecheck, and if I can do that and help out I think we’ll be pretty successful.”
No playoff experience will compare to what it is like to play in the Stanley Cup Final, especially since it is against his childhood team the Bruins. Sanford knows there will definitely be nerves, but will need to keep things simple and play smart when he takes the ice.
“You just have to try to turn (nerves) into some energy,” Sanford told the media. “A big thing is just keeping it simple, using my speed and size. Hopefully I can shake the nerves early, get a couple hits, get a couple puck plays and go from there.”
One thing Sanford can lean on is his past experiences in big games from high school, juniors, and college, though nothing compares to a game in the Stanley Cup Final. He can also talk with the veterans on the team to get a feel for what the atmosphere will be like in the Stanley Cup Final.
Game 3 between the Bruins and Blues is scheduled for 8pm ET.