2019 NHL Stanley Cup Finals Preview – Boston Bruins vs St. Louis Blues
This was probably one of the more disappointing NHL playoffs to watch, from my point of view, in a long time. Crappy seeding format, too many upsets in the first round, too many short series, too much cheating and crappy officiating. It was really only fitting we got two of the worst conference finals ever. One team got swept because it didn’t belong. The other conference final featured a team that sucked after it cheated for the last time. But for sticking with it, we should be rewarded with a great Stanley Cup Final.
The elephant in the room is the no call hand pass that helped the Sharks, of course, win a playoff game against the Blues. Many things in regards to officiating should be changed but without a doubt every aspect of an overtime playoff goal should automatically be reviewed. There is no excuse for it not to be already implemented.
A2 Boston Bruins vs. C3 St Louis Blues
Season Series: 1-1
Playoff Series History: 2-0 Bruins – Twice in the 70’s, both were sweeps and one was in the finals.
What We Learned: The Blues continued their improbable run all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. The Bruins swept the Hurricanes and they seem to be getting better as they advance.
Stars to Watch: Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron are really clicking right now. Their last few goals against the Hurricanes were something to watch. It’s also important to note that Marchand is in full pest mode. After Marchand took some shots at Justin Williams, Williams racked up quite a few penalty minutes and seemed rattled. I wouldn’t be surprised if he went after Schwartz or Tarasenko in this series. David Krejci and Charlie Coyle are still producing and creating opportunities. Zdeno Chara will be back from injury to eat up all the minutes on defense for the Bruins with Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy. Jaden Schwartz has come alive lately for the Blues. He is the only player to have two hat tricks this playoffs. Vladimir Tarasenko is scoring key goals but he still isn’t quite where he needs to be yet. Neither is Ryan O’Reilly. They’re both still carrying their negative plus minus. I find it significant because it’s extremely rare to have players on a team in the finals with a negative. Colton Parayko, Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo will eat up the defensive minutes for the Blues. Parayko has been particularly good.
X-Factor: Rest will be the biggest factor. Both teams will have a long rest and the Bruins will have a whopping 11 days off between games. Rust may be a factor for them early on but it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. The only player that might have a problem with it is Tuukka Rask. Being in a groove is important for a goalie. Having this much time off when you were in one is not good. It’s important to note in the last six Stanley Cup Finals the team with more rest lost. Even if it was only a day of more rest. The second biggest factor is the spotlight. When the Golden Knights, last season, and the Sharks, a few seasons ago, made their first Stanley Cup finals appearance I thought they would both win based on the way they had been playing. But both teams did a 180 and they played like the spotlight was too bright for them and they wilted under the pressure. Most of the Bruins have been here before. Most of the Blues have not. The first two games of the series will set the tone and tell you who will probably win.
Goalie Problem: Tuukka Rask has been on fire. During his seven game winning streak he has, technically, recorded three shutouts and a barrage of amazing saves. He isn’t quite at the level Jonathan Quick was in 2012 but he’s pretty close. The 11 day break will be his biggest challenge to date. If for some reason Rask were to get cold or injured, the Bruins do have a great insurance plan in Jaroslav Halak. Although it’s really odd it took him this long to get to the NHL, Jordan Binnington couldn’t have possibly played any better in his rookie season. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles the pressure here. He looked briefly rattled against the Jets and in Game 7 against the Stars but he battled through it. If Binnington gets injured or cold, the Blues are literally screwed.
Fun Fact: The Bruins have the number one playoff power play at 34%. The Blues are pretty far behind at 20%. Patrice Bergeron is winning 59% of his face-offs. He’s pretty much the top face-off man in the playoffs not on the Calgary Flames. The last time the Bruins swept a team in the conference finals was in 2013. They lost in the Stanley Cup finals to the Chicago Blackhawks in five games.
Prediction: Both of these teams have what it takes to win this series. Even though I wrote off the Blues countless times before, I’m very impressed with what they have accomplished. One thing I mentioned before was how nothing seems to phase them. They really proved that against the Sharks. After losing by a hand pass in overtime, they never lost again to the Sharks. That would have been a negative turning point for most teams. But the Blues turned it into a positive. History suggests the Blues will win here but when both teams are playing well, the determining factor for me will always be who has more talent. The Bruins have that advantage. This series should go long and it should, hopefully, have close games. Even though both teams scored about four goals a game in the conference finals, I don’t expect it to be high scoring. Mostly due to the hot goalies on both teams. Although the Bruins have four lines that can score, they won’t be able to win this series without their top line producing. If the top line of the Bruins can produce and Rask can stay hot, the Bruins will win. If not, the Blues will take it.