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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Stanley Cup Final preview

The St Louis Blues will play the Boston Bruins for the 2019 Stanley Cup.  This is the rematch of the 1970 Stanley Cup final with the Bruins sweeping the Blues 4-0 and giving us one of the most iconic moments in Stanley Cup history with Bobby Orr scoring the game winning goal and jumping in the air to celebrate in the "Leap of Faith".  This is the first appearance in the finals for Boston since 2011 when the Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks in 7 games.  This is the first appearance in the finals for the Blues since 1970 and they have never won a Stanley Cup.

The Bruins had a solid regular season tying for the 2nd most points in the league with the Calgary Flames with 107 points but only finished 2nd in the Atlantic Division behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.  It appeared the road to the final for the Bruins would be a difficult trek as they had to play a very good Toronto Maple Leafs team in the 1st round and had to go 7 games to win that series.  They got a huge break not having to play the Lightning in the 2nd round as they were upset by the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Bruins disposed of the Blue Jackets in 6 games.  The Bruins then dominated the Carolina Hurricanes in the conference finals sweeping them in 4 games.

The Blues at one time during the NHL regular season had the least overall points.  They fired head coach Mike Yeo on November 20th and hired Craig Berube as interim coach.  Everything eventually came together for the Blues at the start of the new year once Jordan Binnington took over as the starting goaltender and starting on January 23rd they went on an almost month long 11 game winning streak and finished the regular season winning their last 8 of 10.  They finished tied for 2nd in the Central Division with the Winnipeg Jets with 99 points but had to play the Jets on the road in the 1st round of the playoffs per losing the tiebreaker on regular season wins.  The Blues eventually beat the Jets in 6 games, beat the Dallas Stars in the 2nd round in dramatic fashion winning the decisive 7th game in double overtime, and in the Western Conference finals beat the San Jose Sharks in 6 games winning the last 3 in the series.

The Bruins will go into this series as the favorite and will have home ice per having more points during the regular season.  Game 1 is Monday night, May 28th in Boston at the TD Garden.

Here is an analysis of the head to head match-ups in the series


Boston Tuukka Rask:  He has been spectacular in the playoffs and is the current favorite for the Conn Smythe Trophy as Most Valuable Player.  In the playoffs he has a 1.84 GAA and a save percentage of .942.  He gave up 4 goals in game 1 of the playoffs against the Maple Leafs but has not given up more than 3 goals in any of his other playoff games and in the series against Carolina in four games only gave up 5 goals in the entire series.  The veteran was the starting goaltender when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, has played every minute of every game during the playoffs,  and is in A+ form right now.

St Louis Jordan Binnington:  Almost came from nowhere as he was not part of the Blues goalie rotation at the start of the regular season but once he became the starter he was arguably the MVP in the 2nd half of the regular season posting a 1.89 GAA and .927 save percentage with 5 shutouts.  In the playoffs Binnington has been rock solid posting a 2.36 GAA and .914 save percentage.  In games decided by a single goal in the playoffs Binnington is 8-3. After getting roughed up in games 1 & 3 in the Western Conference finals Binnington gave up only 2 goals in the next 3 games to close it out.  Like Rask, Binnington has played every minute of every game during the playoffs and has proved he can handle the playoff pressure and has come up with some huge 3rd period and OT saves.

Forward Lines

Boston:  It has been no surprise that the big scorers for the Bruins during the regular season Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, and Patrice Bergeron have produced during the playoffs.  They have combined for 26 goals and 34 assists in the playoffs with Marchand 2nd overall in scoring.  Also those 4 players are a combined +30 for their +/- during the playoffs.  The big surprise for the Bruins has been the contributions from their 3rd and 4th lines.  Charlie Coyle has 6 goals in the playoffs after only scoring 12 goals during the regular season and they have also gotten huge contributions from Marcus Johansson, Jake DeBrusk, Sean Kuraly, and Chris Wagner.

St Louis:  The big story for the Blues in the playoffs has been the emergence of Jaden Schwartz who has scored 12 goals in the playoffs after only scoring 11 goals during the regular season in 69 games.  If the Blues win the Stanley Cup and Schwartz delivers in the finals he in all likelihood would win the Conn Smythe.  Vladimir Tarasenko who struggled during the 2nd round against the Dallas Stars came alive against San Jose with 3 goals and 5 assists.  Tyler Bozak, Patrick Maroon, David Perron, and Oscar Sundqvist have combined for 18 goals and 20 assists during the playoffs while being +13.  And even though he only has 1 goal and 5 assists during the playoffs watch out for 19 year old Robert Thomas. Very skilled with the puck and a natural goal scorer he could emerge as a major threat in the finals. 


Boston:  Future Hall of Famer Zdeno Chara at age 42 has showed no signs of slowing down and has been his usual huge physical presence during the playoffs.  He is leading all defensemen in +/- at +11.  After struggling with injuries during the regular Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy have also been part of a solid blue line during the playoffs.  Krug and McAvoy have combined for 17 assists with a combined +/- of +15.  They have also got a surprise contribution from Matt Grzelcyk with 3 goals and 4 assists for the playoffs after only scoring 3 goals with 15 assists during the regular season in 66 games.

St Louis:  Even though they don't have a huge scoring presence at the blue line they are an underrated unit who play a very physical style.  Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko are the leaders on the defensive side and have combined for 21 assists and have averaged close to 25 minutes per game on ice. At age 35 Jay Bouwmeester has been a nice veteran presence and the Blues defenders with their defensive style have a chance to frustrate the big scoring line for the Bruins.

Special Teams

Boston:  The Bruins power play has been scorching in the playoffs scoring at a 34% clip while killing 86.3 % of their opponents power plays. 

St Louis:  The Blues power play is converting on 19.4% in the playoffs while killing 78% of their opponents power plays. 

Pick:  I will be pulling for St Louis and if Binnington can outplay Rask and Schwartz can continue his incredible run the Blues can win this series.  But I will go with Boston since Rask is playing at his peak right now, the Bruins have the more dangerous scoring lines with a hot power play, and have been more mistake free during these playoffs

Bruins in 6 games


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