And so it is – another DraftAmerica prediction comes to fruition!
Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true, because the Stanley Cup has yet to be played, but we have the matchup I expected. No, of course it wasn’t going to be the Lightning, who were gloriously set up to fail in 2019. It wasn’t going to be the Capitals, they of their one miracle run in 2018 and now back to reality. Of course it was going to be these two familiar sports cities clashing in another title affair. So who has the edge? I put my strong championship track record to the test as we dive a little deeper into the Bruins-Blues Stanley Cup showdown as Boston aims for its 13th sports title of the 21st Century:
The Bruins have it all covered, it seems. They score goals when they need to and even sometimes when they don’t. Brad Marchand (18) is the leading point-getter among remaining players (Logan Couture of the Sharks had 20), and the B’s have eight players with at least three goals this postseason. Jaden Schwartz (12) and Vladimir Tarasenko (8) have combined for 20 of the Blues’ 57 playoff goals thus far, and slowing them down will be a big challenge. Boston will need continued contributions from its secondary lines if they are unable to contain St. Louis’ top two scorers, but the B’s still have a better goals per game average than the Blues (3.35 to 3.00). Edge: Even.
Turnovers have been a problem at times for the Blues. When they turn the puck over, their defense has been exposed, which would explain the Bruins’ edge in goals against per game (1.94 to 2.53). In any sport, the team with the defensive edge almost always seems to prevail in championship games/series. However, the Blues enter this series allowing four fewer shots per game than the Bruins. Edge: Bruins.
The Blues did not have Jordan Binnington in net when they were thumped, 5-2, by the Bruins back in January. Binnington had a huge game in St. Louis’ 2-1 home win over the B’s in February, and he has been stellar this postseason. Unfortunately for the Blues, they will be facing the one goalie who has actually been better than Binnington these past six weeks in Tuukka Rask. The only question is whether the long layoff will hurt Rask. His numbers have been other-worldly this postseason, as he has allowed a minuscule 1.84 goals per game while posting a .942 save percentage and two shutouts. Binnington is 12-7 with strong numbers of his own, including a 2.36 goals against average and .914 save percentage, but as long as Rask does not suddenly fall off a cliff, the Bruins have the better netminder in this one. Edge: Bruins.
Let’s give Craig Berube his due – he has completely turned this club around from being in the basement at the start of the calendar year. The Blues are as cohesive a team as any and Berube has continued to make strong adjustments even as his team faced tough competition and even tougher goaltending in the case of Ben Bishop. Bruce Cassidy has asserted himself as one of the game’s best and his best coaching work this postseason has lied in the fact that the Bruins have trailed at four different points in a series this postseason, yet have remained mentally tough and rallied every time. This is about as deadlocked as it gets. Edge: Even.
This seems pretty obvious, right? I mean, after all, is there a better story than the Blues making their first Cup final in 49 years in a season where they once resided in the basement of the league standings? Road wins, comebacks, surviving controversy, the Blues have it all going right… eh, not so fast. This is Boston we’re talking about here. A city with 12 titles under its belt this century, three of those at the expense of St. Louis. The Bruins posted the league’s second-most points in 2019 and are just as battle-tested as the Blues, having trailed at four different points in a series this postseason. The B’s still have a number of players who won a Cup championship back in 2011, and it seems like Cassidy is making all the right adjustments. You can cite a long layoff for the Bruins, but the Blues will have been off six days themselves. St. Louis has played great on the road this postseason (7-2), but that will be offset by Boston’s strong play at home (6-3). It seems that the fact that the Blues have turned into America’s darlings will work against them here, as the Bruins are plenty comfortable playing the role of villain. Edge: Bruins.
It’s really hard to envision the Blues completing this drastic turnaround, especially against a team as strong and hungry as Boston. The Bruins’ window may not be closing rapidly, but there is a sense of urgency for a lot of veterans getting one more crack at the Cup (or in the case of ex-Blues star David Backes, a first crack). The rest will outweigh the rust for the Bruins as they continue to wear down opponents with their physical style of play, and they are plenty comfortable playing on the road with their backs against the wall if they drop one of the first two games at home. Pick: Bruins in 5.