May 26, 2019
By Frank Ammirante
2018-19 St. Louis Blues & Boston Bruins Season Series Recap
Jan. 17, 2019 – STL 2 BOS 5
Feb. 23, 2019 – BOS 1 STL 2 (SO)
NHL Stanley Cup Finals Series Matchups
St. Louis Blues – Even Strength Forward Lines
Bruins – Even Strength Forward Lines
The Blues have a balanced forward group, with a nice combination of size, skill, and toughness. Jaden Schwartz has had a terrific postseason, scoring 12 goals in 19 games played. Vladimir Tarasenko had a huge series vs. the San Jose Sharks, tallying 3 goals and 5 assists in 6 games. That bodes well for St. Louis, because Tarasenko only had 5 points in the previous 13 playoff games. It’s good news for the team to have their most talented player find his form at the right time. Ryan O’Reilly is one of the best two-way centers in the game and I expect his line to be matched up with the Bruins’ top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak. I think O’Reilly is probably as good of an option as there is in the league at this particular job. The line of Pat Maroon-Tyler Bozak-Robert Thomas has done a great job providing secondary scoring for St. Louis. The Blues have strong depth throughout their four lines which will be a handful for the Bruins’ blueline.
Boston’s top line is the best in the NHL. They combined for 6 goals and 8 assists in the series vs. Carolina. David Krejci has also had a strong postseason, totalling 4 goals and 10 assists. The additions of Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson at the trade deadline have been huge for the team, as they have added size and experience to a strong forward group. Finally, Sean Kuraly has helped make the 4th line the best in the playoffs, allowing head coach Bruce Cassidy to roll all of his lines and cause matchup problems for the opposition.
VERDICT: Both teams have strong forward groups, mixed with skill, size, speed, and experience, but the Bruins have the best line in the series, along with a bit more depth throughout the forward group.
ADVANTAGE: Boston Bruins
St. Louis Blues – Defensive Pairings
Boston Bruins – Defensive Pairings
The Blues have a group of towers on their back-end, with Pietrangelo, Edmundson, Bouwmeester, and Parayko each measuring at least 6 foot 3. Pietrangelo is one of the better defenseman in the NHL. Edmundson does a good job shutting down opposing forwards. Parayko has a rocket of a shot, making him a weapon on the powerplay. Jay Bouwmeester is still a terrific skater and solid puck-mover. Rookie Vince Dunn is nursing an injury right now after taking a puck to the head in Game 3 vs. the Sharks, but all signs point to him being ready for Game 1.
The Bruins also have some terrific puck-movers, with guys like McAvoy and Krug, as well as Carlo and Grzelcyk. Zdeno Chara is recovering from injury, but he should be back for Game 1. He can be a liability at his advanced age, but his experience will help out the young blueliners like McAvoy and Carlo.
VERDICT: Both teams have strong bluelines, but I will give the slight edge to St. Louis. I think that their size will help neutralize the heavy game played by the Bruins. I also think they have the best defenseman in the series in Alex Pietrangelo, which puts them ahead of Boston.
ADVANTAGE: St. Louis Blues
St. Louis Blues – Powerplay
Bruins – Powerplay
During the 2018-19 NHL season, the Blues ranked 9th in the league with a 21.1% PP success rate, while the Bruins ranked 3rd at 25.9%. In the playoffs, St.Louis has gone 12-62 on PPs for a rate of 19.4%, ranking 9th of 16 playoff teams, while the Bruins have converted PPs at a rate of 34%, scoring goals on 17 of 50 chances, good for 1st out of all playoff teams. On the PK, the Blues ranked 9th with an 81.5% success rate during the season, while Bruins came in at 16th with a 79.9% success rate. In the playoffs, the Blues have killed 78% of penalties, good for 11th out of 16. The Bruins have been better on the PK, with a success rate 86.3%, ranking 4th out of 16.
VERDICT: The Bruins have been more successful on the PP and PK, both in the regular season and playoffs. Their advantage on special teams will be a major factor in this series.
ADVANTAGE: Boston Bruins
St. Louis Blues
Season: 24-5-1, 1.89GAA, .927SV%, 5SO
Playoffs: 12-7-0, 2.37GAA, .914SV%, 1SO
Season: 19-17-8, 2.83GAA, .905SV%, 3SO
Season: 27-13-5, 2.48GAA, .912SV%, 4SO
Playoffs: 12-4-1, 1.84GAA, .942SV%, 2SO
Season: 22-11-4, 2.34GAA, .922SV%, 5SO
Jordan Binnington helped turn the Blues’ season around, winning 24 of 30 games since taking over the job. He has followed that up with a strong postseason. Jake Allen has experience and is a capable backup. Tuukka Rask had a disappointing regular season by his standards, but he has played incredibly well during the postseason. Rask has only allowed 9 goals during the Bruins’ current 7-game winning streak. During that span, he has stopped 220 out of 229 shots (.961 SV%).
VERDICT: While Binnington has had a great debut season, Rask is playing the best hockey of his career, giving Boston the advantage.
ADVANTAGE: Boston Bruins
The Blues have been playing playoff hockey since January. They have done an outstanding job of overcoming adversity in turning their season around. They also showed resilience in coming back from a 2-1 deficit against San Jose, in a game that they lost due to a blown call. However, the Bruins have more experience, superior special teams, and home ice advantage. Veterans like Bergeron, Marchand, Chara, and Rask remember that Stanley Cup Finals loss to Chicago back in 2013. They had a 2-1 series lead before losing in OT in Game 4 and then dropping the series 4-2. I think the fact that they recently blew a Cup finals is fresh in the minds of this team. They won’t let it happen again. Having said that, this is a great matchup of skill and toughness. I expect it to go the distance.
PREDICTION: Boston Bruins in 7
Stanley Cup GM #1 On www.statementgames.com – My Top 3 Picks!
10 Point Pick: Bruins will not win by OVER 1.5 goals
The Bruins have not played since May 16th – the 11-day lay-off will make them fresh but rusty. I expect the Blues to take Game 1.
9 Point Pick: Ryan O’Reilly + Vladimir Tarasenko + Brayden Schenn OVER 0.5 goals
Tarasenko found his form and I expect him to continue making an impact. O’Reilly and Schenn are also capable scorers.
8 Point Pick: Blues OVER 30.5 shots
I think that the Blues will carry the play in Game 1 due to Boston’s rust. They will likely pepper Rask with shots.