Photo: Joe Puetz/Getty Images
While winning the Stanley Cup comes with a sense of accomplishment and achievement, it also comes with more respect from the rest of the NHL. When you have what everybody else wants, they are going to give you their best effort each and every night. While the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins both started the season relatively slow based on their expectations heading into 2018-19, they managed to turn it around and get hot en route to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. In fact, both hot streaks began with games against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals.
The Blues entered their game against the Capitals at Enterprise Center on January 3 with a record of 15-18-4, the worst in the NHL. They came into that game with a sense of urgency, striking first just four minutes in against the Capitals, though the Capitals held a 2-1 lead past the game’s halfway mark and outshot the Blues 13-9 in the first frame. However, the Blues scored twice in a span of 4:10 late in the middle frame to take a 3-2 lead into the locker room. They also scored 5:44 into the third and got another later on to go ahead and win 5-2. They limited the Capitals to just 12 shots after the first period and outshot them 14-2 in the third. The fact that the Blues were without their leading goal-scorer during the regular season in forward Vladimir Tarasenko gave them the confidence that they needed to go 30-10-5 the rest of the way.
In addition, the Blues dominated the Capitals again at Capital One Arena just 11 days after their 5-2 victory. After trailing 1-0 after 20, the Blues scored three times in a span of 4:42 in the second period en route to a 4-1 win. The Blues outshot the Capitals 37-29 in that game, including 14-7 in the opening frame.
The Bruins were coming into their Super Bowl Sunday matchup with the Capitals riding a three-game losing streak (0-1-2) and barely hanging on to the first wild-card in the Eastern Conference by two points. Having lost 14 consecutive games to the Capitals, including a 7-0 blowout loss on opening night, there was some extra motivation going into that game for Boston. They probably deserved to win against the Capitals three weeks earlier, when they outshot them 41-22 but lost 4-2 on January 10 at TD Garden.
The Bruins came into that game on Super Bowl Sunday with purpose, outshooting the Capitals 30-13 in the first 40 minutes, including 15-6 in the opening period. In a close game, center David Krejci one-timed a shot past the blocker side of Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. The Capitals put more pressure on the Bruins with five minutes left but it was too little, too late as the Bruins skated out of Washington with a 1-0 win.
That win sparked a 19-game point streak, which they went 15-0-4 on, and a stretch where they finished the season with a record of 26-7-4 for the Bruins.
The three losses that to each team came in a stretch where the Capitals went 4-8-3 from December 31-February 3. Though, one of the four wins over that span for the Capitals came against the Bruins.
While both the Bruins and Blues deserve a ton of credit for their resilience after both started the 2018-19 season slowly, the Capitals missed an opportunity to shut the door on each of them. Had the outcomes of both of those games turned out differently, the Bruins and Blues could be in totally different spots right now. As the Capitals and their fans see one of these two teams hoist the Stanley Cup at some point in the next three weeks, we should all shake our heads about the fact that the Capitals missed an opportunity to shut down these team’s Stanley Cup hopes.
By Harrison Brown