Photo: CBS Sports
The Boston Bruins, who finished the regular season with the second-most points in the NHL (107), and the St. Louis Blues, who sat in last place in the league on January 3 before finishing third in the Central Division with 99 points, will face one another in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. This will be the fourth series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs between the two teams. The teams faced each other in the 1970 Stanley Cup Final and the 1972 Semifinals. Boston swept both series. The series will start on Monday night at 8 PM ET (can be seen on NBC) from TD Garden. The full series schedule can be found here.
The Bruins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in Round 1 despite never holding the series lead, before dispatching the Columbus Blue Jackets in six despite being down 2-1 in the series and sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final.
The Blues beat the Winnipeg Jets in six games in the First Round and went on to knock off the Dallas Stars in seven despite going down 3-2 in the Second Round and the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final despite trailing 1-0 and 2-1 in the series.
Regular Season Recap
The Bruins went 1-0-1 against the Blues this season, winning 5-2 at TD Garden on January 17 before falling 2-1 in a shootout at Enterprise Center on February 23.
Goals: David Pastrnak (38)
Assists: Brad Marchand (64)
Points: Marchand (100)
Plus-Minus: Patrice Bergeron (+23)
Stanley Cup Playoffs
Goals: Bergeron (8)
Assists: Marchand (11)
Points: Marchand (18)
Plus-Minus: Zdeno Chara (+11)
Goals: Vladimir Tarasenko (33)
Assists: Ryan O’Reilly (49)
Points: O’Reilly (77)
Plus-Minus: O’Reilly (+22)
Stanley Cup Playoffs
Goals: Jaden Schwartz (12)
Assists: Alex Pietrangelo/O’Reilly (11)
Points: Schwartz (16)
Plus-Minus: Oskar Sundqvist (+7)
Goals-Per-Game: Bruins – 3.34 (5th) Blues – 2.98 (15th)
Goals-Against Per Game: Bruins – 3.02 (17th) Blues – 2.68 (T-5th)
Power Play: Bruins – 25.9% (3rd) Blues – 21.1% (10th)
Penalty Kill: Bruins – 79.9% (T-16th) Blues – 81.5% (9th)
Home Record: Bruins – 29-9-3 Blues – 24-15-2
Away Record: Bruins – 20-15-6 Blues – 21-13-7
Stanley Cup Playoffs
Goals-Per-Game: Bruins – 3.35 (2nd) Blues – 3.00 (T-3rd)
Goals-Against Per Game: Bruins – 1.94 (1st) Blues – 2.53 (5th)
Power Play: Bruins – 34% (1st) Blues – 19.4% (9th)
Penalty Kill: Bruins – 86.3% (4th) Blues – 78% (11th)
Home Record: Bruins – 6-3 Blues – 5-5
Away Record: Bruins – 6-2 Blues – 7-2
Tuukka Rask, who went 27-13-5 with a .912 save percentage, a 2.48 goals-against average, and four shutouts during the regular season, enters the 2019 Stanley Cup Final as the favorite for the Conn Smythe Trophy. He has gone 12-5 with a .942 save percentage, a 1.84 goals-against average, and two shutouts while playing in all 17 Stanley Cup Playoff games for the Bruins this postseason. The 32-year old is 47-35 with a .928 save percentage, a 2.17 goals-against average, and seven shutouts in 82 career Stanley Cup Playoff games. Lifetime against the Blues, Rask is 6-2-4 with a .924 save percentage, a 2.12 goals-against average, and one shutout.
Rookie Jordan Binnington, who went 24-5-1 with a .927 save percentage, a 1.89 goals-against average, and five shutouts in the regular season after making his NHL debut on January 7, will start the series for St. Louis. He has pitched a record of 12-7, a .914 save percentage, a 2.36 goals-against average, and one shutout in his first run through the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 25-year old made 31 saves in the Blues’ 2-1 shootout win over the Bruins on February 23.
Marcus Johansson: The 28-year old former Capital has had the best postseason of his career with six assists, nine points, and a +3 rating. He has found success on the third line with center Charlie Coyle as the line has combined for 11 goals and 28 points in 17 postseason games. Since the Blues will zero in on the top trio for the Bruins, depth will be key for Boston in the series. If Johansson and his line continue to produce, the Blues will have a tough time winning the series.
O’Reilly: The 28-year old will get matched up against Bergeron’s line, arguably best in the NHL as one of the top two-way forwards in the game. While he will play in a shutdown role, O’Reilly will also be expected to produce after setting career-highs in assists, points, and plus-minus this past season. If O’Reilly and his line can shut down Bergeron’s line, St. Louis will have a great chance to win the series.
Keys To The Series
Take Advantage of Home Ice: The Blues have been the best team on the road this postseason, going 7-2 away from Enterprise Center. The Bruins lost Games 1 and 5 on home ice to the Maple Leafs in the first round. If they want to find success in the Stanley Cup Final, they must do a better job of defending home-ice. They have done a good job lately, winning four consecutive home games and six of their last seven since dropping Game 5 to the Maple Leafs.
Get Pucks on Binnington: While the Blues’ rookie netminder has been a key cog in St. Louis’ run to the Stanley Cup Final, his save percentage has sropped from .927 in the regular season to .914 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Bruins are the deepest offense the goaltender has faced as their 3.35 goals-per-game average ranks second in the Stanley Cup Playoffs behind the Vegas Golden Knights’ 3.57. The Bruins could rattle Binnington early if they put pressure on him and score a few goals.
Use Rest to Their Advantage: The Bruins will enter the Stanley Cup Final after having 11 days off. Teams who have had long layoffs this postseason haven’t had much success this season as the Hurricanes got swept by the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final after sweeping the New York Islanders in the Second Round and the Islanders got swept by the Hurricanes after sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first. The Bruins are looking to avoid a similar fate and will need to stay sharp entering Game 1.
Patience: Rask has been the best player in the NHL during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs as he leads the league in goals-against average and save percentage. In addition, his two shutouts are tied with Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek for the NHL lead this postseason. To beat him, the Blues are going to fire as many shots as they can and be smart enough to wait him out. If they do those things, they could plant a seed of doubt on Boston’s side.
Balanced Scoring: Very few, if any, trios in the NHL that can match Boston’s top-line, so the Blues will need their offensive depth to rise to the occasion once again. They have gotten it so far this postseason as all but one forward (former Capital Zach Sanford, who has appeared in just three Stanley Cup Playoff games in 2019) has found the scoresheet. If the Blues’ offense dries up, they have no chance to win the series.
Penalty Kill: The Bruins’ power-play has been unstoppable through the first three rounds of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, clicking at a rate of 34%. The next highest power-play efficiency is below 30%t and that team (Golden Knights) was eliminated in Round 1. Against a power-play with lethal weapons such as Marchand and Pastrnak, the Blues’ penalty-kill, which has an efficiency of just 78% this postseason, has to be better. If not, this could be a nightmare of a series for them.
Projected Game 1 Lineups
Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk — David Krejci — David Backes
Marcus Johansson — Charlie Coyle — Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom — Sean Kuraly — Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara — Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug — Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk — Connor Clifton
Jaden Schwartz — Brayden Schenn — Vladimir Tarasenko
Sammy Blais — Ryan O’Reilly — David Perron
Patrick Maroon — Tyler Bozak — Robert Thomas
Ivan Barbashev — Oskar Sundqvist — Alexander Steen
Joel Edmundson — Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester — Colton Parayko
Carl Gunnarsson — Robert Bortuzzo
Injured: Vince Dunn
The Bruins’ roster is full of Stanley Cup experience and includes five players (Bergeron, Chara, Krecji, Marchand, and Rask) who were on Boston’s Stanley Cup-winning team in 2011. Nordstrom won the Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015. Defenseman Davin Kampfer has just two games worth of experience in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Bruins, though both have come in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Defenseman Connor Clifton has played 12 games in his first time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Rookie center Karson Kuhlman has appeared in six games this postseason.
Thomas, Dunn, Blais, and Binnington are all going through their first Stanley Cup Playoff run for the Blues. O’Reilly appeared in 13 career playoff games with Colorado in 2010 and 2014. Before the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Sundqvist appeared in two playoff games for the Pittsburgh Penguins during their run to the Stanley Cup in 2016. The rest of the Blues’ players have at least three postseasons under their belt.
How They’re Entering The Series
The Bruins went 6-4-0 in their final 10 regular season games and have lost only two games since losing 2-1 to the Maple Leafs in Game 5 of the First Round. The Bruins have also won seven consecutive games after falling 2-1 to the Blue Jackets in Game 3 of the Second Round. They finished the regular season red hot, with a 26-7-4 record, including a 19-game point streak (15-0-4) over that stretch.
After sitting in last place in the NHL with 36 points on January 3, the Blues went 29-10-5 in their final 44 games of the season to grab the third divisional spot in the Central. St. Louis went 8-1-1 in their last 10 games of the regular season before winning Games 1 and 2 on the road against the Jets in the First Round. The Jets took Games 3 and 4 in St. Louis but the Blues would win the final two games of the series to move on and face the Dallas Stars in the Second Round. Despite taking a 2-1 series lead, the Stars won the next two to take the series lead and put the Blues on the brink of elimination. The Blues would go on to win Game 6 in Dallas and advanced with a 2-1 overtime win in Game 7 at home. They have won three straight games after going down 2-1 to the Sharks.
By Harrison Brown