Well it’s about time, right?
The Stanley Cup Final matchup is now set after the St. Louis Blues defeated the San Jose Sharks 5-1 in the series-clinching game six of the Western Conference Finals. The Blues will travel to Boston to face the Bruins starting on Monday, May 27th (Memorial Day) in what will surely be an exciting series.
The Bruins and Blues are two teams with similar playstyles, but took different paths to arrive in the Finals. The Bruins were essentially the second-seed in the Eastern Conference for most of the year while the Blues were dead-in-the-water at the beginning of January. In three months, they turned their season around thanks to 25-year-old goalie Jordan Binnington who was the fourth goalie the Blues had used this season.
Binnington resurrected the Blues’ season to the tune of a 24-5-1 record through the remainder of the regular season while allowing 1.89 goals/game and recording five shutouts.
For the Bruins, Tuukka Rask has been no slouch either as he (regular season & postseason stats) and looks to complete the journey to his first ever Stanley Cup victory as a starting goalie.
When comparing the Bruins and Blues, look no further than this wonderful and mind-boggling tweet from The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford:
These two teams are similarly constructed roster-wise as well as how they both focus on a north-south game.
With so many similarities between the two clubs, who should you pay attention to? Let’s dive into it:
Players to Watch
When it comes to the Bruins’ playoff success, the team goes as Krejci goes. The team is in the Cup Final in large part because Krejci has at least one point in 13 out of the 17 games the team has played. He has heated up especially as of late carrying a five-game point streak over into Game One against the Blues. In Krejci’s career against the Blues, he only has four goals, but has a whopping 13 assists in 17 games for a total of one point per game. In addition, Krejci has been a plus at the face-off circle and that will be crucial seeing as the Blues are careful with the puck.
The Blues are essentially a bigger version of the Blues with less skill players and although they may have less skill than the Bruins, they can cause problems with their size. There are only two players under six feet and so Chara will need to utilize his size to defend against the Blues roster. Chara had a solid series against the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals, but he has been shaky outside of that. It will be important for him to win physical battles in the defensive zone so that the Bruins can transition and breakout out of their own zone to spark the offense.
At the end of the Eastern Conference Finals, Pastrnak, Bergeron, and Marchand started to get hot and put up points. Usually, the top line has been the team’s bread-and-butter in terms of scoring, but the team’s other lines have been at the forefront throughout these playoffs. Pastrnak had been dealing with a thumb injury that had been lingering over from the end of the regular season. With such a long layoff, it should be beneficial that he is receiving an extended break and his offensive prowess should be on display.
St. Louis Blues
As I mentioned earlier, Binnington may be the only reason why the Blues are in the position they are in. Going 24-5-1 from the month of January to the end of the regular season allowed the Blues to clinch a playoff berth and his hot-hand has gotten them to the Cup Final. It is not all sunshines and rainbows, however, as Binnington has allowed five goals or more in a playoff game three times during the team’s trip to the Cup Final.
The length of this series will ultimately depend on if Binnington can match his counterpart, Tuukka Rask, on the other side.
The former Colorado Avalanche and Buffalo Sabre will be participating in his first Stanley Cup Final and put together a career-best 77-point regular season during his first stint with the Blues. Playing on the top line, O’Reilly is an offensive threat but is also a capable defensive forward as he has received consideration for the Selke award in the past which is given to the top defensive forward in the NHL. O’Reilly is a significant threat on offense and defense and he is someone the Bruins defense will need to contain or else he could wreck havoc.
The Blues’ captain was drafted by the Blues 4th overall in the 2008 NHL draft and has had a huge impact on the organization. He is such a well-rounded player at 6’3″ with strong defensive play and has averaged around 40 points each season he’s been in the league. Pietrangelo stands out among the rest of the team’s defense core, but the whole core will need to step up to slow down the Bruins forwards. The Blues definitely have that capability, unlike the Hurricanes in the Bruins’ last series.
Who Will Win?
I won’t sugarcoat this prediction, I have no clue what’s going to happen in this series. My gut and heart want me to believe the Bruins will win in five or six games, but my brain knows better than that. Remember the tweet above about how these teams have scored the same number of goals in each period during the playoffs? Well, I don’t think it is any coincidence that these two teams are so evenly matched and are built in similar fashions. We do, however, need to pick a team so without further ado:
The Prediction: Bruins in 7