Previewing the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals
After three rounds and about eighty billion upsets, we have made it to the big show. The Stanley Cup Final, what everyone has been working towards since September and dreaming about for decades is finally here. Heroes will be born, memories will be made, and the officials will probably mess everything up like they've done all playoffs. Will Boston be spoiled with yet another championship, or will St. Louis finally end their legacy of failure? Without further adieu, here's our final battle.
The Matchup: Boston Bruins (107 PTS, 2nd in Atlantic, 12-5 in Playoffs) vs. St. Louis Blues (99 PTS, 3rd in Central, 12-7 in Playoffs)
Season Series: Split - Boston won 5-2 at home in January, while the Blues won 2-1, shootout style, in their barn in late February.
The Last Time Here: Two years after beating the Canucks in seven games, the Bruins lost a hard-fought six-game series against the Blackhawks. The Blues made it here each of their first three years in existence, but never won so much as a game, and haven't been back since losing to the Bruins in 1970.
Past Meetings: Only one. The Blues haven't been to the finals since this.
It's been a long 49 years.
The Journey Here: It seems like the Bruins have just gotten stronger as the playoffs have gone on. They nearly went out in Round 1, overcoming a 3-2 series deficit against Toronto with another home Game 7 victory. After that, the B's won three straight after going down 2-1 against Columbus, then dominated Carolina in the Eastern Conference Finals with a convincing sweep. Tuukka Rask looks more dialed in than ever before, their top line needs no introduction, and the deadline depth has come through in spades.
It feels like I've written the same thing about the Blues every round, but maybe that just proves how incredible it is that they're here. The Blues were dead last in the league in early January, with the exact same amount of points as the mid-eight game losing streak Flyers on January 6th. Jordan Binnington flat out saved their season, allowing their core the chance to find themselves. They beat the talented Jets in six, the Ben Bishop carried Stars in seven, and the revenge tour San Jose Sharks in six. As a team, they are playing extremely well, with their flaws few and far between and their star-power still prevalent.
Conn Smythe Watch:
BOS: As mentioned before, Tuukka Rask might be on the best stretch of his career. The Bruins net-minder has put up a 1.84 GAA and a .942 save percentage. He's given up just four goals in as many games when elimination was at stake. If you're looking for a skater, Brad Marchand is the only Bruin above a point-per-game and has once again agitated the living you-know-what out of everyone. But Rask is the heavy favorite here.
STL: On the other hand, it's pretty wide open for the Blues. Jordan Binnington might have been their regular season MVP, but he's posted a good-not-great .914 save percentage in the playoffs. As of now, it'd probably go to Jaden Schwartz, who has rebounded from a disappointing 11 regular season goals with twelve in the playoffs. Schwartz has two hat-tricks, a series clinching goal, and a last-minute game-winner on his playoff resume.
The Pressure Is On: Common sense here says St. Louis, since they haven't even been to the finals in 49 years. But no one really expected the Blues to get here and their whole core is under contract next year (after that, not so much). The Bruins haven't gone this deep in a decent bit, but their failure has been cushioned with the great success of the Patriots, Red Sox, and Celtics in the interim. There really isn't a clear cut favorite here.
Flyers Fans Should Root For: Not the Bruins, that's for sure. They may not be the Flyers biggest rival, but they're still from Boston, meaning anyone outside of a five mile radius from TD Garden should be rooting for the Blues at all cost. The fact that they have Brayden Schenn, Craig Berube, and former Flyers draft pick Patrick Maroon (don't forget MDZ!) is a special bonus just for us.
NHL 19 Says: Bruins in 6, with the Blues going 0-3 on home ice, two games ending to overtime (one won by each side), and Brad Marchand winning the Conn Smythe with a Finals leading four goals and six points.
The Pick: Blues in 6 - not because they're the better team, but because I don't believe the sports gods are cruel enough to let Boston hold three championships at the same time.
Oddly Specific Prediction: Brad Marchand does something so dirty that he actually gets suspended. Only the latter part of that should be considered odd.