I was wrong.
My most recent article, which I wrote the day after the Boston Bruins clinched the sweep over the Carolina Hurricanes, had predicted the San Jose Sharks to prevail over the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Finals. Since I wrote that, the Sharks caught the injury bug and never won another game. So I predict St. Louis to win the Stanley Cup. Kidding, of course.
In all seriousness, I was not expecting this St. Louis team to do so well against such an explosive offense like San Jose. Yes, Erik Karlsson, Joe Pavelski, and Timo Meier all got hurt in their last game, and Martin Jones was about as good as moldy Swiss-cheese, but ten goals in their last two games for the Blues was not something many saw coming. Coming into this series, they had one of the quietest offenses left, but they didn’t let that dictate their future play. Jordan Binnington was as close to Tuukka Rask as a goalie can get right now, and he will surely be a problem for the Bruins come May 27th.
The Blues are notoriously known for being a slow and heavy-hitting team these playoffs, and they play a similar style to Columbus, who Boston played in the conference semifinals. The Blues have tallied a total of 558 hits this year in the playoffs. That’s quite a substantial number. But, the Bruins are no stranger to physical, old-time hockey, and I think Boston will be throwing just as many hits back.
The Bruins’ prosper is just about in every other category. Their special teams have been phenomenal this whole 2018-19 season, especially in the playoffs. The Bruins held Carolina to only one power-play goal on fourteen attempts. Unreal.
A lot of Boston’s success, however, starts with the man between the pipes, #40. Rask has been nothing short of an absolute brick wall and is currently playing the best hockey of his life. Assuming he didn’t lose his edge over their long break, I expect Rask to be the goalie we all know he can be, and hopefully lead his team to their second Stanley Cup in less than a decade. It shouldn’t be forgotten that St. Louis also has the second-best goalie of this year's playoffs in Jordan Binnington, like I previously stated. The rookie looks as composed as any veteran we’ve seen, not seeming to show any emotion or decrease in quality of his play.
Goals will be scarce this series, but Boston has shut down virtually all three of their opponents' top-six forwards. The Bruins haven’t given the likes of Svechnikov, Panarin, or Matthews, to name a few, much room to play the game most people know them for playing. The Bruins also have more depth than any team in the league, never mind the Blues. Players like Marcus Johansson, Charlie Coyle, and David Backes are going to be tough for St. Louis’ bottom-six to deal with, as they’ve been contributing just about as much to the table as our top-six have been. Backes is facing his old club on the grand stage, and I expect him to want to go out there and make the Blues organization regret not keeping him.
If there has to be one dark-horse for Boston this round, it’s going to have to be Jake DeBrusk for me. The way he’s been talking in interviews, he knows how lucky he is to be in this situation. Jake has been a solid player but hasn’t really found his stride. He has three goals and four assists in all 17 games played so far these playoffs, and I think he’s going to give St. Louis’ shallow defense absolute hell.
The way things stand now, it seems like we’re going to be in for a very entertaining 2019 Stanley Cup Championship. It’s the first time these teams have met in the Stanley Cup Finals since 1970 - and we all know what happened then. The Bruins will hope to repeat that, and add on to St. Louis’ hatred for Boston sports teams (Cardinals, Rams both lost to Red Sox and Patriots in their respective championships).
My Prediction: Bruins in 6