2019 NHL Stanley Cup Series Prediction: Boston Bruins vs St. Louis Blues
In a rematch of the 1970 Stanley Cup Final, the St. Louis Blues will face the Boston Bruins to take home sports’ greatest prize in 2019. The Bruins took home the Eastern Conference championship, while the Blues won the Western Conference, and now they’ll meet in a best-of-seven series to determine the NHL’s champion.
Boston, most recently, defeated the Cinderella Carolina Hurricanes in lightning-quick fashion, sweeping the Canes in four games. It was the second consecutive round where the Bruins defeated a Wild Card team after the B’s beat Columbus in Round 2. This marks Boston’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 2013 when they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks. However, the Bruins won the Cup just two years before that when they took down the Vancouver Canucks in a seven-game series.
St. Louis has had a turnaround season for the ages, and all in the 2019 calendar year. The Blues were the worst team in the NHL on January 3rd and earned their way into the Playoffs by taking home the three-seed in the Central Division. St. Louis beat Winnipeg in Round 1, then Dallas in Round 2, before finally taking care of San Jose in six games in Round 3, and did so on the back of young goaltender Jordan Binnington.
It was a much tougher road to the Final for the Blues if you’re looking at the seeds. St. Louis had to go through a pair of two-seeds (Winnipeg, San Jose) and a Wild Card team (Dallas) to get to the Cup, while Boston needed to beat a three-seed (Toronto) and a pair of Wild Card teams (Columbus, Carolina). But Toronto (100 points), Columbus (98 points), and Carolina (99 points) actually had comparable regular seasons to St. Louis’ opponents of Winnipeg (99 points), Dallas (93 points), and San Jose (101 points).
In net is where both of these teams have truly shined this postseason. Binnington has been a revelation for the Blues, topping 91.4% of shots faced and posting a 2.36 goals against average this postseason. His 19 starts are second in the NHL Playoffs, behind only San Jose’s Martin Jones (who Binnington should surpass in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final). In the opposite cage, Boston’s Tuukka Rask has shone even brighter. Rask’s 94.2% save percentage and 1.84 GAA are both the best in the postseason amongst goalies with at least a single start. He’s also one of only two goalies with more than one shutout this postseason, tied with Carolina’s Petr Mrazek with two.
During the 2018-19 NHL Season, these teams squared off twice. The first time, Boston won in mid-January at 5-2, with St. Louis winning the second time in a shootout in late February. Binnington only started the second of those games, meaning that Boston’s win did not come against Binnington.
Historically, this is Boston’s third trip to the Stanley Cup Final this decade. As mentioned, the Bruins are 1-1 in those series, winning in 2011 and losing in 2013. For St. Louis, 2019’s trip marks the franchise’s first since 1970. That 1970 series marked the third-straight season that the Blues made it to the Stanley Cup Final and also the third-straight Stanley Cup Final in which St. Louis was swept.
As part of the NHL’s expansion in 1967, the League was split into two divisions. The Original Six made up one division, and the six expansion teams made up the other, with each division guaranteed a spot in the Stanley Cup Final. After losing to Montreal in the Final in back-to-back years in 1968 and 1969, the 1970 series featured the Boston Bruins taking down the St. Louis Blues. That series ended in iconic fashion, with Bobby Orr netting an overtime, Cup-winning goal in Game 4 while being tripped up, resulting in the famous image of Orr horizontal above the ice with his arms raised in celebration.
In 2019, Boston is favored to win the series, and pretty heavily favored at that (at least by NHL standards). The Bruins come in at -170 to win the series, with the Blues at +145. Boston’s home-ice advantage will be a key for them, as will seeing how they do coming off of a good amount of rest. Interestingly, in this year’s postseason, every team that has successfully completed a series sweep has been eliminated in the very next round. Columbus swept Tampa in Round 1, only to lose to Boston in Round 2. The Islanders swept Pittsburgh in Round 1, then got swept by Carolina in Round 2. And right after completing that sweep of New York, the Hurricanes were swept by Boston in Round 3.
My pick for this year’s Stanley Cup Final is the St. Louis Blues in either six or seven games (leaning towards six). The biggest thing I look at when it comes to St. Louis is that they won their first two series of the Playoffs without any significant offensive contributions from Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko is one of the Blues’ biggest offensive weapons, and he was held to under ½ a point per game over the course of the first two series. But in the Western Conference Finals against San Jose, Tarasenko caught fire. He scored three goals and tallied five assists in the series, picking up a point in all six games. If he continues to play like that, I think that’s what puts St. Louis over the top.
$100 stake could win...