It all began back in the first week of October 2018. 31 teams vying for the ultimate prize — the Stanley Cup. In this 2019 Stanley Cup Final preview with the St. Louis Blues vs. the Boston Bruins, we will discuss the road that each team took to get to this point. It was a long, hard-fought regular and post-season. Now they play for all the marbles.
The Journey to the 2019 Stanley Cup
Stanley Cup Final Preview: St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues were in last place in the NHL standings in January. But then they rose like a phoenix from the ashes to shock most fans of this fantastic sport.
On January 23, 2019, the start of an 11-game winning streak and the emergence a young goalie all factored into turning around their season. The Blues turned a mediocre 16-19-4 record on January 5, 2019, to an amazing 32-22-5 record on February 19, 2019 — a 16-3-1 turnaround. You might call them the “turnaround” team after what they accomplished.
Bringing in a new head coach certainly did help as Craig Berube took over for Mike Yeo who went 7-9-3 before management decided to go with Berube. It has turned out to be a wise choice. He took his club to a 38-19-6 mark to finish with 99 points and second in the Central Division.
Of course, the other main factor to the Blues incredible success is the player movements made by management. They made some adept trades and signings to bring in players like Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, Tyler Bozak, and Pat Maroon. They excelled with exceptional goaltending from Jordan Binnington (24-5-1, .929 save percentage, 1.89 goals against average) which really turned out to be a huge surprise.
Blues 2019 Playoff Play
Okay, they made it to the playoffs. Now can the team who came from nowhere excel in the post-season? Or will they be singing the blues wondering what happened?
The upstart Blues were matched up against the powerful Winnipeg Jets in the first round. The St. Louis club took the first two games on the road, only to lose the next two at home. So much for home-ice advantage. In the critical Game 5 with the series tied at two, the Blues took a 3-2 win on the road. Then they needed their first win at home in Game 6 to move them onto the next round.
They did exactly that with another 3-2 victory with Binnington only needing 18 saves to seal their advancement.
Against the Dallas Stars it Took Seven Games to Advance
The next opponent for the Blues was the Dallas Stars. The difference in this series was the three one-goal wins including the double-overtime Game 7 victory thanks to Pat Maroon’s heroic game-winning goal at 5:50 of the second OT. It meant the Blues were moving on to the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks.
Binnington made 29 saves and looked as cool and collected as in any game this season. What… him worry?
The San Jose Sharks Were Tough
The Western Conference Final was exciting and controversial. It included the now famous Game 3 overtime win by the San Jose Sharks. The winning goal by star defenceman Erik Karlsson may (and should) cause some rules changes about hand-passes and if they should be reviewed.
The demoralizing call against the Blues turned out to be a motivating factor seeing them go on to win the next three games to take the series in six games. They took the decisive Game 6 by a 5-1 score with O’Reilly collecting three assists and Binnington making 25 saves to move the Blues to their current position.
They have not been in the Stanley Cup Final since 1970, and who would have thought… it was against their same opponent this time — the Boston Bruins.
Stanley Cup Final Preview: Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins raced to the playoffs with an impressive 49-24-9 record good for 107 points, but still behind the prolific Tampa Bay Lightning who tallied 128 points. The Bruins were led by probably the best first line in the NHL consisting of Patrice Bergeron, bad boy Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak.
The trio combined for an unbelievable 106 goals and 260 points during the regular season. There certainly isn’t any reason to think they would do less during the post-season.
Mix that with the goaltending exhibited by Tuukka Rask and you have a powerhouse team ready to take on the world. Rask finished the 2018-19 campaign with solid but not exceptional statistics of a 27-13-5 record containing a .912 save percentage as well as a 2.48 goals against average.
The Boston club also finished strong by just losing one overtime game in a 14-game span from February 9 to March 9. They seemed primed for the playoff run reminiscent of their 2012-13 run when they went to the Stanley Cup Final the last time against the Chicago Blackhawks who dispatched them in six games to ruin any celebrations in Boston.
This team is a tenacious forechecking team who makes things happen for their offence whenever they steal the puck.
If the Blues can’t stop that top line, they may be still searching for their first Cup victory.
Toronto Maple Leafs Were Their First Victim
The Boston Bruins are the Eastern Conference representative in this 2019 Stanley Cup Final. They started off their surge for the Cup against a familiar opponent playing the Toronto Maple Leafs. The two rivals have faced each other in the first round of the playoffs two consecutive times, with the Bruins reining each time.
Things were no different this season, as the Bruins prevailed by winning two of three on Toronto home ice and winning two of four in Boston. The Bruins won in seven games.
Next Were the Surprising Columbus Blue Jackets
The first two games of this series were tight affairs as they both went into overtime, with Game 2 going to double overtime. With three of the six games being one-goal tilts, the Bruins took two of the three to surge ahead. After faltering two games to one, they won three straight outscoring Columbus 11-4 en route to a berth in the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Columbus Blue Jackets fell mostly due to their inability of holding down the scoring of that top line of the Bruins. Pastrnak had four goals, while Bergeron added two, and Marchand one.
Eastern Conference Finals
The shocking performance of the Carolina Hurricanes took them all the way to round three, but then they ran into a hurricane called the Boston Bruins. The Bruins showed no mercy as they took out the “Jerks” in four games to get to the Stanley Cup Final.
Including the three straight wins against the Blue Jackets and the four-game sweep of the Hurricanes, that brings the Bruins playoff winning streak to seven games.
The Bruins have a 12-5 playoff record after this series, displaying that they have what it takes to go all the way.
Key Factor Will be Goaltending
This Stanley Cup Final will be exceptional. It pits a Blues team that hasn’t been there in 49 years and a Bruins team that was last here just six years ago.
The thing to watch in this series will be the battle between the pipes between Binnington and Rask. It should be a classic.
An upcoming young rookie netminder with the calmness of a cucumber against a seasoned veteran of 12 NHL years and 265 wins going at it like boxers in the ring.
Stanley Cup Final Preview: And The Winner Will Be…
To call the winner of this series is difficult, and this writer has never been adept at predictions. Going on pure talent it would seem the hottest team right now is the Boston Bruins. They have been on a roll, and if the Blues don’t cut down on the dominance of the top line of Boston the Bruins will be raising the coveted Cup and not the Blues.
Don’t underestimate the Blues though, they have come from way in the back of the pack to prevail and wouldn’t be here if they weren’t a quality team.
Going on a pure hunch, the St. Louis Blues will prevail in seven games. There I said it. Don’t hold me to it.