2019 Stanley Cup Finals Prediction
Hi OpenIceHit hockey fans!
The sad time when no NHL games will be scheduled until October is knocking on the door and the unpleasant feeling of denial and fear is slowly starting to build up inside of you...
But first the best event in hockey (in all sports for me) is coming - Stanley Cup playoff finals! (fuck the Olympics, I would rather wear one SC winner ring than have 10 Olympic medals)
Again we have a sensation (Vegas sensation last year) in one contender and the other one was considered to be a top SC runner from the beginning of the playoffs. The last time these two teams met in SC playoff finals was when the legendary "flight" of Bobby Orr was captured on a photo...
From zero to hero
The 2019 Blues miracle - how else can we call the resurrection of a team which was last in the standings by Jan 2nd and now made it to the final. In the role of the savior is an unexpected player - 25 years old Jordan Binnington, the 2011 3rd round pick (88th overall). Before his exceptional 1,89 GAA and .927 SVS% in 32 regular season games in this season he had only one start in the NHL in 2015/16 season which wasn't as stellar - in 13 minutes he faced 4 shots and let one through.
I'm shipping up to Boston
Boston was one of my favorites this year for the Stanley cup since when the playoffs started (as a Habs fan this is pure technical statement without any sympathy to the club) as from my perspective they have shown the best combination of forward talent, defensive depth and two solid goalies. Aaaaand of course they have Mr. MakeTheOpponentUncomfortable - the infamous Rat! Hockey is (and should be!) violent but this behavior should not be tolerated, Brad is a great hockey player and a key person for the Bruins and unfortunately he will not be remembered for his hockey skills...
Numbers, numbers, numbers
|St. Louis Blues||57||48||3.00||2.53||19.4||78||28.4||28.4|
As you can see in the table above - statistically the bruins are slightly better almost in all aspects but where they dominate are the special teams. They have the best powerplay from all teams which made the playoffs and also the other numbers look very solid. The special teams are a key factor which could be the major difference between these teams. Although when we look at the table below we can see that the Blues draw more penalties than they take so this could compensate the rather vague special teams stats.
|St. Louis Blues||146||120|
Bruins are also experts in empty net goals - they scored 6 in the playoffs this year which shows great focus during clutch times in the games. On the other hand Bruins scored only 33 goals in 5on5 situations compared to the 48 of the Blues. This number could not mean a lot when the Bruins score on more than every third powerplay. Other statistical curiosity shows that the Blues should focus on the first part of the game - when they scored the first goal they won 72.7% of the games they played.
The next key factor in this series will be the goaltending:
Again - Bruins have the advantage in numbers. But I would say that both goalkeepers are stellar and the teams can rely on them. But what happens when one of these two gets injured? Bruins have a strong reserve in Halak who could still be a solid starting tendie. I seriously doubt that Allen could come up with a clutch performance if Binnington gets injured, so the Blues Dmen should keep a keen eye on him.
When we look at the defense first we should be stunned by the Bruins 1.94 goal against in game. This says straight forward how difficult is to score goals against the Bruins. I would say it is the combination of great defensive work from forwards, huge effort of the defense and a major contribution also from the goalie. What I would like to say with this is that hockey nowadays is not defined it the way that Dmen should be backchecking and defending and forwards are only focused on the offensive side of the game but that this great number is really a team effort. Where I see advantage for the Blues is the offense support which they receive from the blue line. Boston has Krug who is a great skater and he is moving the puck well but the offensive contribution of players like Pietrangelo or Parayko is just better. It can be seen in the points and shot count which the Dmen have acquired in the playoffs so far.
Offensively I think the key factors will be the ability of Blues to somehow contain the Bergeron line vice versa the ability of the Bruins to interrupt the brilliance of Tarasenko & Schwartz. Schenn finally also got to the scoring sheet in the last game but he has only 1 goal in 25 shots (in last 10 games), which sums up to a really poor shooting percentage. Both teams have relatively solid scoring depth (Bruins in Johansson and Coyle as 3rd line and Blues in Barbashev and Sundqvist as 4th line), which could confirm the fact that the difference will be in the success of their key lines. Personally I think Bruins 1st line has better chemistry, when I watched the passing play in the offensive zone and how they are able to find themselves on the ice - just unbelievable. For me this is the best line in hockey currently and the Blues defense will be under a huge test and pressure.
Comparison of both key lines in last 10 games below:
This is playoff hockey (baby!!!) and as we have seen earlier the numbers and statistics could mean literally shit. Bruins are statistically the better team but the Blues are destroying everything what stands in their way in 2019. Bruins now had a longer break, which I don't think will be an advantage. The teams met twice this season, one game was won by the Bruins the other by the Blues.
So my bold guess would be the Blues win the first game but the series will go to Boston in 6 games.
If you have got so far thanks for the reading, let me know what you think and if you don't agree with something don't hesitate to comment! (I will answer back with anger and rage proving you wrong! Just kidding...)
Refuse to lose