- Tied at a one game apiece, the Stanley Cup Finals are now a best-of-five
- Can the Bruins, especially their stars, withstand the Blues’ fierce checking?
- Boston has dominated on special teams, and power plays could turn the series
After two games, the Stanley Cup Finals are tied up at a game apiece, but the series isn’t exactly even as the Bruins and Blues head to St. Louis for Games 3 and 4.
Updated 2019 Stanley Cup Odds
|Team||Odds to win 2019 Stanley Cup|
|St. Louis Blues||+105|
*Odds as of May 30, 2019.
The Blues wrested home-ice advantage away from the Boston Bruins with a 3-2 overtime victory Wednesday night in Game 2, and appeared to have seized momentum in the series. If the three minutes and 51 seconds of sudden death are any indication, the surging Blues are an enticing bet while gambling websites still consider them underdogs to the more experienced Bruins.
After Boston shook off the rust of a long layoff to eventually overpower St. Louis with a 4-2 victory in Game 1, the Blues used their size, speed and tenacious forechecking to wear down the Bruins and take control of Game 2.
Both teams are in the full-on hate mode after a hard-hitting game, and although one game does not make a series, it appears the Blues have caused more damage to the Bruins than the other way around.
Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk was forced out early in Game 1 by a crushing check into the end boards by Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist. While Grzelcyk is day-to-day with a concussion, Sundqvist has been suspended for one game for boarding. Boston defensemen will be on the receiving end of more of the same aggressive and smothering forecheck even without Sundqvist for Saturday night’s Game 3.
More concerning for the Bruins has been the sudden ineffectiveness of their top liners Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. Bergeron seems to be fighting an injury, and Marchand acknowledged to NHL.com that his line needs to be “cleaner on some details.” In two games, the trio has been almost as ugly as Marchand’s neck beard, going combined minus-7 while notching only a Marchand empty-netter and a Pastrnak assist.
Through two games, the Blues’ top star, Vladimir Tarasenko has outshone his Bruins counterparts by scoring twice. Still, the Bruins’ trio remains one of the most dangerous lines in the league and if the three can break through the Blues’ tight checking, Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak could change the direction of the series.
Combine that with some continued production from Sean Kuraly (one goal and two assists in the finals) and Joakim Nordstrom (a goal and an assist), and the Bruins could be lifting their second Stanley Cup in the past nine years.
Bruins winning the special teams battle
Something in Boston’s favor has been the play of special teams. The Blues keep taking too many penalties and have been stung by the Bruins’ two goals on 10 power-play chances. If St. Louis keeps shooting itself in the foot with undisciplined penalties, Boston will simply take over. Meanwhile, Boston’s penalty killing has been perfect during St. Louis’ five power-play opportunities.
The games will likely continue to be close, with the slightest mistake, deflection or bounce making the difference. Boston’s Tuukka Rask and Blues rookie Jordan Binnington have each been steady in providing evenly matched goaltending.
If the series continues to be back-and-forth in low-scoring, tightly contested games, either of the two goalies should remain as top contenders for the Conn Smythe Trophy given to the most valuable player of the playoffs.