By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — After an eternity (five days) of waiting, the Bruins finally know their opponent for the Stanley Cup Final, which will begin Monday night in Boston.
As is the case when East meets West, the teams aren’t terribly familiar with one another. They played twice during the regular season, first in mid-January and then in late February. The Bruins won the first game 5-2 on home ice, while the Blues won the second meeting in a shootout.
Those games, though, were eons ago in terms of hockey age. The Blues were still very much in the NHL’s basement for that first meeting, with Craig Berube still establishing himself as the team’s interim coach. The second meeting was perhaps a better representation for what was to come, as the Bruins were in the midst of that preposterous 17-game point streak, and the Blues had just come off an 11-game winning streak of their own.
As for what to expect in the Cup Final, you should expect what you should always expect: mayhem. As for doing some homework, well, here’s how the Blues and Bruins measure up against each other this postseason.
Boston: 48-24-9, 107 points
St. Louis: 45-28-9, 99 points
Head-To-Head Record In 2018-19 Season
St. Louis: 1-1-0
St. Louis: 12-7
Postseason, Overtime Record
St. Louis: 1-2
Postseason, Goals Scored Per Game
Boston: 3.35 (2nd)
St. Louis: 3.00 (4th)
Postseason, Goals Allowed Per Game
Boston: 1.94 (1st)
St. Louis: 2.53 (5th)
Postseason, Power Play Percentage
Boston: 34.0% (1st)
St. Louis: 19.4% (9th)
Postseason, Penalty Kill Percentage
Boston: 86.3% (4th)
St. Louis: 78.0% (11th)
Postseason, Home Record
St. Louis: 5-5
Postseason, Road Record
St. Louis: 7-2
Looking at the overall numbers, a few things jump out dramatically. Perhaps foremost would be St. Louis’ home and road records. The Blues have been monsters on the road this season, which should serve them well, considering Boston will have home ice in Games 1, 2, 5 and 7. Somewhat neutralizing that impact, though, would be St. Louis’ poor home record this postseason; the Blues lost four of their first five home games this playoffs.
A more important number can be found in the teams’ power play and penalty kills percentages. The Bruins currently carry the second-most effective power play in NHL postseason history (min. 9 games played), while the Blues have the sixth-worst penalty kill in the 2019 postseason. As the Carolina Hurricanes can attest, struggling on the penalty kill is a recipe for having a short series against the Bruins. (The Bruins scored on a preposterous 46.7 percent of their power plays during their sweep against Carolina, accounting for seven of their 17 goals.)
In that regard, the Blues have been getting better. They killed penalties at 84.6 percent against the Sharks, but they’ll need to be even better against a power play that’s performing at a historic rate.
ST. LOUIS LEADERS
1. Jaden Schwartz: 12 goals, 4 assists, 16 points
2. Ryan O’Reilly: 3 goals, 11 assists, 14 points
T-3. Vladimir Tarasenko: 8 goals, 5 assists, 13 points
T-3. David Perron: 6 goals, 7 assists, 13 points
T-3. Alex Pietrangelo: 2 goals, 11 assists, 13 points
6. Colton Parayko: 1 goal, 10 assists, 11 points
7. Tyler Bozak: 5 goals, 5 assists, 10 points
8. Oskar Sundqvist: 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points
T-9. Pat Maroon, Vince Dunn, Brayden Schenn, Joel Edmunson: 7 points apiece
1. Brad Marchand: 7 goals, 11 assists, 18 points
2. David Pastrnak: 7 goals, 8 assists, 15 points
3. David Krejci: 4 goals, 10 assists, 14 points
4. Patrice Bergeron: 8 goals, 5 assists, 13 points
T-5. Charlie Coyle: 6 goals, 6 assists, 12 points
T-5. Torey Krug: 1 goal, 11 assists, 12 points
7. Marcus Johansson: 3 goals, 6 assists, 9 points
T-8. Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, Danton Heinen, Charlie McAvoy: 7 points apiece
The Bruins have gotten goals from 19 different players in their 17 games played, while the Blues have been almost just as deep. St. Louis has had 18 different goal scorers over their 19 playoff games, as both teams reached this series by having much more than a singular scoring line.
Jaden Schwartz has the second-most goals in the entire NHL this postseason with 12, while Vladimir Tarasenko is tied for fourth with his eight goals. Those two will clearly be the main focus for the Bruins in their own end.
One player who’s not on that list but nevertheless warrants attention if Pat Maroon. For one reason or another, the big-bodied power forward has owned the Bruins throughout his career. In 11 games against Boston, he has seven goals and two assists. He’s only scored more goals against one other team, but that’s the Sharks, a team he’s played 23 times. Five of those goals came in just two games during the 2017 season, when Maroon recorded his only career hat trick in Boston and then scored a pair of goals when the Bruins visited Edmonton later that season. Maroon was kept off the score sheet in both games vs. Boston this year, so perhaps that streak is now over … or perhaps he’s overdue.
.942 save percentage, 1.84 GAA
.914 save percentage, 2.36 GAA
Tuukka Rask and Jordan Binnington have been two of the biggest stories of the postseason, so it’s no surprise that they’ll be standing in the blue paint as the calendar flips to June.
Binnington’s story is quite fascinating, as he played for the Providence Bruins last season. That was because the Blues did not have an AHL affiliate that year, so the team loaned Binnington to Providence, where he posted a .926 save percentage and 2.05 GAA on Boston’s AHL team. A year later, after taking over the starting job in St. Louis, he’ll be facing the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final. That’s quite a rare journey.
For Rask, well, his story is well-known. Statistically speaking, he’s one of the best goaltenders of all time, both in the regular season and postseason. But no fans in Boston really care much about that unless he wins a Cup. If he maintains the same level of play that he’s displayed since late in the Toronto series, then he will be able to deliver.
TIME ON ICE
1. Charlie McAvoy, 24:20
2. Zdeno Chara, 22:32
3. Brandon Carlo, 22:16
4. Torey Krug, 21:28
5. Brad Marchand, 20:36
6. Patrice Bergeron, 19:10
7. David Pastrnak, 17:50
8. Matt Grzelcyk, 17:12
1. Alex Pietrangelo, 25:33
2. Colton Parayko, 24:26
3. Jay Bouwmeester, 23:02
4. Ryan O’Reilly, 21:26
5. Brayden Schenn, 18:58
6. Vladimir Tarasenko, 18:56
7. David Perron, 18:28
8. Joel Edmundson, 17:42
The 10 days of rest between games figures to be significant for Zdeno Chara, who despite being 42 years old still draws the most difficult assignments alongside McAvoy for Boston.
What stands out about St. Louis’ ice time leaders is that the trio of Pietrangelo, Parayko and Bouwmeester is really called upon to carry the load defensively. The D-man with the next-highest ATOI is Joel Edmundson, playing about six minutes fewer than those top three. That’s in large part to those top two D-men being so good and Bouwmeester being so experienced, but it also might indicate a lack of total trust between Berube and his remaining defensemen. It will be interesting to see how Bruce Cassidy might throw his top line out when St. Louis’ bottom pair is on the ice.
1. Patrice Bergeron, 59.3%
2. Sean Kuraly, 54.2%
3. David Krejci, 52.5%
4. Charlie Coyle, 49.2%
1. Ivan Barbashev, 52.6%
2. Tyler Bozak, 52.3%
3. Brayden Schenn, 49.0%
4. Ryan O’Reilly, 48.7%
5. Oskar Sundqvist, 44.7%
You can never really say how, when or even if faceoffs will play a factor in a series. But if they are to come into play at some point, the Bruins enter the series with a distinct advantage on the dot.