Game 1 in Boston Monday, 7pm
Game 2 in Boston Wednesday, 7pm
Game 3 in St. Louis Saturday, June 1st, 7pm
Game 4 in St. Louis Monday, June 3rd, 7pm
Let’s get through this together. It’s the Layoff vs. The Momentum, and it’s going to be utter torture for pretty much everyone outside the two cities involved. Still, I’m of the opinion it won’t last very long, but I haven’t been very good at this all spring so you’re going to blame me when this goes balls-up anyway.
Goalies: The big question here is if the 11 days off for Tuukka Rask is going to cost him any sharpness in what has been one of the best springs a goalie has put up in a long while. The Knights last year won the West Final in five games, had a fair amount of time off, and then Fleury was the biggest reason they got pantsed in the Final (and he’ll be the biggest reason they never get back there. Good times). Rask comes into this one with a .942, which if he were to carry out would be even better that Tim Thomas‘s Tour-de-Stupid of 2011. It’s the best mark of any goalie to get to the conference final at least since Quick’s .946 in 2012. The only marks recently that have been better for a conference final appearance or better have been Giguere’s Conn Smythe campaign in ’03, Smith’s 2012 (get fucked), and Hiller in ’09. Strangely, only Quick’s won the Cup, but here we are. If Rask remains at this level, then you don’t have to worry. He looked so in control in Carolina when the Bruins needed him, so it’s not like he’s been hanging on an edge to do this.
Jordan Binnington has been fine. Really, that’s it. He didn’t have to do much once the Sharks basically disintegrated. He was very good in Game 4, which is about the last time the Blues needed him to be. He faced only 21 shots in Game 5 and 26 in Game 6, and one would think the Bruins will require him to do more than that. Binnington has only made over 30 saves twice in 19 playoff games, but the Blues haven’t really required it. They will require a goalie win or two in this series, but it’s still not a sure thing that Binnington will provide it.
Defense: As they pile us off to the rubber room in the next week or two, they’ll do so while we’re muttering if not screaming about how neither of these blue lines is any good. So let’s narrow the focus. The Blues have to figure out who takes the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak assignment, and I still don’t believe they have anyone to do it. But I didn’t think they had anyone to take the Sharks top line either. Still, this is the best line in hockey, and the Canes couldn’t do much about it and they have twice the defense. I assume the Blues will do everything they can to get Pietrangelo out there, but he doesn’t have the mobility to deal with this. I don’t know how teams haven’t been able to harvest the organs of Parayko and Edmundson, but the Bruins aren’t really all that deep either. Krejci is good, and DeBrusk has played well, but they’ve rotated left-wingers. Still, the Bruins didn’t get this far without depth scoring, and that shouldn’t stop against the murder of idiots the Blues are trotting out there.
The Bruins aren’t an impressive group either. Chara and McAvoy take the hard shifts, and metrically they’ve come up in the red. Goals-wise though, which is how they still measure the damn thing, they’re both over 65%. Krug and Carlo have been much better metrically, and they’ll have the easier time against Sundqvist’s or Bozak’s crew here. Grzelcyk has actually been sneaky good, and not getting sheltered starts to be so, but he’s the one d-man whom the Bruins can’t buy a goal when he’s on the ice. They could use a market correction here.
Forwards: The Blues have gotten incredible work from ROR, Tarasenko, and Perron, even when Tarasenko couldn’t throw a grape in the ocean at even-strength. Schenn-Schwartz-Sundqvist certainly matched or exceeded them against the Sharks, and Schenn came close to sending Pierre McGuire into a coma. Bozak, Thomas, and Maroon have chipped in with a couple big goals, and if the Blues have any advantage in this series it’s here as the Bruins don’t really go three lines deep.
We’ve already been over the best line in hockey, and given the usual IQ of the Blues they’ll get looks on the power play where they’ve been death pretty much throughout. That with Rask alone is probably enough. Coyle and Johansson have chipped in here or there, but mostly the Bruins have ridden what they get from the top unit and a little more from Krejci’s line. If the Blues find a way to stop the top line, or even keep them somewhat contained, the Bruins could be in a quandary. Good thing they won’t.
Prediction: I’m not even going to pretend to be unbiased here, so I’m going to say only what I will allow myself to say. The Blues are too stupid to not put the Bruins on the power play a good number of times. Binnington is not up to turning away repeated looks for Bergeron, Pasta, and Da Noid on the man-advantage. Rask might not be able to maintain this .942 after this break, but he probably doesn’t have to. Even .930 almost certainly gets it done.
Yeah, Binnington could go off. We don’t know enough about him to say he won’t. Tarasenko could get hot. The Blues slightly better depth at forward could matter here if the Bruins top line doesn’t keep causing gas explosions everywhere. The 11 days might matter more than we think.
But I don’t see it. Get it over with. Bruins in five.