My analytical, pragmatic, calculating brain clicks out an easy pick for the Stanley Cup Final: the Boston Bruins.
My heart, my sentiment, and the daydream believer side of me hollers out: Yo! Not so fast! The St. Louis Blues will win this.
Here are a few reasons why the Bruins should prevail over the Blues:
* Boston closed out the Eastern Conference playoffs by winning their last seven games, outscoring Columbus and Carolina 28-9. During the seven-game winning streak, Boston has led for 254 minutes and 25 seconds and trailed for only 13 minutes and 8 seconds. And that 13:08 of deficit time came in one contest, the first game of the Eastern Conference final.
* Boston goaltender Tukka Rask is playing out of his mind. His statistics in this postseason are insanely great. Based on at least 600 minutes of playing time, He leads goalies in overall save percentage (.942), even-strength save rate (.945), five-on-five save percentage (.946). Rask is also No. 1 in penalty-kill save rate (.924), and road save percentage (.952.)
* In other words: the Bruins have the one guy that has performed at a higher level than the Blues Jordan Binnington during the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. At least to this point, anyway.
* Special teams: the seven-win streak included nine Boston power play goals on 24 attempts (37.5%) and a 96 percent penalty-kill rate. The Bruins lead the NHL with a postseason PP success rate of 34 percent (17-for-50). That includes a crazy 7-of-15 on the PP against Carolina in the four-game sweep of Carolina in the conference final.
* The Bruins can match the Blues’ scoring depth, having gotten goals from 19 different players in their 17 postseason games. The Blues have had 18 different players bag goals in 19 postseason games.
* On the path to the Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins were just about as good on the road (6-2 record) as the Blues (7-2.)
* The Bruins’ No. 1 line has been the top line in this postseason, all teams. Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak have scored 22 of Boston’s 57 postseason goals — or 38.6 percent.
* The Blues’ primary strength since Jan. 3 and into the postseason has been their controlling possession time at 5-on-5. Without getting into the numbers, which aren’t that interesting, I’ll leave it at this: the Bruins are just as effective as the Blues at 5-on-5.
* Boston has been superior to STL this postseason in one hugely important component of 5-on-5 competition: generating a volume of high-danger scoring chances and cashing in. For the postseason, the Bruins have a 53.6 percent share of high-danger chances compared to the Blues’ 46.7 percent.
* What about high-danger goals? Boston had a 72 percent share of all high-danger goals scored in their skate through the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Blues actually ran a deficit of high-danger goals scored in their Western Conference playoff games, with an HD-goal share of only 47.5 percent.
* Along those lines: Rask has a preposterous high-danger save percentage of .918 in this postseason. Binnington has an .824 save percentage on postseason high-danger shots from the crease and slot.
So why would the Blues win, then?
The Note has the best record in the NHL since Jan. 3. Since that date, and including the postseason, the Blues have the most wins at 42. Boston has 39.
The Note are a different team since Craig Berube became coach. They do a remarkable job of handling adversity, in-game crises, remaining poised and confident and locked in mentally. This team almost always has the right response to a tough set of circumstances.
You know … like the hand-pass fiasco for the Sharks’ winning goal in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final that could have wrecked the Blues’ mindset. They were down 2-1 in the series after the hand-pass debacle. And we’ve seen past Blues teams fold under much less stress than that in previous postseason.
Berube got his team’s collective vision in line to focus on the only thing that mattered: shaking off the tainted loss, rapidly moving forward, and winning the series. The Blues won the next three games and outscored San Jose 12-2. A team cannot present a better response than that.
Binnington stopped 75 of 77 shots in the three-win termination of San Jose. Perhaps that served as an indicator of his ability to match Rask, save for save.
More than the pure hockey stuff…
There’s something going on here. Something powerful and perhaps even intangible in some aspects.
Just being here is a remarkable development for the Blues. They’re attempting to become the first team to win the Stanley Cup after being at the bottom of the league in points in the NHL standings through at least 20 games games into the schedule.
There’s the 51-season (on ice) drought of no Stanley Cups… decades of torment … this history is ready to be wiped out. This drought is due, overdue, to end.
In that context this has a similar feel to what we saw from the 2004 Red Sox, who hadn’t won a World Series since 1918. Or the 2016 Cubs, who had drifted without a World Series title since 1908. Or, perhaps more relevant, the 2019 Washington Capitals, who finally won the Cup after entering the league for the 1974-75 season.
There have been so many magical moments and events …
Real things. Unreal things. Unreal things that became real.
Binningto: as improbable a hero for the 2019 Blues as Kurt Warner was for the 1999 Rams.
The Game 7 double-overtime goal to conquer Dallas, drilled in by the Hometown Hercules, Pat Maroon. Biggest goal in franchise history.
You aren’t supposed to win a crucial playoff game on a fantastic, backhand goal by Robert Bortuzzo…
You aren’t supposed to win a postseason game on the road — after trailing 2-0 entering the third period at Winnipeg — with that Game 5 winner coming from Jaden Schwartz with 15 seconds remaining …
Schwartz wasn’t supposed to score 12 postseason goals after banking only 11 in 69 regular season games…
Two inspirational words: Laila Anderson.
You weren’t supposed to overcome the hand-pass devastation. You were supposed to go into the fetal position and fade out …
A bunch of Blues players weren’t supposed to walk into a Philadelphia saloon on a random off night and hear a 1982 hit song by Laura Branigan, “Gloria,” blasting through the speakers — destined to instantly become your team’s victory song …
Two more inspirational words: Charles Glenn.
You weren’t supposed to largely shut down three top scoring lines from Winnipeg, Dallas and San Jose to reach the biggest stage in the sport…
You weren’t supposed to be guided — with perfection — to this special place by an interim coach nicknamed “Chief.” If Blues fans and media put together a list of potential coaching hires (non-interim) to eventually take over as coach, Berube’s name would have been at the bottom of the list … or not on the list at all…
The Blues weren’t supposed to do any of this — but they did…
The Blues aren’t supposed to defeat the Boston Bruins to win the first Stanley Cup for the St. Louis franchise, for their amazingly loyal fans, and for the city.
But they will.
The heart wins.
Blues in six.
Thanks for reading…