Just the Facts
Where: TD Garden, Boston, MA
When: 8:00PM ET
How to Follow: NBC, CBC, TVAS, SportsNet
Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub
Team Leaders (playoffs)
Goals: Patrice Bergeron, 8
Assists: Brad Marchand, Torey Krug tied with 11
Points: Marchand, 18
Goalie: Tuukka Rask - 1.84 GAA / .942 Sv% /
Goals: Jaden Schwartz, 12
Assists: Ryan O’Reilly and Alex Pietrangelo, tied at 11 each
Points: Schwartz, 16
Goalie: Jordan Binnington - 2.37 GAA / .914 Sv% /
IT’S THE FINALS, FOLKS.
There is a maximum of seven games left in the NHL season, potentially a bit more if you count any overtime periods as ‘extra hockey’, which... it is. And it’s the best brand of extra hockey at this time of year.
We recommend carrying your own seatbelt to your preferred hockey-viewing destination for the next two weeks or so.
Both teams have:
- Forward depth and well-balanced time on ice distribution thanks to some talented coaching staff and effective contribution down the teams’ respective lineups.
- Strength in the north-south game: both teams will either hammer it through you or pass it past you, but are not doing too much neutral zone trickery. Passes are short and to sticks or space.
- Resilience to officiating errors. Sorry that this has to come up, rest assured it will be brief: both Boston and St. Louis have overcome officiating misses that created goals for the opposing team, and have not been dismayed by them. Call it coaching or mental fortitude of the players, but that counts for something in both teams’ favors.
Keys for the Bruins
Extra rest will never hurt a team physically; the players and conditioning staff make sure of that. But is the mental toll of a long layoff relevant historically?
Boston’s power play is clicking at a 34% success rate. The Las Vegas Golden Knights were second at 27.6%. The Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals, Calgary Flames, Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets and New York Islanders sit before the Blues, who are converting with the man advantage at just a 19.4% rate, a shade better than half as well as Boston.
The Bruins’ first line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak have been striking hot fiyah as of late... well, maybe not as recently as you might hope. Still, while the story through two rounds was depth contributions from the Bruins’ bottom six, The Best Line in Hockey brought the heat against Carolina and were a major factor in their quick expulsion from contention.
To speak the opposite position from that last ‘key to success’, there should be some worry about the B’s drifting back to the top-heavy team of the past two years, trying to force all offense through first line. Yes, they’ve been firing; no, you shouldn’t automatically add several whole minutes to their ice time.
B’s forward Chris Wagner was the highest skill on that fourth line, reminding me a bit of Daniel Paille but with less-frequently-flashy mittens. His loss for what’s probably the entire series (still an ‘upper-body injury’ officially, but I suspect some kind of break in his forearm) turns the fourth line into more of a hitting line than a threat. Just don’t count out Sean Kuraly.
Keys for the Blues
The Blues have mildly-reduced pressure after winning hard-fought series after series to reach the Finals, which Boston can’t truly say given how they steamrolled the Carolina Hurricanes. Boston has to re-prove themselves again after that somewhat farcical scrimmage and prove that they haven’t gotten complacent in the interim.
Though St. Louis always had Vladamir Tarasenko, he just started to perform up to expectations in the Western Conference Finals, scoring 8 points in 6 games against the San Jose Sharks. While this accounts for well over half of his 13 total points over three rounds, this is the time of year that fans, management and teammates alike hope that the stars shine brightly.
Blues fans should be ABSOLUTELY stoked to have their team in the Finals. T.H.E. Finals. But is a “lucky to be here” attitude from a fan base a detriment to momentum?
They’re all professional athletes, and the Blues probably win the time-between-series recovery period lottery here as they’ll be back in action with less than a week of idle time rather than having to play in a pre-Finals pep rally, but after a debilitatingly physical series against San Jose did the Blues’ bruises heal quickly enough?
St. Louis is very heavily reliant on Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko on separate pairs on defense, and have definitively shortened their bench to mostly four defensemen in general. Robert Bortuzzo and Carl Gunnarsson each play closer to ten minutes per game than twenty and Jay Bouwmeester should not be north of 20 minutes a night, much less the 23m he’s been averaging.
The Bobby Orr OT game-winning goal.
On repeat today, because why not.
Also, here are the condensed game recaps from the NHL.