Much has been made of the Bruins’ Stanley Cup Final experience versus the Blues’. Right now, the only player on St. Louis who has seen a Final game is David Perron, who made the trip last year as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights. Oskar Sundqvist has SCF experience if you count watching from the pressbox.
The Bruins on the other hand have five players left from their 2011 championship team: Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask (who was Tim Thomas’ backup), Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Brad Marchand. Torey Krug also played for the Cup with the Bruins in 2013, when they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks. All of the players on the team with Cup Final experience are excellent. Brad Marchand is coming off of a 100 point season, and also another year of being a pain in the ass. Zdeno Chara might be 42 years old, but he’s not showing many signs of slowing down. Tuukka Rask is playing out of his mind right now (1.84 GAA, .942 SV% this postseason).
What do the Blues have to say in response to all of this experience? Colton Parayko summed it up nicely:
“We’ve had to go through a lot of hurdles to get to this spot already. I think it’s just one of those things you can kind of talk about, but the character that we have in this room, I don’t think experience is a thing. We’ll see. It’s going to be a good series. They’re a good team. Should be fun.”
Yes, playing in a Stanley Cup Final is something that any player covets, and understanding what it takes to get you there is key. But the Blues are there. They’ve been the underdogs in every series that they’ve been in and still, they’re in the Final against the Boston Bruins. What they need to focus on more than experience is shutting down the Bruins’ top line of Marchand, Bergeron, and David Pastrnak. That line plowed through the Hurricanes and has 22 of the Bruins’ 57 post-season goals. They’re also why the Bruins’ have the postseason’s best power play at 34%.
The Blues have scoring depth up and down the line-up, and the Bruins have to pay as much attention to Oskar Sundqvist as they do to Vladimir Tarasenko (that’s hyperbole, but you get the point). Jaden Schwartz has 12 goals and four assists so far, which is more than his regular season total and one goal away from tying Brett Hull for a franchise record. Tarasenko had a point in every game of the Sharks series. The Blues defense is also dangerous. Colton Parayko has a goal and 10 assists, and Alex Pietrangelo has two goals and 11 assists so far.
If the Blues’ defense has their head on a swivel when it comes to the Bruins’ top scorers, Jordan Binnington should be fine. His numbers aren’t regular season level during these playoffs, but to wrap up the series against San Jose he had a .974 save percentage in the last three games. Binnington also doesn’t get rattled easily. Rask, on the other hand:
And, of course, this meltdown after Derek Roy scored a shootout winner in 2013:
There are more to choose from, if you’re curious.
This whole series may just boil down to one thing: which goalie gets rattled first? Knowing NHL officiating, there’s a possibility for either goaltender to argue a call. Score early, score often on Rask, and see what happens.
The Bruins have “tape” on Binnington from his time on loan last season, but getting Rask off of his game is a hell of a lot easier than getting Binnington off of his.