Today is the day. For the first time in many readers’ lives, and for the fourth time in others’, the Blues are dropping the puck on game one of the Stanley Cup Final. It’s been 49 years against appearances. Last time, Bobby Orr soared through the air. What will happen this series?
It’s best to take it one game at a time, and tonight at 8:00 on NBC is game one in Boston. During the regular season, the Blues went 1-1-0 against the Bruins, winning 2-1 in a shootout on February 23rd, but losing 5-2 in Boston on January 17th. There was a gulf of difference between the teams that played in those two games. Personnel wise, the biggest difference was who was in net: Jake Allen switched to Jordan Binnington. Morale wise and confidence wise, however, there was a gulf. For the second game, the Blues were one game removed from their 11 game winning streak and were clawing to climb in the West’s standings.
A hungry Blues team is a scary Blues team. Ask the Jets, Stars, and Sharks about that. Like Doug Armstrong said yesterday at Media Day, “So ultimately to get to here you have to have a big heart and that’s what excites us about our group is they, we have a bunch of guys with big hearts.”
They may not always be the most talented team on the ice, but the Blues were one of the best teams in the league in the second half of the season. They’re playing another one.
As I mentioned in the series preview, the best chance the Blues have at winning comes if they can shut down the Bruins’ top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak. They have nearly 40% of the Bruins’ postseason goals, wheras the Blues scoring - outside of Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko - is more evenly distributed.
Another key for tonight is Jordan Binnington. If he can keep pace with Tuukka Rask, and if the Blues’ defense limits poor clearing attempts and giveaways, Binnington should have an opportunity to go head to head with one of the best goaltenders in the league.
The Blues are on a three game winning streak. The Bruins are on a seven game streak by virtue of sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals. The national media is giving the Bruins the edge, but the Blues have been written off by most pundits and predictions in every single series. If the Blues can snap Boston’s winning streak, they’ll be well on their way to proving those experts wrong again.