Is The NHL About To Undergo a Growth Spurt?
For those of you wondering why my 2019 Stanley Cup Final prediction isn’t here, it’s already been published with The Guardian (PEI). Here’s the CliffsNotes version:
At least, that’s what my head tells me.
In my heart, I’m hoping the Blues can pull off the upset and win their first-ever Cup.
I’ve got no dog in this fight, no skin in this game, and other cliches about not having any favorites in this contest.
In my role as a free-lance pundit, it’s my unbiased opinion the Bruins simply have too much talent and experience.
As a fan of the game, however, I love an underdog. Especially one with the story like the Blues.
If you thought the expansion Vegas Golden Knights’ run to the 2018 Cup Final was hard to believe, wait until you see the Blues story.
The Blues, remember, were last in the overall standings in early-January. They’d changed coaches in November with little notable effect. Key players such as Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, and Brayden Schenn were rumored to be trade bait. Their goaltending was so bad they resorted to starting a 25-year-old minor-league call-up named Jordan Binnington.
Every expert, and probably most Blues fans, had written them off by that point.
And then, they started winning. A lot. And they haven’t stopped winning. They rose from the bottom of the standings into a playoff berth. They upset the Winnipeg Jets, took out the Dallas Stars, and beat the San Jose Sharks. All the guys said to be trade bait played key roles in their march to the Final.
Now, they’re set to face off with the Bruins in a rematch of the 1970 Stanley Cup Final, a series memorable for Bobby Orr’s iconic series-clinching goal.
A team given up for dead at midseason rises to reach the Stanley Cup Final and faces off against the team that defeated them in their last Final appearance 49 years ago. If this wasn’t happening in real life, it would look like something from the desperate mind of a fourth-rate screenwriter with a serious cocaine habit.
It would be an amazing story if the Blues overcame the odds to win their first championship. But then my head reminds me of how impressive the Bruins are.
Rask has been amazing between the pipes this spring. He’s the favorite to win the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP. Binnington’s been very good for the Blues. Rask has been otherworldly.
Their power play (34-freakin’-percent success rate!) is this postseason’s best, while their penalty kill is the fourth-best at 86.3 percent. The Blues, meanwhile, are ninth with the man-advantage (19.4) and eleventh on the penalty kill at 78 percent.
Center Patrice Bergeron and wingers Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak form one of the league’s most formidable scoring lines. Their depth at center (Bergeron, David Krejci, and Charlie Coyle) is impressive. The defense, anchored by the ageless Zdeno Chara and rising star Charlie McAvoy, can stifle the best offense.
So that’s my dilemma. For the first time in a very long while, I’m torn between my head and my heart when it comes to the Stanley Cup Final.
My head says Boston. My heart says St. Louis.
Because I cover the NHL for a living, I’m picking the Bruins. But the fan in me won’t be upset if the Blues win.
Enjoy the show, everyone.