St. Louis Blues Advance To Stanley Cup Finals

There have been plenty of improbable runs to the Stanley Cup Finals–after last season’s unprecedented debut season by the expansion Vegas Golden Knights nothing is shocking–but the St. Louis Blues are certainly not a team anyone expected to represent the Western Conference. The Blues finished off the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night and now advance to the Stanley Cup Finals to take on the Boston Bruins. The Bruins summarily dispatched the upstart Carolina Hurricanes in four straight games.

The Blues have been scrapping hard for most of 2019. On January 3, they were dead last in the National Hockey League standings and certainly didn’t look like a team on the verge of competing for the Stanley Cup. At that point, the talk was primarily about how a team with such a talented roster could play so poorly. That changed quickly in large part thanks to the tremendous performance of rookie goaltender Jordan Bennington. Bennington quickly took over as the team’s starting goaltender and the Blues started to turn things around. They went 29-10-5 the rest of the way in the regular season to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs. They opened the playoffs by eliminating the Winnipeg Jets in six games and then outlasted the Dallas Stars in a seven game series. The final game of the series took two overtimes to decide.

St. Louis started poorly in the Western Conference Finals, particularly their defensive play. Bennington struggled early on despite a generally decent effort from his defensemen. In Game 1, the Sharks scored 6 goals on 25 shots. The Blues took a 4-2 win in Game 2 but the Sharks would respond in Game 3 with 5 goals on 32 shots. Since then, Bennington has been nearly untouchable allowing just 2 goals in the final three games of the series. He’s received a boost from the re-awakening of the Blues’ offense that erupted for 10 goals in the final two games of the West Finals. At the same time, injuries to key players as the series progressed hampered the Sharks’ performance.

St. Louis now must step up in class to face a Boston Bruins’ team that has looked very strong throughout the playoffs. Boston survived a challenge from a determined Toronto Maple Leafs side in the opening round but after falling behind 2-1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets have raised their game significantly. Since a 2-1 loss to the Jackets in Columbus on April 30 the Bruins have not lost winning 7 straight games to advance to the Finals. Bruins’ goaltender Tuuka Rask has looked dominant during that run and is arguably the playoff MVP to this point. Given Bennington’s improved form in the St. Louis net and the challenge posed by a potent Blues’ offense the series should be a very competitive one. Boston has some concern about the status of monstrous defenseman Zdeno Chara who missed the 4th game of the Carolina series though he has been upgraded to ‘probable’ for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

The NHL series odds for this matchup give the Bruins the edge, likely based on their home ice advantage and greater popularity among the betting ‘public’. Boston finished with 8 more points than the Blues in the regular season but it can be argued that they were the beneficiary of easier matchups throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs. At any rate, that price looks high. St. Louis has been a very streaky team during the past few years but when they’re ‘on’ they’re lethal. We’ll take the price with the St. Louis Blues to win the Stanley Cup.


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