After a 1st Round full of upsets, a 2nd Round full of more surprises and a Conference Final Round that proved the inevitable, here we are - the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals. The Boston Bruins last won it all in 2011 and as an Original Six team they have won 6 in total over the course of their almost 100-year history, while the St. Louis Blues have never won the big prize in their 52 years of existence. These are the 2 hottest teams since the turn of the 2019 calendar year and will square off for a trophy that only 1 can win! Let us quickly look at each team more in depth followed by a Final Analysis and Prediction.
EAST CHAMPIONS - BOSTON BRUINS
Led by a five-player core that are the only players left from their runs earlier this decade with a Stanley Cup win in 2011 to go with another finals appearance in 2013, this might be the last legitimate chance for this aging core group to go on a run this deep to win one more. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Captain Zdeno Chara and Tuuka Rask (who was the backup goalie when they won the Cup in 2011) have been kept together and competing all these years with a lot of moving parts around them in the supporting cast, which is very common today in the salary cap era. They have managed to draft and develop several younger players to re-tool around this core to finish 3rd overall in the NHL this season with 107 points. Rask has been playing lights out, the defense is well-balanced and up front they can score - but perhaps outside of all that and their dominating physical play their lone weakness is being a "one-line team" trying to find scoring behind the dominating 1st line of Marchand, Bergeron and 2014 1st round pick David Pastrnak. After them and Krejci as the 2nd-line center the production from this forward group drops significantly, meaning that as much as the big line can beat you alone by themselves the homework book says that if you stop that top line - you stop them.
WEST CHAMPIONS - ST. LOUIS BLUES
When you talk about turnaround stories, there may be none better than this one. A coaching change, along with a new young starting goalie completely turned this team around and are a complete different group of players that did not have a lot of chemistry prior to New Year's Day, but after those big changes they sure have a lot of it now, riding all the way here. An original 1967 expansion franchise, the Blues were one of six teams that entered the league to join the Original Six and after going to the Stanley Cup Finals in their 1st 3 years of existence (due to the fact that in a bizarre format they had at the time, Original Six teams were all in a separate division from expansion teams, ensuring that an expansion team would get to the finals in those 1st 3 years) this is the 1st time the Blues are back in the finals since 1970 - when they played, you guessed it - the Boston Bruins! That famous Bobby Orr game-winner when he flies in the air, that's how long ago it has been since this franchise has played for the Cup. In fact, this is just the 4th time they made it as far as the Conference Finals in the past half-century. Always a competitive team (including 25 straight years of making the playoffs between 1980 and 2004) these long-suffering fans in St. Louis are hoping to bring it home in 2019. This is a well-balanced team from top to bottom and don't really have any holes in their lineup.
FINAL ANALYSIS & PREDICTION
The Bruins are very top-heavy - they have the best forward line as well as the perhaps the best defense pairing in the league, while the Blues are more balanced up and down from scoring up front to the mobility of their blue-liners on the back end. Much will be made of how this is a rematch from the 1970 finals that ended with the famous Bobby Orr goal, but this series should create new memories as these teams match up very well against each other as both squads are physical, which should make it a fun old-school type series to watch. Boston has home-ice advantage as they had the 3rd-best record in the league during the regular season, and something tells me that will matter with the best team winning over the course what I believe to be a long series. This still may be too close to call, but I give the edge to the experience of who has been there before.
Either way, enjoy the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals!!!
ARMCHAIR GM LINE: BOSTON IN 7
2019 1ST 3 ROUNDS PREDICTION RECORD: 4-10 (1/4 WINS IN EXACT GAMES)