Here are Today’s NHL Picks:
The Stanley Cup Final opens in Boston Monday night as the Boston Bruins battle against the St. Louis Blues. St. Louis comes off a punishing six game conquest of the San Jose Sharks while the Boston Bruins swept away the Carolina Hurricanes.
Our series preview is right here.
As always, the goalies take considerable spotlight at this stage of the playoffs. Teams get this far due to their goaltending being a big part typically of the equation. That is 100% true here as Tuukka Rask went 4-0 with a sub 2.00 goals-against average and a save percentage over .950 in round number three. Jordan Binnington rebounded from some uneven moments to post three straight wins over San Jose. He stopped 75 of 77 shots and recorded a shutout in the process.
Both goalies come in playing some of their best hockey, but the ugly specter of the rest issue is going to be brought up a lot. However, the reality is that both teams are looking at 6+ days of rest. The good news is that the team defenses may improve due to the increased time off.
With the way Binnington is playing, he may be able to match save for save with the likes of Tuukka Rask – who has been playing out of his mind since Game 6 versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Why is there a heavy focus on the goaltending? The reason is simple. A team’s last line of defense is goaltending. Boston an St. Louis play heavy games with a reliance of their top line to provide primary scoring – especially on the power play. The middle-sixes are very effective at creating space but being disciplined defensively. This final round will be quite a test for both Rask and Binnington. The edge in experience tilts toward Rask, however. He has been here before in 2013.
Strength vs Strength:
Alas, this one is vital. It will be intriguing to see which top-six unit sustains its production from Round 3. How does St. Louis handle the line matching against Boston? Then, there is Boston. The Patrice Bergeron line could match up against the Vladimir Tarasenko or the second line. Bruce Cassidy has options.
One of the biggest problems St. Louis will have in Game 1 is trying to slow down the Boston power play (34% conversion rate in the playoffs). Boston’s man advantage provided many timely goals in their sweep of Carolina. Also, St. Louis yielded nine goals in 41 tries on the penalty kill. That success rate is just 78%. On the other hand, the Blues did crank up their power play production as they pulverized San Jose in the final three games of their series (25% conversion rate). David Pastrnak and Jaden Schwartz are going to be vital on each team’s power play unit.
Pastrnak and Schwartz are probably two of the biggest keys to their team’s success. Pastrnak looks every bit the healthy player he was before a hand injury hampered him late in the season. Schwartz put a very down 2018-19 regular season long behind the forward with a dozen playoff goals in just 19 games. Both forwards can easily and willingly fire 3+ shots a game on net. Their skill out wide is something which should concern defensemen. Again, it is our matchup to watch as both excel at creating space in a series where it will be at a premium.
Game 1 Betting Picks:
Our betting rationale is mostly along home friendly lines for this opening game. Boston’s team over could be in play here and can be played depending on the number. Furthermore, the puckline at -1.5 can be introduced as well. That is due to experience and that Bruins power play. The only worry is that St. Louis shows the potential of slowing pace of play down especially after being well rested.
How is Petr Mrazek? If he shows no ill effects from the groin injury during game action, then the game and series get interesting and quick from a bettor’s standpoint. If not, then Game 1 is a virtual cakewalk. Also, the depth of Carolina must thrive in Game 1 for them to win and that seems questionable at best. Boston’s depth rates just a little better and that makes a difference especially early in this series.
1u – BOS Bruins MoneyLine @ -154
1u – Under 5.5 total goals @ -129
1u – BOS Bruins PuckLine (-1.5 goals) @ +185
By Chris Wassel