Here are Today’s NHL Picks:
Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final is tonight as the Boston Bruins battle against the St. Louis Blues. Boston was able to shake off a rusty, early start as they scored four unanswered goals in a 4-2 Game 1 victory.
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. Game 1 saw Tuukka Rask make the timely saves when needed as he only had to stop 18 of 20 shots. Jordan Binnington faced 37 shots and stopped 34 of them in defeat. At one point, Boston fired 29 shots on net compared to St. Louis’s eight.
Both goalies came in playing some of their best hockey and the rest did not hamper either goaltender too much. That was the good news. The one bad thing for St. Louis was the lack of discipline as the Blues had to kill off five minors. There was that one power play goal they yielded which would prove to be pivotal.
With the way Binnington is playing, he may see a lot more slot shots than Rask, even in game 2. Boston repeatedly was able to get into the slot with ease and generate chances. Boston’s expected goals for at even strength was 2.55 while St. Louis inched their way to 1.07. Rask comparatively did not have to handle the puck as much and was able to make timely saves.
Rask expects to see a few more shots his way on Wednesday night but how many is a good question. St. Louis can adjust but when a team like Boston can roll four lines the way they do, that makes things challenging. St. Louis could do the same, but can they get that sustained pressure in front of Tuukka Rask?
Strength vs Strength
Alas, this one is so essential. Boston is not going to spot St. Louis two goals. At least, that is the expectation anyway. Even strength shots were 27-16 Boston and chances were 18-13. That is not immensely lopsided but again that expected goals for was. This was buoyed by the top Boston line along with the Sean Kuraly (fourth) line which tormented whichever pairings St. Louis could muster. Kuraly generates a high danger chance a game and had a few in Game 1.
One of the biggest problems St. Louis will have in Game 2 is trying to stay disciplined. Some will argue that St. Louis was a victim of “suspect officiating” but that was not the case. There are just penalties a team cannot keep taking. Sadly, St. Louis did while Boston played the game right on the edge without going over it as often. Puck possession increasingly edged towards Boston which kept St. Louis chasing the puck for long stretches of action. That tired them out which led to goals against of course.
At 5 on 5, Boston was dominant overall. They enjoyed a 2-to-1 shot margin, a big expected goal for margin, and a 6-1 edge in high-danger chances. Scoring chances were quite lopsided along with slot chances as well. The Blues must be more assertive through all three zones or Game 2 will be a carbon copy of the first game.
David Pastrnak and the top line may even get a few more opportunities than usual if St. Louis tries to open things up in Game 2. It is something to watch for.
Game 2 Betting Picks:
Our betting rationale is mostly along home friendly lines again. The dilemma is what to expect considering the Boston top line did relatively little in Game 1 other than create some scoring chances. Fortunately, this trio often has a bounce back effort after subpar games like the opener.
Also, Boston’s depth rates just a little better and that makes a difference especially early in this series. St. Louis needs to get more and more balance as the game goes on to sustain their early efforts. If they cannot achieve that, then Boston will be able to roll over them once more on the scoreboard.
1u – BOS Bruins MoneyLine @ -165
1u – Under 5.5 total goals @ -129
1u – BOS Bruins PuckLine (-1.5 goals) @ +170
By Chris Wassel