Blues should be a dandy

Blues should be a dandy

The former Maple Leaf prospect, or the former OHL champion in the league’s smallest market?

That’s just one of the questions facing prognosticators as the Stanley Cup finale opens this week between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues. Tuukka Rask (yep, he was a Leaf draft pick – 21 st overall in 2005) takes on Cinderella-story Jordan Binnington (yep, he was in goal for a surprising Owen Sound Attack club that took the Robertson Cup in 2011 in a Game 7
overtime win).

Goaltending is just one of the puzzlers – as to who has the edge – in what promises to be (hopefully?) the wrap-up to a terrific playoffs.

WHO HAS THE EDGE IN NET? Boy oh boy, this is a tough one and one that might not have a distinct answer. Rask is the leading candidate for Conn Smythe honours; Binnington isn’t even a full step behind.

As mentioned in this space last week, Rask was merely brilliant versus Carolina and very good against Columbus and Toronto.

Binnington outplayed Connor Hellebucyk, Ben Bishop and Martin Jones in succession.

Both are technically sound and razor quick.

EDGE: Draw

CAN RYAN O’REILLY MATCH UP WITH PATRICE BERGERON? Well, he’s close. These are two of the NHL’s best two-way centres. Actually, they might be the two absolute best.

A slight advantage goes to Bergeron as he’s been here before and let’s face it, we’re deep into clutch-crunch time right now.

EDGE: Bergeron

WITH TWO LEGIT COACH OF THE YEAR CANDIDATES, DO YOU TAKE CASSIDY OR BERUBE? Nobody’s done more in such a short time frame than Craig Berube.

As well documented and discussed, the Blues were below even the Ottawa Senators near the halfway point of the year. Berube was brought in as head coach in late November after the firing of Mike Yeo. The results are pretty obvious.

When they mention coach-of-the-year candidates, somehow Bruce Cassidy’s name slips through the five-hole.

What Cassidy is, is a highly-skilled communicator. That’s essential when heading up a team laced and loaded with quality veterans who’ve ‘been there before.’

Cassidy, the former Ottawa 67, does not lead with a heavy hand. He has a grip on this team to be sure.

“His technique and knowing when to push the right buttons has obviously worked pretty well for us,” forward Chris Wagner told the Boston Globe.

EDGE: Draw

WHO WINS THE ‘REST’ WAR? This will be interesting. The B’s have been off for 11 days. Likely they’ll need at least a couple of periods to get the engines warmed up. The Blues have been resting up since ousting San Jose last Tuesday.

EDGE: Blues

IS HOME-ICE AN ADVANTAGE FOR THE BRUINS? Likely not. St. Louis won all three games it needed to win in the opening round against Winnipeg, one of the toughest rinks in the league. Boston’s home crowd has been one of the quieter, less-intimidating ones in these playoffs (not like the old Boston Garden days when the fans practically sat in the players’ laps).

EDGE: Blues

WHO OWNS THE MORE SPECIAL OF THE SPECIALTY TEAMS? This has been a dynamic post-season for the Bruins on the power play.

Both on the penalty kill and power play, Boston’s been very, very good. The B’s have 17 power play goals in their 17 playoff games and ranks first at 34 per cent success.

Boston is third in the league in penalty kill effectiveness.  St. Louis has been less successful – ranks ninth on the power play and just 11 th shorthanded.
EDGE: Bruins

PREDICTION: Boston’s core has been their before. I like their overall gameand depth.

We’ll stick with our original prediction – Bruins in six games.