Two goals in 17 seconds. That has been the playoff legacy of Tuukka Rask ever since Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks. Even though Rask backstopped an absolute rout of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals before that, Rask naysayers love to point out the Game 6 Stanley Cup Final collapse as evidence that he just isn’t a big game goaltender.
12 wins and a Conn Smythe worthy performance later, however, and fans are singing a different tune. But coming off an 11-day wait after the Bruins’ victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals, will Tuukka Rask remain the hottest goaltender on the planet? Bruins fans certainly hope so, and the key to defeating the Western Conference Champion St. Louis Blues will be between the pipes for the Black and Gold.
The impending Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues is an intriguing match up. The teams are similarly built, with depth behind a few solid scorers up front, and a solid defensive core. The Bruins have gotten this far with fantastic goaltending from Tuukka Rask, as well as great numbers on the power play, and sort of a playoff ‘coming out party’ for Brandon Carlo, who has been an absolute stud defensively.
While the goaltending and stout defense have looked typical for this Bruins roster, the scoring has been something to behold in the latter half of the season as well as in the playoffs. The Bruins have scored 3.35 goals/game in the playoffs, second only to the Vegas Golden Knights who were knocked out in the first round. Brad Marchand has been hot during the Bruins’ run, but there has been lots of secondary scoring as well from the likes of Marcus Johannson and Charlie Coyle. The Blues have been more reliant on their stars to be on the score sheet, as Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko have accounted for 20 of the team’s goals during the playoffs – a staggering number.
So while Tuukka Rask has been phenomenal, I believe that the Bruins have to buckle down defensively against the likes of Tarasenko and Schwartz in order to take the series. Although the Blues have benefited from some secondary scoring of their own, especially from their third line, the Bruins would be well-served to concentrate on stopping Tarasenko and Schwartz first. Jordan Binnington has been pretty solid in net for the Blues, but there were a couple of instances in the Western Conference Finals where the San Jose Sharks got to him. He’s looked good at times, but also very beatable.
For me, this isn’t a no-brainer of a series. I fully expect the Bruins to look flat during the first part of Monday night’s Game 1, but I think they’ll bounce back once they get their legs under them after such a long layoff. Tuukka Rask shows no signs of stopping his dominant ways, and I don’t think the layoff will effect him as much as others think. Patrice Bergeron will be another key factor if the Bruins are to hoist the Stanley Cup, and he will need to play his best brand of “Selke Trophy hockey” to slow down the Blues dominant scoring up front.
My prediction: Tuukka Rask will continue his hot streak, but I think that Binnington steals a game or two for the Blues. The Blues were one of the worst teams in hockey earlier this season, and only got this far because of Binnington, who has looked beatable at times during the postseason, and hasn’t faced an offense quite like Boston. I think the Bruins take the first two games of the series, steal one in St. Louis, drop game 5 to a solid Binnington start, and take the cup in a game 6 rout.
Bruins in 6.
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