The Boston Bruins electrified a passionate fanbase last year with a dominant run to the Stanley Cup Finals — and then proceeded to rip out Bostonians’ hearts. Behind goalie Jordan Binnington, the St. Louis Blues stomped on the Bruins defensive game plan and shocked the nation en route to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
The Bruins had home-ice advantage and were riding momentum following a 5–1 blowout win in Game 6. Nonetheless, they couldn’t muster a solid scoring chance for two periods in Game 7, while the Blues attacked the blue line and repeatedly exposed Tuukka Rask.
The Bruins’ 4–1 collapse at TD Garden underscored their lack of a clutch factor. David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand looked lifeless in arguably the biggest game of their professional careers. Rask played like a Div. III goaltender and essentially erased his memorable postseason run. The Bruins ultimately failed to capitalize on their offensive advantage and collapsed to a scrappy Blues team that was in dead last place in January.
The Bruins are off to a hot start in the 2019 season. They rolled through a West Coast road trip, then stomped on the Anaheim Ducks and the winless New Jersey Devils. It’s too early to make a full analysis, but the Bruins seem unaffected by last year’s collapse.
However, there remain 75 games and a lot of hockey to be played. Here are three hypothetical situations that could bring the B’s back to the Stanley Cup Finals:
Dominance by the first line trio
Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak dominated the NHL last season. The phenoms combined for 106 goals and 260 points. They were brilliant on the power play, and their neutral zone play was superb. Yet they seemed to disappear in the postseason. Their dominance must continue this year to give the Bruins a legitimate shot at the Cup. The Bruins aren’t deep enough to get consistent offense from their third and fourth lines.
Minimal injuries on the back end
Boston’s defense was wracked by injuries last season with Charlie McAvoy, Kevan Miller and Matt Grzelcyk plagued by the injury bug. Miller was an impact player before succumbing before the playoffs, and the Bruins suffered. To be fair, Connor Clifton exceeded expectations in this postseason, notching five points. However, his flaws were exposed in Game 5 of the Finals, and he was a healthy scratch for Game 7. Keep the defense off Injured Reserve, and the Bruins should be set for a deep run.
Tuukka Rask’s confidence
Please stop using Rask as an excuse for the Bruins’ playoff woes. He isn’t a bad goaltender. I agree he occasionally chokes, but he’s mostly stellar between the pipes. Give the man some confidence. He had an unbelievable postseason — minus one game that should never again be mentioned in Boston. If his mojo returns this year, he’ll turn into Binnington 2.0.
As far-fetched as it might sound, the Bruins have an even better chance at winning the Stanley Cup this year. The players are driven to avenge their collapse, and the team is firing on all cylinders. The Tampa Bay Lightning are in a rut, and the Toronto Maple Leafs can never win against Boston. Say your prayers for yet another Cup run!