Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Seven reasons why the Blues are definitely winning tonight (and also seven why the Bruins are)

We’re hours away from the first Game 7 of a Stanley Cup final in eight years. Are you pumped? I’m a little pumped. This is going to be fun.

So who’s going to win? I have no idea. Really, none at all. I could pretend that I do, but anyone who’s been following my predictions so far won’t be buying it for a second. And can you blame me? The 2019 playoffs have been total chaos. Anyone who tells you that they’ve got it all figured out now, with one game to go, is full of it. I’m not even going to try, because I’ve been trying to predict Game 7s for decades now and I’ve only ever been right once.

So no, I’m not going to be right. But could I get you to settle for half-right? I can come up with seven reasons why the Bruins are definitely going to win Game 7. I can also come up with seven more why the Blues are an absolute lock. If you’re an optimist, pick the team you like best and only read their entries. If you prefer feeling sick heading into a big game, only read the other team. Read all of them, and come away feeling just as confused as when you started. Or just wait until tomorrow, read the entries of the team that won, and then head to the comments to call me a genius.

Your call. There are no wrong answers here. Well, there are – seven out of 14, to be exact. But that’s a better batting average than I normally have, so let’s get to them.

The Bruins will win because: The first line is finally waking up.

The Patrice Bergeron/Brad Marchand/David Pastrnak line – and no, we’re not calling them the Perfection Line, knock that off – has been hit-and-miss for a lot of the postseason. They were broken up against Toronto, reunited, and certainly had their moments. But they never really rolled for long stretches the way we’ve seen in the past. It’s a credit to the rest of the Bruins forwards that they had the depth to keep winning in spite of their top line struggling.

For most of the final, it’s been the same story, with Brayden Schenn’s line winning the matchup. The Bergeron line’s struggles have been so noticeable that there’s been plenty of speculation that some or all of them may be playing through serious injuries.

But on Sunday, for the first time in the series, the Bergeron line looked dominant, while Schenn’s looked outclassed. That’s just about the best news you could get as a Bruins fan. Maybe they’ve made an adjustment, or maybe they’re healthy again, or maybe they’re just heating up. You don’t really care about the why right now. You just know that if the top line can dominate, every other matchup falls into place really nicely.

The Blues will win because: The stats tell us that Jordan Binnington can’t lose in this situation.

We’ve heard about it all postseason. Overall, Binnington’s playoff numbers aren’t all that great, and he’s had a few games in this series alone where he’s looked very ordinary. But after a loss, he gains some sort of weird superpowers where he becomes unbeatable.

In the playoffs, he’s 7-2 with a 1.83 GAA after a loss, which plays into the narrative that the kid has ice in his veins. And it is a narrative to some extent – every goalie who makes it deep into the playoffs has a good record after a loss, because the ones that don’t get eliminated early. But sometimes even a narrative can have value as long as everyone believes it. Under normal circumstances, a team heading into Game 7 with a young goalie who just got shelled in Game 6 might be worried. The Blues don’t have to be.

The Bruins will win because: The stats also tell us that Tuukka Rask can’t lose in this situation.

Wait, did you say Binnington is a 1.83 GAA in these types of games? Rask has that beat.

Can both goalies be unbeatable in the same game? Huh. We may be here a while.

But while we’re on the subject of goaltending, let’s point out that Rask has been the better of the two, both in the series and in the playoffs. I’m not sure I’m willing to give him the Conn Smythe even in a losing cause, but there’s a case to be made. He’s been that good. The Blues have already survived having one goaltender stand on his head in a Game 7 against them, but I don’t like their odds if it happens again.

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