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Coaches Room

Bruins' experience, power play could be difference in Cup Final

MacLean says bigger defensemen key for Blues

by Paul MacLean / Special to NHL.com

The Coaches Room is a regular feature throughout the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs by one of four former NHL coaches and assistants who will turn their critical gaze to the game and explain it through the lens of a teacher. David Marcoux, Paul MacLean, Don Nachbaur and Gord Murphy will take turns providing insight.

In this edition, MacLean, former coach of the Ottawa Senators, breaks down the 2019 Stanley Cup Final between the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins.

Let's start out with this: I will always have a soft spot for the St. Louis Blues. 

They picked me 109th in the 1978 NHL Draft. I had two stints with that organization: in 1980-81 (no points, one game), and from 1989-91 (84 points; 40 goals, 44 assists in 115 games). You never forget the team that drafted you.

I'm happy for the city and the fans. They've been loyal and supportive, and now they finally get to see their team in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 49 years. 

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Blues series coverage]

 

When I break down the key areas of this Blues-Boston Bruins Final, it becomes evident just how much these two teams resemble each other. They're both very deep and very flexible in terms of their heavy style of play. 

It stands to be a long series.

You can feel the Blues' momentum. It's raw enthusiasm, and it mirrors the vibe of the entire city of St. Louis. 

Having said that, emotions are usually trumped by experience, and Boston has tons of it. Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask, Brad Marchand and David Krejci have been in this moment before (Boston won the Cup in 2011 and lost in the Final in 2013). If there is any edge between these teams, that would be it.

Video: Home ice gives Bruins advantage in Stanley Cup Final

My heart's with the Blues but I slightly lean toward the Bruins because they've been here. If St. Louis can overcome that, they've got a real shot. 

Here's my breakdown of the Final:

 

Forwards

I think it's pretty much even, but I think the bottom tier in Boston has a little more speed than that of the Blues. Make no mistake: St. Louis has played with a lot of speed during these playoffs. Boston's forwards have been very quick, though, especially on the back pressure in creating turnovers from behind. 

 

Defensemen

I think they're both pretty similar. The St. Louis group, collectively, is bigger; Blues defensemen average 6-foot-3, 211 pounds, and the Bruins average 6-1, 200 pounds. Obviously Chara (6-9, 250) tips the scales, but he's just one guy. Overall the Alex Pietrangelos, the Colton Paraykos, the Carl Gunnarssons, they're all bigger men than the Boston guys, Chara not included. Torey Krug is a little guy. Charlie McAvoy is not a big guy. I think the size of the Blues defensemen and their mobility has been pretty good. Boston's has been excellent too. I think the speed of the Boston defensemen might be a bit better, but the ability to defend and keep you away from the net, well, both teams have been good at it but you give the edge to St. Louis there. And they're going to have to do that -- keep the Bruins away from the net, especially that first line of Bergeron, Marchand and David Pastrnak -- if they want to have success.

 

Goaltending

Jordan Binnington and Rask has each faced his share of adversity; Binnington at the beginning of his NHL career, Rask more toward the middle of his. They both seem to be focused and in that goaltender's mode you want them to be in. Both teams are great at boxing out the opposition, so there are not a lot of loose pucks in danger areas. Whichever team can somehow establish that inside position will likely cause the opposing goalie fits. At this stage, I think experience is the big factor. Slight edge to Rask.

 

Power play

You have to give a slight edge to the Bruins power play. They've been deadly with that first group: Bergeron, Marchand, Jake DeBrusk, Krug and Pastrnak. Boston has really been on top of its game and is converting at 34.0 percent, which leads the playoffs. St. Louis has scored timely goals on its power play but has not been as effective (19.4 percent, ninth). 

 

Penalty kill

Boston, again, has been good (86.3 percent, fourth), as has St. Louis (78.0, 11th). It's going to be more difficult for the Blues penalty kill because of the danger of the Bruins power play, and that's a big key.

Video: Analyst Mike Kelly previews the Stanley Cup Final

 

Other

Coaching, with Bruce Cassidy of Boston and Craig Berube of St. Louis, is kind of a saw-off here at 50-50. … The Bruins' fourth line has changed the complexion of their team. … For the Blues, Sammy Blais has come in and really pounded people on the forecheck.

 

Players to watch

Jaden Schwartz, F, Blues: He leads St. Louis with 12 goals in the playoffs, but can he keep it up?  

David Krejci, C, Bruins: I think he can be a difference maker on that second line

 

Unsung heroes

Jay Bouwmeester, D, Blues: He hasn't been a big scorer (five assists in 19 games) but is experienced and can help some of the younger guys when the pressure heats up. 

Jake DeBrusk, F, Bruins: Overshadowed by the top line, he's been really effective around the net in the dirty areas on the second line.

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