Before we look ahead to Game 5, let’s revisit how the Bruins, Blues, Jordan Binnington and Tuukka Rask have performed in the 2019 playoffs, looking at how they fared in Games 1 through 4 overall versus Games 1 through 4 of the Finals and how that compares to how their performance in Games 5 through 7 in the three prior rounds.
Note that Binnington has really raised his game in the latter part of the playoff Series. Further note that Rask’s Games 5 through 7 data include only Rounds 1 and 2 and has also been better in the latter part of Series. Note how close their save percentages are in Games 5 through 7.
Some may attribute Binnington’s success to the Blues, as a team, performing better in Games 5 through 7. This likely has an impact but his improvement has been a lot more dramatic than the Blues overall improvement as illustrated by the shots against averages seen here:
Can you imagine if both goalies post a 95% save percentage for the rest of the Finals? I’d expect to see a lot overtime if that is the case.
Of course, the Blues are 6-1 in Games 5 through 7, with their only loss being a 2-1 loss to the Stars. The 7 games are actually more like 7.4 games when you consider their double overtime victory. They have outscored their opponents 23-9 in Games 5 through 7 and 10-1 in those games in the Western Conference Finals.
The Blues have not given up more than two goals in any Game 5 through 7 this playoff season and have only given up 3 goals in their last 265:50 of play in Games 5 through 7, what translates into a ridiculous 0.68 goals against average in those last four games.
The Bruins are 4-1 in Games 5 through 7, with their only loss also being 2-1 (to the Leafs). They have outscored their opponents 17-8 in Games 5 through 7 though their Eastern Conference Final series ended in four games. Boston is averaging 1.50 goals against in their last two Games 5 through 7.
From what I have been reading, people seem to be ignoring the most important people in Boston this afternoon, the Bruins’ doctors. The Bruins’ team doctors will play a significant role in the lineup for tonight’s game. As of late yesterday, coach Brucie Cassidey confirmed to the media that Zdeno Chara had still not been cleared to play. He also mentioned that even if Chara is cleared to play, it will then be Chara’s decision on whether or not to play. Of course that is likely semantics because if Chara is cleared medically, I expect he will play.
Also yesterday, Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk admitted he had not been cleared to play when he stated “I’m feeling a lot more like myself and hopefully I get cleared to play”. His being cleared to play sounded like anything but a sure thing.
Cassidy calls both a game time decision but the real decision, the most important decision will be made by the doctors today. If Chara and/or Grizzy end up playing, you would have to expect the Bruins will go with seven defensemen, making David Backes or Danton Heinen the odd man out, though I would expect it would be Backes.
It sure appears that Robert Bortuzzo will replace Joel Edmundson in the lineup and that the switch will be the only lineup changes for the Blues. Zach Sanford continues to make a case for keeping him in the lineup and I expect that is exactly what will happen.
According to scoutingtherefs.com, Kelly Sutherland & Steve Kozari will be the referees tonight. Boston is 2-0 in the Finals with Sutherland and Kozari working as a tandem and 4-0 overall this playoff season with them. The Blues of course are 0-2 in the Finals and are only 2-3 when the pair officiates their playoff games.
I found it interesting to note that both call more penalties on the road team at a higher rate than most officials. Kozari does it the 5th most while Sutherland is 9th most. They also both call some of the lowest percentage of penalties on the home team, tied for 32nd among all officials. Sutherland tends to put his whistle away more, calling a lower percentage of his penalties in the third period, calling fewer penalties overall and having a high overtime ratio, 9th most in the league.
It’s interesting to look at though I’m not sure how much it plays into things. Of course, Craig Berube did make a few comments after Game 3 regarding penalties. He also made some comments after Game 4 complimenting those officials, a game in which Kozari and Sutherland didn’t referee.
Regardless of the outcome tonight, the Stanley Cup Final will be in St. Louis at a game on Sunday where it could potentially be awarded. History will be made.
It’s a great day for hockey.
NHL Champions for Charity Playoff Edition
In what I hope becomes a Hockeybuzz tradition, Bruins Hockeybuzz writer Anthony Travalgia
and I placed a wager on the series. If the Blues win, Anthony has agreed to make a donation to the Gateway Area Multiple Sclerosis Society
(@mssociety on twitter) whose mission is help each person affected by MS in St. Louis address the challenges of living with MS. They help by raising funds for cutting-edge research, driving change through advocacy, facilitating professional education and providing programs and services that empower people with MS and their families to move their lives forward. I picked this charity to honor Blues anthem singer, Charles Glenn. Read more about Charles’ battle with MS here
. If the Bruins win, I will donate to the JDRF
(@JDRF on twitter) whose mission is improve lives today and tomorrow by accelerating life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat T1D and its complications.
Sharks Hockeybuzz writer Steve Palumbo
and I placed a wager on the series. Since the Blues won, Steve should be making a donation to the Gateway Area Multiple Sclerosis Society
(@mssociety on twitter) whose mission is help each person affected by MS in St. Louis address the challenges of living with MS. They help by raising funds for cutting-edge research, driving change through advocacy, facilitating professional education and providing programs and services that empower people with MS and their families to move their lives forward. I selected the MS Society to honor St. Louis Blues Anthem singer Charles Glenn. Read more about Charles here
I hope that our wagers will inspire players and fans to pledge donations for each win their team makes in the NHL playoffs.
NHL Champions for Charity Regular Season
Given that the Predators pulled out the division title, all be it not without some controversial officiating in the last couple of games, Best Buddies Tennessee https://www.bestbuddies.org/tennessee/
is the beneficiary. Best Buddies Tennessee is dedicated to establishing a volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development and inclusive living opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As a side note, I recently got to experience a Best Buddies even in the St. Louis area that was led by the Eureka high school football team. It was a lot of fun and brought a lot of joy to those involved.
It’s a great day for hockey.