The Blues appeared in the championship three straight times to begin their franchise history back in 1968. After getting swept each time out, the Blues then went on to endure a 48-year Final appearance drought. That run of futility was made even more painful between 1980 and 2004, when St. Louis made the playoffs every single year without ever even competing for the Cup.
The Bruins, on the other hand, won their first Final in 1929 and never looked back. They have hoisted Lord Stanley’s silver chalice five more times since then – including a sweep of the Blues in 1970. Boston’s last title was won in 2011, and the Bruins went right back to the Final two years later.
Those diverging histories seemed to play out this season as well, with the Bruins opening among the Cup favorites offering odds of (+1100). Boston lived up to expectations, playing well from the jump and finishing the regular season with 107 points and the Eastern Conference’s second playoff seed.
The Blues didn’t fare nearly as well after opening at (+2000), stumbling out of the gate to fall into an NHL-worst hole by January. At that time, St. Louis’ odds to win the Cup plummeted to (+25000) before rebounding on the back of a stunning late-season resurgence. Taking advantage of the odds drop at the time, at least one diehard fan is set to cash in a $100,000 winner if the Blues win the franchise’s first Final.
The 2019 Stanley Cup Final Game 1 from TD Garden in Boston begins on Monday night at 8 p.m. Eastern, but online sportsbook Bovada has already tabbed the Bruins as (-160) moneyline favorites over the Blues (+140).
Despite holding an implied 58 percent chance to win the series opener, a potential area of concern for the Bruins could be the calendar.
Following Boston’s four-game dismissal of the Carolina Hurricanes in the Conference Finals, the team is facing an 11-day layoff. That’s the longest delay to start a Final since the NHL’s salary cap era began in 2005. Head coach Bruce Cassidy knew this well when he consulted fellow Boston head honcho Bill Belichick for advice on utilizing weeks’ worth of preparation.
Hockey bettors who don’t believe Boston goalie Tuukka Rask can shake off the rust until 2019 Stanley Cup Final Game 1 gets going might spot a bargain on the Over 5.5 goals at (+120). The Under is priced at (+140), while puck line bettors have the Blues (+1.5) at (-190) and the Bruins (-1.5) at (+165).
When the St. Louis brass found a would-be contender languishing in last place, they rolled the dice by benching starting goaltender Jake Allen in favor of AHL standout Binnington.
The rookie notched a 3-0 shutout over the Flyers that night, sparking a St. Louis surge. Binnington subsequently went 16-3-1 with a 1.70 goals-against average (GAA), .933 save percentage and five shutouts in his first 20 starts.
It hasn’t been that easy in the Playoffs, as Binnington allowed six goals to the Jets in Game 3 of the opening round and five goals to the Sharks in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. But in between those rocky losses, the rookie has been a rock for the Blues, putting up a 12-7 record with a .914 save percentage and 2.36 GAA in his first Playoff campaign.
As for Rask, he technically has a Cup to his credit, but serving as the backup to 2011 Finals MVP Tim Thomas likely doesn’t qualify in his mind. After experiencing the agony of losing a chance to claim the Cup in 2013, Rask is playing like a man on a mission in these Playoffs.
With a 12-5 record thus far – including a 1.84 GAA, .942 save percentage, and two shutouts – and by far more experience on hockey’s biggest stage, Rask is the reason Boston is favored at (-155) gambling sites to win its second Stanley Cup of the decade. As for St. Louis, the Blues will need to beat (+135) odds to bring the Cup home for the first time in franchise history.