You could hardly blame the Boston Bruins for needing to reacquaint themselves with the sport of hockey as they prepare to host the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final Monday night at TD Garden.
The Bruins haven't played since May 16, when they completed a four-game sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes with a 4-0 road victory. But history is not on their side going into the final, with five of the previous seven teams to have swept the conference final going on to lose in the championship series. St. Louis is playing in its first Stanley Cup final since 1970 after dispatching the San Jose Sharks in six games.
St. Louis Blues at Boston Bruins (-149, 5)
There's little precedent for a team having 10 days off between postseason games, but oddsmakers believe that the Bruins have the edge in the first period of Monday's Game 1. And with good reason: Boston comes into the best-of-seven having dominated in the opening period so far in the playoffs, scoring 16 goals in the opening 20 minutes while surrendering just six. Contrast that with the Blues, who are a minus-1 in the first period, and we're on the Boston bandwagon when it comes to the first-period line.
PREDICTION: Boston -0.5 first period line (+165)
Low-scoring first periods have been regular occurrences involving teams that sweep the conference final, at least since 1990. And we can't ignore just how difficult it has been for opposing teams to convert in the first period against Boston, which held Carolina to just one first-period goal in their conference final sweep. The Blues produced seven first-period goals vs. the Sharks, but San Jose's defense and goaltending aren't in the same league as Boston's. We favor the Under on the 1.5-goal first-period total.
PREDICTION: Under 1.5 first period goals (-135)
Goals could be hard to come by for the Blues, who will be dealing with a much tougher defensive foe this time around. But if there's one player to lean on when it comes to a St. Louis goal-scorer prop, it's Jaden Schwartz. The 2010 first-round pick has been a pivotal part of the Blues' run to the Cup final, leading all skaters with seven road goals in the postseason. If St. Louis has a shot at stealing the opener, they'll need Schwartz to be on his game – and we like the chances of that happening.
PREDICTION: Jaden Schwartz anytime goal (+170)
Boston laid waste to Carolina's defense and goaltending in the first two games of the conference final, and could very well do the same against a St. Louis team that surrendered 13 goals in the first three games of the Western Conference final before holding the Sharks to two goals over the final three outings. But it'll take time to shake off the rust – and with the Blues' goaltending having improved of late, there's plenty of reason to like the U5.5 for Game 1.
PREDICTION: Under 5 (-110)
On one hand, it's worth considering that five of the past seven teams coming off a conference final sweep went on to lose the first game of the Stanley Cup final. And it's certainly notable that the Blues are a sizzling 7-2 SU on the road in the postseason. But the Bruins have been the best team in the league since sweating their first-round win over Toronto, cruising past the Columbus Blue Jackets and Hurricanes while losing just two games in those two series. We favor the home team in a narrow decision.
PREDICTION: Boston one-goal winning margin (+220)