Sometimes, a series can hinge on a single player stepping up under pressure or wilting under the lights. The last time the Boston Bruins were in the Stanley Cup Final, Tyler Seguin all but disappeared in a six-game defeat against the Chicago Blackhawks. A key player disappeared in a key moment which limited the Bruins and they simply couldn’t match the Chicago depth.
That spring, Bryan Bickell was the Chicago X-factor. He scored nine playoff goals and four points in six games against the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final. One team’s X-factor rose to the challenge and that team took home Lord Stanley.
So, who are the guys this time around? Which player has the ability to turn the tide in favor of his team? These guys aren’t the obvious candidates, they aren’t the top players on each team. No, X-factors are depth guys who can make a huge difference in a seven-game series.
Boston Bruins X-Factor – Marcus Johansson: Very quietly, Johansson has put together a very strong run for the Bruins. After appearing in only ten games following the deadline, he’s been a steady contributor during the B’s playoff run. Johansson has appeared in 15 playoff contests with nine points to his credit (3-6-9) while helping complete a very strong third line. Johansson’s addition, coupled with the postseason emergence of Charlie Coyle, has given the Bruins forward depth that has yet to be matched by any opponent this spring.
The Blues are deep team as well, but I’m not sure they’ll be able to match the depth of the Bruins if Johansson is clicking the way he did against the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final. If Johansson is on his game, the Bruins will have an advantage that might just push them to glory.
St. Louis Blues X-Factor – Patrick Maroon: Yesterday, here at BHN, I touched on Maroon and how the Bruins must be aware of him this series. Maroon has been a Bruin killer, dating back to his time riding shotgun with Connor McDavid in Edmonton. He’s got six goals in six games against Boston since the start of the 2016-17 season and has fought Zdeno Chara twice in that span. Maroon is effective offensively against Boston and has gotten under their skin with ease over the last three seasons.
He’s the closest the B’s will get to facing Brad Marchand this spring, and that alone should make them worry. Like with Johansson, Maroon is a guy that could push the Blues over the edge. If he gets up to his old tricks against the B’s, that likely means that St. Louis has three lines capable of scoring. Should that happen, it is going to be awfully tough for the Bruins to overcome this Cinderella story.
This series very well could be won by a third line. The x-factor for each team resides on the depth lines, and whichever one steps up will likely be left standing in the end. We know the top guns are going to show up, but the this series very well may come down to Maroon and Johansson trying to push the depth over the edge.