With the Stanley Cup Final right around the corner between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues, I decided to rank the importance of Boston players heading into Game 1 on Monday night. I’ve already listed the 11 new food items available at the TD Garden and cast Boston’s roster for Game of Thrones, so why not one more list before we finally get some hockey again.
1. Tuukka Rask
Number one is a no-brainer as goaltender could be the default most-important position of any playoff series. But the way Rask has put this Boston team on his back for the past seven games makes a strong performance by Rask the essential thing the Bruins must have to capture the cup.
2. Brad Marchand
Boston needs Marchand to be the leader he has proven he can be this postseason and not so much the pest we have seen in past seasons. Marchand has seven goals and 11 assists over 17 playoff games.
3. Patrice Bergeron
Bergeron is the heart of the Boston Bruins. With eight goals, five assists, power play production, big penalty kill minutes, and elite leadership, Bergeron is as close to an irreplaceable player as they come. We saw a glimpse into the leader Bergeron is when we learned he was playing with cracked ribs and a punctured lung in 2013 because, as he wrote in the Players Tribune, “I’d do it all again because I know a pain that hurts so much more than any of those injuries: The pain of not making the playoffs at all.”
4. Charlie McAvoy
There were stretches of hockey this postseason where McAvoy was the best player on the ice for the Bruins. It certainly was strange to feel more comfortable with Chara on the ice because McAvoy was out there with him. McAvoy is averaging over 24 minutes of ice time per game and is a plus-nine this postseason.
5. David Krejci
Krejci missed Boston’s intrasquad scrimmage on Thursday and practice on Saturday with an illness. It will be a massive blow to this team if Krejci has to miss any time. Somewhat quietly Krejci has racked up 14 points in 17 games and is Boston’s stabilizing force on the second line.
6. David Pastrnak
I have Pastrnak at six simply because Boston was able to make it this far with him being pretty quiet for stretches of this postseason. But if the Bruins have any chance against the Blues Pastrnak will have to continue to play like the Pastrnak we saw in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes. Of some concern is Pastrnak only had one shot in three out Boston’s last five playoff games. Over the past five games, he has only maxed out at two shots.
7. Torey Krug
Torey Krug could be a wildcard for Boston in the Cup Final. I love the attitude he has brought to the ice, and he had a huge Game 2 against Carolina with three assists (two on the power play).
8. Zdeno Chara
I can hear people yelling at me now. It does seem pretty low to have Boston’s captain at eight, and I may be undervaluing his 22 minutes and 32 seconds of ice time per night.
9. Charlie Coyle
What a great acquisition by Don Sweeney. Coyle has been everything Sweeney could have hoped for with six goals and six assists this postseason. If the Cup Final comes down to who has a deeper team, it could be that getting Coyle was last burst of air to push the Bruins toward a Cup win.
10. Jake DeBrusk
DeBrusk’s potential could easily see him leapfrog this list into the top five. But after a great regular season, DeBrusk has trailed off with only one goal over his past seven games. In what I believe will be a grind of series, Boston needs DeBrusk to start finding the back of the net.
11. Marcus Johansson
Another Sweeney Special. Johansson was a key depth addition and was a pivotal contributor to start the Eastern Conference Final with two goals and two assists over Games 1 and 2. Again, if this comes down to depth, having a Coyle / Johansson duo is a significant factor for Boston.
12. Danton Heinen
The 23-year-old winger has two goals and five assists this postseason as a member of the third line. Heinen had a big Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final with a goal and an assist in 14 minutes and 38 seconds of ice time.
13. David Backes
Backes is a true feel-good story for the Boston Bruins. The 13-year veteran will make his first appearance in a Cup Final, and it’s against a team he once captained. Boston has yet to lose a playoff game with Backes in the lineup.
14. Matt Grzelcyk
The Charlestown, MA native hasn’t had to wait nearly as long for a Cup appearance as Backes as Grzelyck made his NHL debut in 2016. Yet another Boston player who had a huge Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final it would be nice to see Grzelcyk get a few more shots on net as he only three total shots over the past four games.
15. Brandon Carlo
As Torey Krug’s right-hand man Carlo doesn’t need much offense to have a big impact on a game. While averaging over 22 minutes of ice time per game, Boston needs Carlo to keep things stable in the defensive zone.
16. Sean Kuraly
Seeing Kuraly, Wagner, and Nordstrom low on the list shouldn’t be taken as any disrespect here. This fourth-line is immensely important as Boston will rely on this line to give sparks of energy when things aren’t going right for the Bruins.
17. Chris Wagner
The Walpole, MA native played 76 games for Boston this season and had two goals for the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final.
18. Joakim Nordstrom
Nordstrom logs valuable minutes for Boston and the Bruins will need him to bring the energy when he hits the ice. Nordstrom did have success in the Toronto series with two goals and an assist.
19. Connor Clifton
Clifton has averaged just over 13 minutes of ice time during the postseason with a goal and three assists. The 24-old-defenseman only has to focus on keeping things simple and making the solid play.