Just one more win will send the Boston Bruins into the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals. They can wrap up their Eastern Conference Championship series with the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night after taking a 3-0 series lead Tuesday.
Boston wasn’t quite as dominant on the road in Game 3 as it had been at home. But winning key “5-on-5” stats in that environment was still a testament to the team’s championship pedigree. Carolina was at home -- in a backs-to-the-wall must-win situation -- in front of a rabid crowd that knew it had to make its presence felt.
Instead of coasting with breathing room as the prohibitive market favorites to advance, Boston won “expected goals” in 5-on-5 action by a count of 2.17 to 1.83 according to analytics website Natural Stat Trick. That on an edge in shots of 21 to 20, and a dead heat at 10-all in “high danger scoring chances.”
Tuukka Rask made 35 saves on the night, and was the brick wall that helped shut out Carolina on all five of its power-play opportunities. The Hurricanes are now 1 of 12 in the series with an extra man, and couldn’t score when pulling their goalie in the final minutes Tuesday.
There are no such things as locks in the NHL playoffs. But Boston has a virtually insurmountable 3-0 lead as the superior team (with a great defense) that has won six straight postseason games. Carolina must win four straight, including two in Boston, where the Bruins would again be priced in the -155 to -160 range on home ice.
Sharps continue to bet the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup. Boston had been even money offshore after taking a 2-0 series lead. That moved to -135 after Tuesday’s victory. Boston will be a clear series favorite over either San Jose or St. Louis in the final round. As things are shaping up now, the Bruins will enjoy home ice, and might have a lengthy rest advantage.