A Rematch 49 Years In the Making

Blues And Bruins Ready To Meet In Stanley Cup Finals

After 1,271 regular season and 80 playoff games, it all comes down to this.

 

The St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins, two franchises that met in 1970 and produced one of hockey’s most iconic moments, with Bobby Orr flying through the air after scoring the game-winning goal to win the Bruins the Stanley Cup, will face off starting tonight in a rematch for the ages.

 

What kind of historic moments will this year’s Finals produceSo far these playoffs have included several shocking upsets, seismic late-game comebacks, it’s fair share of controversy, and as always suspenseful and captivating action, is packed with compelling storylines.

 

There’s the resurgent turnaround of the Blues, led by a rookie goaltender in Jordan Binnington, who seems to be immune to pressure and is 3-0 with a 1.17 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in series-clinching games.

 

The Bruins, have executed a successful retooling of youth around a core of captain Zdeno Chara, goaltender Tuukka Rask and impact forwards Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Krejci, all members of Boston’s 2011 Stanley Cup winning team. 

 

It’s a matchup between two teams filled with skill and quality depth throughout their lineups. Since the turn of the calendar year, the Blues collected the most points in the NHL (65), while the Bruins had the fourth-most (61).

 

Both teams will be well rested, for the Bruins it will be 11 days between their series-clinching win over Carolina while the Blues have had six days to heal their bumps and bruises after a har-fought series against San Jose.

 

Now, it’s go time.

 

Let’s take a look back at how we got here before we try to predict which team’s captain, whether Chara or the Blues’ Alex Pietrangelo will be holding the best trophy in sports when all is said and done.

 

How We Got Here

The Blues had heightened expectations entering this season after putting together a massive trade to acquire Ryan O’Reilly. However, St. Louis struggled to score out of the gate with a 7-9-3 start, costing head coach Mike Yeo his job. That’s when Craig Berube took the reins and helped this team rediscover it’s confidence following the call-up of Binnington, a finalist for the Calder Trophy.

 

The Blues became the first team in the expansion era (since 1967) to be last in the NHL as late as Jan. 2 and go on to win their conference and make the Stanley Cup Final. 

 

Jaden Schwartz has scored more goals through the first three rounds of the playoffs (12) than he did in the regular season (11). Meanwhile Vladimir Tarasenko is on a hot-streak, recording nine points in the Western Conference Final. 

 

The Blues beat the Winnipeg Jets in six games, topped Dallas in seven on hometown hero Patrick Maroon’s double overtime game-winning goal, then beat San Jose in six games.

 

A Stanley Cup victory would make the Bruins the third Boston team to win a championship this year, and further bolster Beantown’s boast as the City of Champions. This is a team that  hasn’t missed a beat all year, finishing with 107 points, tied for second in the NHL. 

 

Boston outlasted Toronto in seven games, took down Columbus in six and then swept Carolina in four games. It all starts in goal where Tuukka Rask has been lights out this postseason. The Finnish goaltender has a 1.84 goals-against average and .942 save percentage, along with a pair of shutouts. 

 

The line of Marchand (team-leading 18 points), David Pastrnak (15) and Bergeron (13) have been an absolute force. Krejci, a notable playoff-performer is at it again with 14 points. Long Beach, N.Y., native Charlie McAvoy continues to come into his own. On the B’s blueline, leading the team in time on ice by averaging more than 24 minutes a game. 

 

Tale Of The Tape

 

Regular Season:

St. Louis Blues: GF: 2.51 (13th), GA: 2.19 (5th), PP: 21.1% (10th), PK: 81.5% (9th)

Boston Bruins: GF: 2.35 (20th), GA: 1.88 (1st), PP: 25.9% (3rd), PK: 79.9% (16th)

 

Playoffs:

St. Louis Blues: GF: 2.54 (1st), GA: 1.85 (4th), PP: 19.4% (9th), PK: 78.0% (11th)

Boston Bruins: GF: 2.27 (6th), GA: 1.62 (2nd), PP: 34.0% (1st), PK: 86.3% (4th)

 Who will win the Stanley Cup? Check out the predictions from USA Hockey Magazine below...Who will win the Stanley Cup? Check out the predictions from USA Hockey Magazine below...

Here are our predictions of how it’s all going to play out, as well as one American player we believe will stand out in this series…

 

Harry Thompson, USA Hockey Magazine Editor-In-Chief

 

Series Thoughts and Prediction: “Throughout these topsy-turvy playoffs, one constant has been the play of the Boston Bruins. From the stellar play of Tuukka Rask in goal to the timely goals from the top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak that’s been an absolute force. The late-season acquisition of Charlie Coyle gives the B’s added depth. Opportunistic on offense and solid in goal, the Bruins look to have a winning formula that will take them to their first Cup win since 2011. the put their faith in the hands of Rask”

Bruins in 5 Games

 

American Player to Watch: David Backes, Boston Bruins, Minneapolis, Minn.

“For the first 10 years of his career, David Backes was the heart and soul of the St. Louis Blues. Now, the NHL veteran is staring down his first shot at winning a Stanley Cup with the Bruins. These playoffs haven’t been smooth sailing for the two-time U.S. Olympian was scratched for three games against Toronto in the first round and twice more against Columbus. But since returning to the lineup, the Bruins have won seven in a row. Could these playoffs be Backes’ swan song? And if so, he will leave the NHL ice for the last time holding the Stanley Cup.”

 

Jessi Pierce, Hockey writer and editor for Touchpoint Sports, NHL, The Athletic (MIN)

 

Series Thoughts and Prediction: The city of Boston will celebrate yet another sporting championship (insert eyeroll) when the bring home the Stanley Cup in six games over the St Louis Blues. The Bs, who last won the Cup in 2011, seem to have everything working for them; outstanding goaltending in Tuukka Rask, three deep scoring lines and a defense that doesn't quit, led by Long Beach, N.Y., native Charlie McAvoy. While it's hard not to be inspired to cheer for the Blues who have been lifted by captain Alex Pietrangelo and backed by goaltender Jordan Binnington in this improbable run, in the end I think the Bruins will simply prove to be too much for the Gateway City.

Bruins in 6 Games

 

One American Player to Watch: Charlie Coyle, Boston Bruins, E. Weymouth, Mass.

“Having watched him struggle mightily earlier this season with the Minnesota Wild (and parts of each of his past seven in Minnesota), I've got to root for the Weymouth, Mass., native to help his hometown team bring Lord Stanley home. Coyle has paced the Bruins with 12 points in 17 playoff games (compare that to the dismal 15 points in 44 playoff games with the Wild) and has seem to come into his own on the coast. Plus, he's a guy who garners special moments like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-FNZyVzoJA, and he deserves to celebrate and be celebrated.” 

 Will David Backes go from captaining the St. Louis Blues to denying them from a championship? Backes is Harry Thompson's American Player to WatchWill David Backes go from captaining the St. Louis Blues to denying them from a championship? Backes is Harry Thompson's American Player to Watch

Jeff Carpenter, USA Hockey Magazine Editorial Assistant

Series Thoughts and Prediction: “This will be a relatively low-scoring final. Both goaltenders are absolutely locked in. I think the key to this series will be the Blues ability to wear down the Bruins defenders through their suffocating forecheck. The Blues have a heavy squad and will be clashing with a Boston defense that outside of Chara and 6-foot-5 Brandon Carlo are filled with puck-moving defenseman under 6-feet. If they can impose their physicality, I think it’ll prove fruitful for the team out of the Show Me State.

 

While the Blues will play physical, they also need to stay disciplined. The Bruins power play has been down right lethal in the postseason, clicking at 34 percent. If the Blues populate the penalty box often, it won’t be a pretty sight.

 

If Binnington can stay a cool and collective, this rookie will lead his team to win a Stanley Cup, something Blues fans have been waiting for since their inception into the league in 1967."

Blues in 6

 

One American Player to Watch: Torey Krug, Boston Bruins, Royal Oak, Mich.

One thing that always stands out about me with Krug is his ability to come up big in large moments. The 5-foot-9 defenseman had only three career NHL games under his belt before he burst on the scene with four goals at the 2013 playoffs.

 

Krug has been an instrumental part of the Bruins game-breaking power play. He serves as the lone defenseman on the unit and does a great job of distributing pucks and keeping the unit shading to prime-scoring locations. Krug has a goal and 11 assists through 17 playoff games. If you want to observe the modern-day two-way defenseman mold, look no further than #47 on Boston.

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