This is it. History has been made with a wildly unpredictable Stanley Cup Playoff — and just two teams now stand alone.
The Boston Bruins, who have made three trips to the Stanley Cup Finals over the past nine seasons are gunning for their seventh cup, while the St. Louis Blues, making their first trip to the final since 1970, are fittingly set for a rematch against Boston 49 years in the making.
The 1970 final, an iconic moment sending Bobby Orr soaring through the air after scoring the championship-clinching goal 40 seconds into sudden-death overtime, completed a four-game sweep for Boston. It was a third straight finals-defeat for St. Louis, which has not been back since.
It was a pairing not many would have predicted but now one team is just four wins away from hockey’s ultimate prize. Let’s take a look at how they match up for the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.
Boston Bruins (A2) vs St Louis Blues (C3)
GAME 1: Monday, May 27: St. Louis Blues at Boston Bruins | 8 p.m. ET, NBC
GAME 2: Wednesday, May 29: St. Louis Blues at Boston Bruins | 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN
GAME 3: Saturday, June 1: Boston Bruins at St. Louis Blues | 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN
GAME 4: Monday, June 3: Boston Bruins at St. Louis Blues | 8 p.m. ET, NBC
*GAME 5: Thursday, June 6: St. Louis Blues at Boston Bruins | 8 p.m. ET, NBC
*GAME 6: Sunday, June 9: Boston Bruins at St. Louis Blues | 8 p.m. ET, NBC
*GAME 7: Wednesday, June 12: St. Louis Blues at Boston Bruins | 8 p.m. ET, NBC
Bruins: David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask, Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy and Patrice Bergeron
Blues: Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly, Alex Pietrangelo and Jordan Binnington
Head To Head
Meeting just twice during the regular season, the Bruins took their first meeting at home, 5-2, in January before the Blues took a tight, 2-1, shootout victory in St Louis in February.
The Blues have been the Cinderella Story of the NHL in 2018-19, literally going from rags to riches.
St. Louis sat last in the overall NHL standings on January 3 with a record of 15-18-4. A switch flicked in the new year and coach Craig Berube, who took over from Mike Yeo in November, was quoted as saying, “Once we got going in January and February, I knew we had a good hockey team and we get in the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs and anything can happen.”
The Blues recorded an unprecedented 30-10-5 record in the second half of the season, going on to finish third in the Central Division.
Boston, on the other hand, has flown under the radar for most of the season with a respectable 49-24-9 season record. Largely ignored as a cup contender, the Bruins finished second in the Atlantic Division.
“We’ve earned the right to be where we are, to go to the Stanley Cup Final,” coach Bruce Cassidy said.
The Bruins, whose last appearance in the cup finals was in 2013 with its most recent championship coming in 2011, will be out to prove any doubters wrong, especially after the statement that was sweeping the rampaging Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final.
It has been a playoffs that has seen big plays and big goals when it matters and many of those plays and goals have come from the sticks of the Bruins’ Brad Marchand and the Blues’ Jaden Schwartz.
After a 100-point season, Marchand has proved to be a gamebreaker for the Bruins with seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points in 17 playoff games this year. He tallied five points in four games against Carolina in the Eastern Conference Final and has the ability to make big plays when it matters most.
As for Schwartz, he has been the man of the moment in the Blues’ playoff run nearly every step of the way with 12 goals in 19 games including three goals in their 5-0 win over the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final. Schwartz knows how to score and his positioning and puck awareness is second to none. He will be a key cog for St. Louis in this series.
At either end of the ice stands two goaltenders currently at the top of their game. Boston’s Tuukka Rask, an experienced netminder making his third Stanley Cup Final, opposes St. Louis rookie Jordan Binnington, a finalist for the Calder Cup as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year.
Rask sits at 12-5 in the playoffs possessing an NHL-best 1.84 goals-against average and .942 save percentage. Binnington, who has been a revelation for the Blues since taking the reigns on January 7, sits a little back on Rask’s numbers with a 2.36 GAA and .914 save percentage but his 12 wins this postseason is all that matters to reach this point. Both goalies have the ability to stand up when it matters most shutting the door on the opposition while posting shutouts along the way.
Rask is in career form while Binnington is channeling his inner Patrick Roy looking to become the latest rookie netminder to carry his team to glory. Both goalies have the ability to play lights out so keep an eye on this head-to-head matchup that will be sure to entertain.
The Bruins possess strong depth with a young and up-and-coming defensive core led by Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy and Connor Clifton and a strong power play unit which will be looking to fire on all cylinders during this Cup Final.
The Blues, however, have the ability to take an early lead and play a very strong defensive game of their own when they have a lead to protect. Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Carl Gunnarsson and Joel Edmundson will be charged with shutting down the likes of Marchand, Charlie Coyle, Jake DeBrusk and faceoff master Patrice Bergeron.
Two wild cards in the series are St. Louis-born Patrick Maroon who came up clutch with his double-overtime, Game 7 winner over the Dallas Stars in the second round, and the Bruins’ David Backes who spent 10 seasons as a member of the Blues from 2006-’16.
History only stands in the way since Boston took the Stanley Cup off the stick of Bobby Orr in 1970. This is largely an unknown series and for many hockey fans this is an exciting prospect. It could be anyone’s game and may come down to Rask vs. Binnington, Boston’s lethal power play vs. St. Louis’ textbook defense. It is set to be a wild ride beginning Monday, May 27 (8pm EST). I am predicting a fairy tale ending for St. Louis with the Blues taking the cup in seven games.
Written by Chris McRae / @ChrisMcRae04
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