A look at the Stanley Cup Final matchup between the Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues.
Round 1: Def. Toronto 4-3.
Round 2: Def. Columbus 4-2.
Round 3: Def. Carolina 4-0.
ST. LOUIS 45-28-9
Round 1: Def. Winnipeg 4-2.
Round 2: Def. Dallas 4-3.
Round 3: Def. San Jose 4-2.
Championship parades have become as common around Boston as clam chowdah. The Celtics haven’t won since 2008, but the reigning World Series champion Red Sox have prevailed four times in the last 15 seasons and the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl in February for the third time in six seasons. The Bruins last won the Stanley Cup in 2011, but they reached the Final in 2013. That’s a drought these days. “It’s a tough city. You’ve got to be able to keep up with the Joneses in this city,” general manager Don Sweeney said Sunday.
By contrast, there’s a famine in St. Louis. The Rams won their only Super Bowl title in St. Louis after the 1999 season, the Cardinals last won the World Series in 2011, and the Blues have never won the Cup. The Blues were one of six teams added to the NHL for the 1967-68 season and lumped into the West Division, guaranteeing one of them would reach the Cup Final. The Blues reached the Final in each of their first three seasons but were swept each time and haven’t been back. Their main claim to Cup fame is they provided the backdrop for the iconic photograph of Bruins defenseman Bobby Orr flying through the air after he scored the Cup-clinching goal in 1970 against future Hall of Fame goaltender Glenn Hall. “The city’s going nuts right now. They’ve been waiting for so many years,” said Blues left wing Patrick Maroon, a St. Louis native. “They’ve had our backs. They deserve this.”
Here’s how they measure up:
Power play: Season—Bruins 25.9% (third); Blues 21.1% (10th). Playoffs—Bruins 34% (first); Blues 19.4% (ninth).
Penalty killing: Season—Bruins 79.9% (16th); Blues 81.5% (ninth). Playoffs—Bruins 86.3% (fourth); Blues 78.0% (11th).
Top scorers: Season—Bruins, Brad Marchand 36-64--100; Blues, Ryan O’Reilly 28-49—77. Playoffs—Bruins, Marchand 7-11--18; Blues, Jaden Schwartz 12-4--16.
Outlook: The Blues fired coach Mike Yeo in November after a 7-9-3 start and replaced him with Craig Berube, but they sat last in the NHL on Jan. 2. After an adjustment they bought into the relentless forechecking and rugged physicality Berube has preached and they soared. Poised rookie goalie Jordan Binnington (2.36 goals-against average, .914 save percentage in the playoffs) saved their season after he was promoted from the minor leagues in December and made his season debut in January. In an odd twist, he played for the Bruins’ American Hockey League farm team in Providence, R.I., two seasons ago because the Blues didn’t have an affiliate and they wanted him to play at a high level. Forward Jaden Schwartz has been exceptional this spring: he scored 11 goals in 69 regular-season games but has scored 12 goals in 19 postseason contests. Linemate Vladimir Tarasenko single-handedly wrecked the San Jose Sharks in the conference final, collecting three goals and eight points. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo’s 13 points is the most from a Blues defenseman in one postseason, while Colton Parayko and Jay Bouwmeester form an effective shutdown pair. Bouwmeester will play in his first Cup Final at age 35.
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was a lightning rod for criticism early in the season but he has silenced his critics. He leads all playoff goalies with a 1.84 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage, and he’s tied for the lead in shutouts with two. The Bruins’ top line of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak has accounted for 22 of their 57 goals. Veteran forward David Backes, though scratched from six playoff games, will have motivation against the Blues, his team for 10 years. The Bruins’ power play has been deadly, with Marchand providing a league-leading 10 power-play points and Bergeron topping all postseason players with six power-play goals. Their defense is small after 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara and 6-foot-5 Brandon Carlo, but persistence and positioning can make up for a lack of muscle.
The pick: Bruins in six.