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Series Preview: Blues vs. Bruins

by Tom Gulitti / Staff Writer

Boston Bruins vs. St. Louis Blues

Bruins: Defeated Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 in best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round; defeated Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 in best-of-7 second round; defeated Carolina Hurricanes 4-0 in best-of-7 conference final

Blues: Defeated Winnipeg Jets 4-2 in best-of-7 Western Conference First Round; defeated Dallas Stars 4-3 in best-of-7 second round; defeated San Jose Sharks 4-2 in best-of-7 conference final

Season series: BOS 1-0-1; STL 1-1-0

The skinny

The last time the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues met in the Stanley Cup Final, in 1970, Boston's Bobby Orr dove through the air after scoring the championship-clinching overtime goal in Game 4.

Who will be the hero this time? 

The Bruins and Blues will play for the Stanley Cup again, beginning with Game 1 at TD Garden on Monday (7 p.m. CT; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

Boston is in the Cup Final for the 20th time in its history and third in the past nine years (2011 and 2013). The Bruins are seeking their seventh championship and first since 2011.

St. Louis is in the Cup Final for the first time since the 1970 series against Boston and the fourth in its history (also 1968 and 1969). The Blues have never won the Stanley Cup in their 51 seasons.

The Blues, who advanced to the Cup Final with a 5-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Tuesday, will try to become the first team to win the Stanley Cup after being in last place in the NHL standings after its 20th game of the season.

St. Louis was 15-18-4 and in last place in the NHL on Jan. 3 before going an NHL-best 30-10-5 the remainder of the regular season to finish third in the Central Division.

"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," said Blues coach Craig Berube, who replaced Mike Yeo on Nov. 21 and became the 11th coach in NHL history to reach the Cup Final after taking over midseason. "You've got to get here, and we did. Credit to our players. They battled and they believed we were going to make the playoffs, and we made it, and now we're here."

The Bruins will have to shake off some rust in Game 1. They will have been off 10 days since completing a four-game sweep against the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final with a 4-0 win May 16.

Boston (49-24-9), which finished second in the Atlantic Division, has won its past seven games by a combined 28-9.

"We've earned the right to be where we are, to go to the Stanley Cup Final," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "We've beaten three good teams. There is some unfinished business, so that's part of the emotion you want to keep in check. You want to enjoy it, but I think our guys understand there are still four more steps to take."

Game breakers

Bruins: After reaching 100 points (36 goals, 64 assists) for the first time in his 10-season NHL career, Brad Marchand is second in the playoffs with 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 17 games behind San Jose's Logan Couture (20). Marchand had five points (two goals, three assists) in four games against Carolina in the conference final, tying linemate Patrice Bergeron (three goals, two assists) for most in the series.

Blues: Jaden Schwartz is second in the playoffs with 12 goals in 19 games behind Couture's 14. That's one more goal than Schwartz had in 69 regular-season games and one short of Brett Hull's St. Louis postseason record from 1990. Schwartz scored four goals against San Jose in the conference final, including three in a 5-0 win in Game 5.

Video: Blues oust Sharks in six, advance to Cup Final


Bruins: Tuukka Rask is 12-5 in the playoffs with an NHL-best 1.84 goals-against average and .942 save percentage. He had a shutout in series-clinching wins in the second around against the Columbus Blue Jackets (39 saves in Game 6) and the Hurricanes in the conference final (24 saves in Game 4). He went 2-4 with a 2.21 GAA, a .932 save percentage and one shutout in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, when the Chicago Blackhawks won in six games.

Blues: A finalist for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year, Jordan Binnington made his first NHL start Jan. 7 and went 24-5-1 with an NHL-best 1.89 GAA, a .927 save percentage (fourth in the NHL) and five shutouts. He is the fifth rookie goalie in NHL history to earn his team's first 12 wins in a single postseason. His numbers have slipped in the playoffs (2.36 GAA, .914 save percentage, one shutout), but he made the save on 75 of 77 shots (.974 save percentage) in winning the final three games against San Jose.

Numbers to know

Bruins: The line of Marchand (seven goals, 11 assists), Bergeron (eight goals, five assists) and David Pastrnak (seven goals, eight assists) has scored 38.6 percent of Boston's goals in the playoffs (22 of 57), including six game-winners. … Nineteen players have scored in the postseason, tying the Bruins record. … During its seven-game winning streak, Boston has led for 254:25 and trailed for 13:08 (all in Game 1 of the conference final). … The Bruins lead the NHL on the power play in the playoffs at 34.0 percent (17-for-50), including 46.7 percent (7-for-15) in conference final.

Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko had at least one point in each of the six games in the conference final (three goals, five assists). … The fourth line of Ivan Barbashev (two goals, one assist), Oskar Sundqvist (two goals, one assist) and Alexander Steen (one goal, one assist) combined for eight points (five goals, three assists) in the conference final. … The Blues have had 18 players score playoff goals. Alex Pietrangelo's 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) are the most by a St. Louis defenseman in a playoff year. The Blues are 19.4 percent (12-for-62) on the power play in the playoffs, including 33.3 percent (5-for-15) over the past four games.

Injury report

Bruins: Defenseman Zdeno Chara is expected to play in Game 1 after missing Game 4 of the conference final with an undisclosed injury. … Defenseman Kevan Miller (lower body) had another setback in his recovery and won't be ready for the start of the Cup Final. … Forward Chris Wagner (right arm) also won't be ready to play after blocking a shot in Game 3 against Carolina.

Blues: Defenseman Vince Dunn (upper body) hasn't played since being hit in the face with a shot in Game 3 of the conference final.

Video: Blues before facing Bruins in Cup Final

They said it

"It's so difficult to advance in the playoffs, let alone make it to the Final. We need to really enjoy this but realize that we have lots of work to do. I mean, every year is a new year, different groups, you always think you have a chance and I think the past few years we've really built something special here with a great group of guys." -- Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask

"A lot of people doubted us this year, but I'll tell you what, this group was resilient, and I really am proud of the guys because as hard as it is, it's been fun to look back and see where we are now." -- Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo

Will win if …

Bruins: They continue to get scoring from throughout their lineup, particularly at even strength, and Rask continues to play at an all-world level. The top line of Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak was limited to one 5-on-5 goal in the conference final (by Bergeron in the third period of Game 4), but the Bruins didn't need more than that because their power play was lethal and seven other players scored even-strength goals.

Blues: They don't have to play from behind, limit their trips to the penalty box, and Binnington can match Rask. The Blues are 9-1 in the playoffs when scoring in the first six minutes. The Bruins have been dominant playing with the lead in the postseason, including 11-0 when ahead entering the third period, with their suffocating defensive system and Rask's goaltending. St. Louis and Boston have similar depth at forward and defenseman.

Video: Berube before facing Bruins in Cup Final

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