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Coaches Room

Stanley Cup Final to feature similar styles from Blues, Bruins

Murphy says each team relies on defense, speed, forecheck, depth

by Gord Murphy / Special to NHL.com

The Coaches Room is a regular feature throughout the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs by one of four former NHL coaches and assistants who will turn their critical gaze to the game and explain it through the lens of a teacher. David Marcoux, Paul MacLean, Don Nachbaur and Gord Murphy will take turns providing insight.

In this edition, Murphy, a former assistant with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers and Philadelphia Flyers, breaks down the Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues. 

The Stanley Cup Final matchup is quite intriguing because of how even it appears with the similarities in style, depth and approach between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues.

 

[Complete Stanley Cup Final series coverage]

 

You always think of the Cup Final as having a feeling-out period because the teams have only seen each other twice a season, once in each building, but the familiarity in styles could make for a great series right from the start in Game 1 at TD Garden on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS). 

The Blues and Bruins are built on sound defense with size, speed and aggressive forechecking. We should see a lot of grinding and trying to wear the other team down, getting the puck deep and just going in on hammering on the opposition early in Game 1. 

That style is how St. Louis took over the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks to win the last three games and finish it off in six. It also was how Boston won against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes in the first three rounds. 

Video: Home ice gives Bruins advantage in Stanley Cup Final

The Bruins will have had 10 days off and the Blues five, which will lead to questions about how sharp each team will be to start the series. It won't matter, if they play their style. This series will come down to which team can impose itself territorially for longer.

The edge has to go to the Bruins because of their experience. They have six players who have played in the Cup Final (forwards Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand, defensemen Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug, and goalie Tuukka Rask).

Forward David Perron is the only Blues player with Cup Final experience, having played for the Vegas Golden Knights last season.

The Bruins, with their experience, aren't going to be wide-eyed. They're not going to get too caught up in the excitement and the emotion. They'll be all business and will have a slight advantage because of that. 

Boston has a slight edge in goaltending with Rask, and not just because of his experience. He is dialed in, and it shows: He is 7-0 with a 1.29 goals-against average and .961 save percentage since Game 4 against the Blue Jackets.

Blues rookie goalie Jordan Binnington has been outstanding (12-7, 2.37 GAA, .914 save percentage in the Stanley Cup Playoffs), but you just wonder with his lack of experience now that he's on the big stage. He should be fine, but the advantage in net goes to Boston. 

One of the interesting things to watch is the matchup of fourth lines. Each has been essential to its team's success, and it's nice to see the fourth-liners getting recognition during the broadcasts for the impact they've had.

These lines regain the momentum when they're on the ice. They bring back memories of the New Jersey Devils' "Crash Line" from the '90s with Mike Peluso, Randy McKay and Bobby Holik. 

Video: Analyst Mike Kelly previews the Stanley Cup Final

You have to have that depth nowadays. We can see the difference it has made for both teams.

However, it's fair to wonder or at least be a little concerned about the Blues' scoring depth and whether they will have enough if the Bruins get a lead and start to impose their will. The Blues scored 10 goals in the final two games of the conference final, but the Sharks were pretty beat up and worn down. Is St. Louis going to have enough against Boston?

I think the answer is no, which is another reason I'm picking the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup. The teams are pretty evenly matched, but I expect Boston to win the series in six or seven games.

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