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Stanley Cup Final

Bruins displayed varied strengths on road to Stanley Cup Final

Vanquished opponents explain why Boston faces Blues with chance at first championship since 2011

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Depth. Veteran savvy. Goaltending. Defense. Special teams.

Ask members of the teams the Boston Bruins have left in their wake on their ride to the Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues and you'll hear all about those five factors and why they are the reasons Game 1 will be played at TD Garden on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

"There's just no weaknesses no matter who they're throwing out there," Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said.

 

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The Bruins started their run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs by gutting out a seven-game series against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference First Round. They fell behind 3-2 before shutting the door on the Maple Leafs to win Games 6 and 7 by a combined 9-3. 

As much as Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask made the difference in Games 6 and 7 by stopping 54 of 57 shots, Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said he thought the emergence of Boston's fourth-line center, Sean Kuraly, was a significant factor.

Kuraly didn't play in the first four games because he was still recovering from hand surgery for an injury he sustained March 22. He had a goal and an assist in Game 7, a 5-1 win.

"I thought that affected the series once he came back," Babcock said. "It gives them a guy to start in the 'D' zone if it's not [Patrice] Bergeron and end up in the offensive zone."

Babcock said he thinks Kuraly's presence makes David Krejci and Charlie Coyle, Boston's middle-six centers, better because they can focus more on offense.

Video: Bruins outlast Leafs in seven games to advance

The Bruins have received 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in 17 games from the four players who have been on their fourth line the most in the playoffs -- Kuraly, Joakim Nordstrom, Noel Acciari and Chris Wagner.

"It's called depth, right?" Babcock said. "That's how you beat the other teams. You need good goaltending, real good 'D' and you've got to be good down the middle. They have that."

They also have experience with Bergeron, Krejci, left wing Brad Marchand, defenseman Zdeno Chara and Rask the five remaining players from Boston's Stanley Cup championship in 2011. 

Chara (175), Bergeron (129), Krejci (125) and Marchand (101) are four of the 43 skaters still in the NHL who have appeared in at least 100 playoff games in their career. Rask (82) is seventh among active goalies in games played.

"They're big-time leaders, they dig in and when the big games come, they find a way to do whatever they have to do," Babcock said. "If it's play defense against you, they do it. If it's score against you, they do it. They've been impressive."

The Bruins' ability to use their experience was one of the biggest factors in their six-game series win against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round.

Video: Bruins outlast Blue Jackets, advance to ECF

"The way we played them in the first three games, when we go up 2-1, I just found we were getting them off their game," Columbus captain Nick Foligno said. "We were hitting them, getting them frustrated. They hadn't been hit like that, hadn't been tested like that. I think they just made a mental adjustment in their game and all of a sudden that didn't affect them at all." 

Rask was the biggest factor in Boston winning Games 4, 5 and 6. He allowed four goals on 115 shots, including one on 40 shots in a 1-0 win in Game 4 and zero on 39 shots in a 3-0 win in Game 6. He allowed seven goals on 97 shots in the first three games.

"And he made an adjustment, obviously, because the first three games we were finding ways by him," Foligno said. "You have to give him credit there and that's the difference. It's not a knock on us, but I didn't think we adjusted once they readjusted." 

The Blue Jackets also found it difficult to penetrate through the middle of the ice as the series wore on. That was one of the biggest problems the Hurricanes had in the Eastern Conference Final and why they were held to five goals in a four-game sweep.

It was especially evident when the Hurricanes were on the power play. 

Carolina scored three seconds into its first power play in Game 1 but went 0-for-13 with 29 shots on goal after that. Twelve of those shots on goal came in the first period of Game 3, when the Hurricanes went 0-for-4 on the power play. Many were from the outside.

Video: Bruins sweep Hurricanes, clinch Cup Final berth

Boston went 7-for-15 on the power play, scoring their goals on 23 shots (30.4 percent shooting).

"You could definitely feel the five guys they threw out there on the power play, they were a little different than the five we were getting out," Brind'Amour said. "To me, that was the difference."

The Blues are now tasked with finding ways around all of it. Toronto came close, but the Bruins rallied. The Blue Jackets put a scare into them, but the Bruins responded. Carolina never really stood a chance.

"It's their mental edge," Foligno said. "They have that experience and they understand who they are. They just stick with it and make little adjustments along the way. That's what I noticed. It was like, 'OK, you want to play like this, fine by us.' "

NHL.com correspondent Kurt Dusterberg contributed to this story.

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