The Boston Bruins have an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup for the seventh time since entering the NHL in 1924.
They advanced to the Stanley Cup Final with a 4-0 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday. Boston's six Cup championships are tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for fourth-most all-time and second-most of any United States-based NHL team behind the Detroit Red Wings (11).
The Bruins, who last won the Cup in 2011 and reached the Cup Final in 2013, have won seven games in a row and are 12-5 in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the Eastern Conference First Round and the Columbus Blue Jackets in six games in the second round before defeating the Hurricanes.
Here are some of the highlights along the Bruins' road to the Stanley Cup Final:
BEST MOMENT: Game 4 vs. Hurricanes, Eastern Conference Final -- The Bruins swept a best-of-7 series for the 15th time, eliminating Carolina with perhaps their finest performance of the playoffs. The top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak combined for eight points (four goals, four assists) after totaling six points (two goals, four assists) in the first three games. Goalie Tuukka Rask made 24 saves to finish with a 1.25 goals-against average and .956 save percentage in the conference final and is 12-5 with a 1.84 GAA, .942 save percentage and two shutouts in the postseason.
Video: Bruins sweep Canes, advance to Stanley Cup Final
TURNING POINT: Feb. 3 win against Capitals -- The Bruins arrived at Capital One Arena to play the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals on a three-game losing streak (0-1-2) and two points ahead of the Blue Jackets for the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Rask made 24 saves in a 1-0 victory that was his 253rd in the NHL to pass Tiny Thompson for the all-time Boston lead. That was the first win in what became a 19-game point streak (15-0-4), the second-longest in Bruins history behind a 23-game streak (15-0 with eight ties) in 1940-41. Boston finished the regular season with 107 points, tied with the Calgary Flames for second-most in the NHL behind the Tampa Bay Lightning (128).
BEST MOVES MADE: Trading for Charlie Coyle, Marcus Johansson -- The Bruins acquired much-needed forward depth to support their top line when they acquired Coyle a center, in a trade with the Minnesota Wild for forward Ryan Donato and a draft pick on Feb. 20, and Johansson in a trade with the New Jersey Devils for two draft picks on Feb. 25. Coyle and Johansson have a combined 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists) in the playoffs and have formed a strong third line with forward Danton Heinen.
BEST MOVE NOT MADE: Retaining best assets -- Boston had no interest in trading any of its young players, including defenseman Charlie McAvoy, forward Jake DeBrusk and defenseman prospect Urho Vaakanainen. Instead, the Bruins made modest deals before the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline, and their faith is being rewarded. McAvoy leads Boston skaters in average ice time during the playoffs (24:20) and DeBrusk has followed up an NHL career-high 27 goals in the regular season with three in the playoffs.
Video: BOS@TOR, Gm4: McAvoy pots PPG off pretty passing play
SIGNATURE WIN (REGULAR SEASON): March 7 vs. Florida Panthers -- The Bruins scored two goals in the final 37 seconds of the third period and extended their point streak to 18 games (14-0-4) with a 4-3 win against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden. After defenseman Matt Grzelcyk tied the game 3-3, Bergeron scored the game-winner with seven seconds left. Two nights later, center David Krejci scored the go-ahead goal at 19:15 of the third in a 3-2 home victory against the Ottawa Senators to make Boston the fourth team in NHL history to score the winning goal in the last minute of the third period in consecutive games (Buffalo Sabres, Maple Leafs, Red Wings).
SIGNATURE WIN (PLAYOFFS): Game 6 against Blue Jackets, second round -- Rask made 39 saves for his first shutout of the 2019 playoffs, a 3-0 win at Nationwide Arena, to get the Bruins to the conference final for the first time since 2013. The goalie was especially sharp in the second period, when Columbus outshot Boston 17-5. Rask outplayed Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky by finishing the series with a 1.71 GAA and .948 save percentage.
MVP: Brad Marchand -- The forward tied Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby for fifth in the NHL with 100 points (36 goals, 64 assists) and is the first Bruins player to reach the milestone since Joe Thornton (101 points; 36 goals, 65 assists) in 2002-03. Marchand scored 12 goals in his last 18 regular-season games and has kept it going with 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in the playoffs, second in postseason scoring behind San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture (20 points; 14 goals, six assists).
Video: BOS@CAR, Gm4: Marchand seals win with empty-net tally
ROOKIE OF YEAR: Connor Clifton -- On a team stacked with veterans and emerging young players, it's Clifton who has stepped up in the playoffs. A fifth-round pick (No. 133) of the Arizona Coyotes in the 2013 NHL Draft, the 24-year-old defenseman signed a two-year, $1.45 million contract (average annual value $725,000) with the Bruins on May 3, 2018. He scored his first NHL goal in Game 2 of the conference final to become the Bruins' 19th goal scorer, matching their playoff record set in 1988. He played an NHL career-high 19:28 in the 6-2 win and has contributed with a goal and two assists in 12 postseason games.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: Sean Kuraly -- A center chosen in the fifth round (No. 132) of the 2011 NHL Draft by the San Jose Sharks and acquired in a trade for goalie Martin Jones on June 30, 2015, Kuraly has developed into a clutch performer this season. His goal at 10:20 of the third period broke a 2-2 tie in a 4-2 win against the Blackhawks at the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium, two days after he scored at 3:44 of overtime in a 3-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Kuraly has five points (two goals, three assists) in the playoffs and has continued his knack for coming up big. He scored in the third period and had an assist in the Game 7 win against the Maple Leafs in the first round and scored another third-period goal in Game 4 of the second round against Columbus that helped Boston even the series 2-2. All this after he had surgery to repair a broken bone in his hand that kept him out of the last eight regular-season games and first four playoff games.
Listen: New episode of NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast