The St. Louis Blues will face the Boston Bruins in their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1970 partly because of their fast starts during the first three rounds. Game 1 is at TD Garden on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
The Blues have scored in the first five minutes of a game six times in their 19 Stanley Cup Playoff games this season, including three times in their six-game victory against the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final, and won all six games. There have been 33 goals scored in the first five minutes of play during the 2019 postseason; the Bruins and Vegas Golden Knights are second to the Blues with four apiece.
Those fast starts helped the Blues become the 10th team in NHL history to reach the Final after finishing 12th or lower in the overall standings during the regular season. Six of those instances have come since 2006, including three under the current playoff format. The 2010 Philadelphia Flyers (18th) are the lowest finisher to make the Final. The 2012 Los Angeles Kings (13th) are the only team that finished 12th or lower to win the Cup.
The Bruins advanced to the Final partly because of their success at closing out games. Boston is an NHL-best 11-0 during the playoffs when leading after two periods. The Blues are 8-1.
Teams that have taken a lead into the third period in the 2019 playoffs are 53-9 (.855). The Blues are responsible for two of the third-period comeback wins (Games 1 and 5 of the Western Conference First Round against the Winnipeg Jets) and the Bruins rallied to win Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes after trailing 2-1 entering the third period.
Boston has been ahead for 49.2 percent of playing time through three rounds (516.28 of 1,048:57). St. Louis has led for 40.8 percent of playing time (480.29 of 1,177:15). Neither team trailed during the final three games of its conference final series.
Degrees of separation
The Bruins and Blues finished eight points apart in the NHL standings; Boston was third with 107 points and St. Louis 12th with 99. It's the fifth time since 2014 that the Final will be contested by teams that finished no more than eight points apart during the regular season. The lone exception came in 2017, when the Pittsburgh Penguins (111) and Nashville Predators (94) were separated by 17 points.
The closeness of the standings makes this the seventh Final between a team in the top three and an opponent that finished 12th or lower. Five of the previous six required at least six games: 1994, 2004 and 2006 went seven games; 2010 and 2017 lasted six. The exception came in 2002, when the Detroit Red Wings finished first in the regular season and defeated the Hurricanes, who were 16th, in five games.
Schwartz makes history
Blues forward Jaden Schwartz is second in the postseason with 12 goals after scoring 11 in 69 regular-season games. He's the third player in NHL history to reach double figures in goals during the regular season and surpass his total in the playoffs.
The others are Claude Lemieux of the 1996-97 Colorado Avalanche (11 goals in 45 regular-season games; 13 in 17 playoff games) and Marian Gaborik, who scored 11 goals in 41 games in 2013-14 with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Kings, and 14 times in 26 playoff games for Los Angeles to help it win the Stanley Cup.