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Stanley Cup Final

Bruins, Blues mirror image of each other in Cup Final

Similar playing style, performance from goalies should make for 'heck of a matchup'

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

BOSTON -- Patrice Bergeron was talking about a team that's excellent at sustaining pressure in the offensive zone, a team deep down the middle with firepower on the wings, elite goaltending and impact players throughout the lineup.

The Boston Bruins center was talking about the St. Louis Blues, but he could have just as easily been describing the Bruins.

In this Stanley Cup Final, which begins at TD Garden on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS), it's important to specify which team you're describing because in many respects, the Bruins and Blues are a mirror image of each other.

"I see two teams that play good team defense, that don't give you a lot of room and protect the slot well," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said Sunday at Stanley Cup Final Media Day. "Responsible, don't take a lot of penalties. They are physical, we'll be physical. We like to play a blend, I'm sure they'd say the same thing. … They are bigger than us on the back end, but I think both teams move the puck well and I think both teams create problems for the other to get inside. That's why we're still playing."

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Each team has scored 57 goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, each with 16 in the first period, 16 in the second, 24 in the third and one in overtime.

The Bruins' top line of Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak has scored 22 goals. The Blues' top line of Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn has scored the same number.

St. Louis' fourth line of Alexander Steen, Oskar Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev has combined for 17 points (eight goals, nine assists). Boston's fourth line of Sean Kuraly, Noel Acciari, Joakim Nordstrom and the injured Chris Wagner has combined for 13 (seven goals, six assists).

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask has been arguably the best player in the playoffs with a 1.84 goals-against average and .942 save percentage in 17 starts. During his current seven-game winning streak, he has a 1.29 GAA and .961 save percentage.

Blues rookie goalie Jordan Binnington hasn't been as effective, with a 2.36 GAA and .914 save percentage in 19 games, but he has won three straight games allowing two goals on 77 shots (0.67 GAA, .974 save percentage).

Each team has a finalist for the Selke Trophy, the award given to the forward voted to best excel in the defensive aspects of the game. Bergeron is a four-time winner. Blues center Ryan O'Reilly is a first-time finalist.

"He does everything right," Bergeron said of O'Reilly.

"He's a guy that you look at for how to play the game," O'Reilly said of Bergeron.

 

[RELATED: Bruins vs. Blues series coverage | Teams can only dream of seeing Cup at Media Day]

 

Boston is allowing 1.94 goals-against and generating 30.0 hits and 14.53 blocked shots per game. St. Louis is at 2.53, 29.37 and 14.42.

"Both teams want to really get on the forecheck, be physical, be a hard team to play against," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "When they're extremely hard to play against, they battle, they play hard, their centermen play 200-foot games like ours do."

What then might be the difference in the series?

Experience could be. At least, that's what the Bruins want you to think.

They have seven players who have played in the Stanley Cup Final, including Rask, Bergeron, Marchand, defenseman Zdeno Chara, and center David Krejci, each a part of the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2011. Defenseman Torey Krug played with them in the 2013 Cup Final, and John Moore played in the 2014 Cup Final with the New York Rangers.

David Perron is the only Blues player who has played in the Cup Final, doing so with the Vegas Golden Knights last year.

"I just believe that our guys that have been there, that have won a Cup, have lost a Cup, that should give us an edge," Cassidy said. "Some people disagree with that once you're here, but I believe it will give us an edge."

The Blues disagree.

"Most of us have played in a championship game, Memorial Cup, Olympics, World Cup, whatever it is," St. Louis captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "Our experience is getting to this point. We just keep finding ways to win and you gain experience and learn from that."

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The Bruins have had better special teams throughout the playoffs, with a power play at 34.0 percent and a penalty kill at 86.3 percent. The Blues are at 19.4 percent and 78.0 percent, respectively.

However, the Blues were 5-for-15 on the power play (33.3 percent) in the last four games against the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final and 11-for-13 on the penalty kill (84.6 percent) in the six-game series, so maybe their success of late negates that perceived advantage for the Bruins.

St. Louis has a size advantage, with its six defensemen expected to be in the lineup for Game 1 each standing between 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-6.

"Those guys are like seaweed, they're tough to get through back there," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said.

Boston has Chara (6-9, 250 pounds) and Brandon Carlo (6-5, 212), but the only other regular among its defensemen who stands at least 6-foot is Charlie McAvoy. Connor Clifton is 5-foot-11, and Krug and Matt Grzelcyk each is 5-foot-9.

But the Bruins might have a more mobile defense. 

"I think where the difference may lie is the ability to breakout pucks," Krug said. "We play very similar systems, heavy, grinding games, but I think we like to push the pace a little bit more."

The Blues, Krug said, are slightly more patient on the breakout. But they're not against pushing the pace, especially if it means getting the puck into the offensive zone so they can cycle and grind and wear on the opposition, much like the Bruins do.

"Our coaches have given us the CliffsNotes on their tendencies and their strengths, and yeah, it's a lot of similarities to us," Kuraly said. "It makes for a heck of a matchup."

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