The Stanley Cup final, which begins Monday between the hometown Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 8 p.m. ET), has an old-school feel.
Maybe it’s because they last met in the NHL championship 49 years ago. The Bruins swept the Blues and produced that iconic photo of the great Bobby Orr flying through the air after he scored the series-clinching goal in overtime past St. Louis goalie Glenn Hall and tripped by defenceman Noel Picard.
But now instead of Orr, Phil Esposito, Derek Sanderson, Johnny Bucyk and Gerry Cheevers for Boston, there will be Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask.
Both the Bruins and Blues enter the final on a roll. Boston has won seven consecutive outings, while St. Louis has carved out three straight victories.
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- Regular season: 49-24-9 (3rd)
- Playoff record: 12-5 (1st)
- Home record: 6-3
- Power play: 34.0% (1st)
- Penalty kill: 86.3% (4th)
- Goals per game: 3.55 (2nd)
- Goals against per game: 1.94 (1st)
St. Louis Blues
- Regular season: 45-28-9 (12th)
- Playoff record: 12-7 (2nd)
- Home record: 5-5
- Road record: 7-2
- Power play: 19.4% (11th)
- Penalty kill: 78.8% (11th)
- Goals per game: 3.00 (T-3rd)
- Goals against per game: 2.53 (5th)
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How they were built
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney and his St. Louis counterpart Doug Armstrong each own a Stanley Cup ring. Sweeney was the assistant GM when Boston won its 2011 championship. Armstrong held the same position with the Dallas Stars when they won the Stanley Cup in 1999.
In the 2019 post-season, the Bruins have used 23 players to 22 for the Blues.
Here’s a breakdown of how each GM built their respective teams:
Draft: Boston (37%) St. Louis (52%)
Trade: Boston (21%) St. Louis (35%)
Free agency: Boston (42%) St. Louis (13%)
The Bruins won the first regular-season meeting between the two teams with a 5-2 victory in Boston on Jan. 17. Sammy Blais scored the shootout winner in the Blues 2-1 victory at home on Feb. 23 to end the Bruins’ season-high seven-game win streak.
Bruins second-line right-winger David Backes will face his old team. He was a second-round selection (62nd overall) of the Blues in 2003 and played his first 10 NHL seasons in St. Louis. After being the team captain and helping the Blues advance to the 2015-16 West final, Backes signed with the Bruins as an unrestricted free agent.
Backes on not texting ex-Blues teammates: “Friends on the St. Louis Blues are now cut off, officially. If they text me, it’s going to fall on deaf ears. If they get a text back, it might be from my daughter and it will be very incoherent. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/stlblues?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#stlblues</a>
In his last few years, he developed a close friendship with Alex Pietrangelo. The Blues star defenceman was married that summer and Backes delivered the news that weekend that he was going to sign with Boston.
A few weeks later, Pietrangelo found an envelope tucked into the driver-side visor of his car. It was a letter of inspiration and advice. Backes knew his young friend was going to replace him as captain, and he wanted to share some lessons he learned as a leader.
With the exception of British Columbia because of the final between Boston and Vancouver in 2011, there are droves of Bruins fans in Canada. But you can bet there will be pockets of Blues fans because their roster has players from Fredericton in backup goalie Jake Allen to Albertans Jay Bouwmeester (Edmonton) and Colton Parayko (St. Albert).
The entire coaching staff of Craig Berube (Calahoo, Atla.), Steve Ott (Summerside, P.E.I.) and Mike Van Ryn (London, Ont.) is also Canadian.
There also is quite a connection to Saskatchewan with Tyler Bozak (Regina), Brayden Schenn (Saskatoon) and Jaden Schwartz (Wilcox).
The youngest player in the final is St. Louis’ 19-year-old rookie forward Robert Thomas. You may see some interested viewers cheering on Thomas. He stayed at the home of former Blues sniper Keith Tkachuk this season. His sons Matthew and Brady of the Calgary Flames and Ottawa Senators, respectively, have been around the rink supporting their family addition.
Matthew and Thomas Tkachuk won a Memorial Cup together with the London Knights three years ago.
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The old fart
At the other end of the age spectrum is Bruins 42-year-old captain Zdeno Chara. If Chara wins another Stanley Cup, he would be the fifth player 42 or older to win a Stanley Cup. The four to win at such an advanced age include Chris Chelios (46, 2008 with Detroit), Dominik Hasek (43, 2008 with Detroit), Johnny Bower (42, 1967 with Toronto) and Lester Patrick (44, 1928 with the Rangers).
Patrick also was the coach in New York. He relieved Lorne Chabot after he suffered an eye injury in Game 2 and won 2-1 in overtime. Hasek didn’t play for the Red Wings in the 2008 final, but he did see action in four first-round games. Chelios played in 14 games in the first three rounds in 2008, but none in the final.
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Masked men magic
A team needs outstanding post-season goaltending to advance to the final. Both Boston and St. Louis have received excellent play from Tuukka Rask and Jordan Binnington. Rask has been brilliant with a .940 save percentage, the fifth-best mark since 1955-56 behind Jonathan Quick (.946 I 2012), Jean-Sebastien Giguere (.945 in 2003), Mike Smith (.944 in 2012) and Olie Kolzig (.941 in 1998).
Binnington, meanwhile, can set a record for most playoff wins from a rookie goalie in the playoffs with four more wins, passing the 15-win mark set by Patrick Roy in 1986, matched by Ron Hextall in 1987 and Cam Ward in 2006.
David and Goliath
The Bruins have five players left from their championship season seven years ago in Chara, Bergeron, Marchand, David Krejci and Rask, who was the backup but did not play. The Blues have just one player with final experience in David Perron, a contributor to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights’ remarkable run to the final a year ago. The 30-year-old left wing from Sherbrooke, Que., in his third different stint with the Blues, has scored a career-high six playoff goals in 19 games this spring.
The Blues will continue their upset ways by claiming the franchise’s first championship in seven games.