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Bruins vs. Blues: This has the look of a 7-game thriller

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.

At the other end of the rink, the legends of Hall, the Plager brothers, Phil Goyette and Red Berenson have been replaced by Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Pietrangelo and rookie goalie Jordan Binnington.

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.

WATCH | Who has the edge entering the final?

The St. Louis Blues take on the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final, looking to win their first title in franchise history. 1:00

The breakdown

Boston Bruins

  • 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)

WATCH | Rob Pizzo highlights 9 current players to play most games without a Cup: 

Joe Thornton will have to wait another year for a chance at Lord Stanley, but Rob Pizzo looks at 8 other players who are still in search of their first ring. 2:17

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.

(Alexis Allison/CBC Sports)

Storylines 

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.

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.

In this May 10, 1970 file photo, superstar Bobby Orr goes into the air after scoring the series-clinching overtime a goal against the Blues that won the Stanley Cup for the Bruins in Boston. (Ray Lussier/The Boston Herald via AP)

Canadian connections

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).

Of the 22 players who have suited up a whopping 15 are Canadian, 16 if you include Allen, who has yet to play, and 17 if you include Swedish-trained Alex Steen, born in Winnipeg while his father Thomas played for the Jets.

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 teenager

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.

WATCH | Blues stage remarkable turnaround to reach Stanley Cup final: 

The Bruins top line scored all four goals in their 4-0 win over the Hurricanes, completing the series sweep. 1:59

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.

WATCH | Perfection line leads Bruins to Stanley Cup final:

St. Louis Blues will play in the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 1970. 1:19

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.

Rock-bottom Blues

The Blues made history en route to the final. They were in 31st place, dead last in the league overall standings on Jan. 2. A team that low in the standings has never made it to the Stanley Cup final. But a 30-10-5 finish put them in the playoffs, and they have exhibited remarkable resilience in the playoffs overcoming series deficits to beat the Dallas Stars in the second round and San Jose Sharks in the West final.

Prediction

The Blues will continue their upset ways by claiming the franchise’s first championship in seven games.

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