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NHL PUCK DROPS: Experience will pay dividends for Bruins

Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask defends the goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period in Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference finals in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, May 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask defends the goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period in Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference finals in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, May 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) - Postmedia News

Boston also have edge over St. Louis in goaltending and special teams as Stanley Cup final begins tonight

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

And then there were two.

Nearly seven weeks after the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs began, the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues will face off tonight to start the final series to determine this year's winner of hockey's holy grail.

 Bruins centre Patrice Bergeron celebrates after scoring a goal against the Hurricanes during the third period in Game 4 of the NHL’s Eastern Conference Finals at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., on Thursday, May 16, 2019.
Bruins centre Patrice Bergeron celebrates after scoring a goal against the Hurricanes during the third period in Game 4 of the NHL’s Eastern Conference Finals at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., on Thursday, May 16, 2019.

It's a rematch of their 1970 Cup final, made famous by Hall of Famer Bobby Orr's iconic series-winning goal. Until now, that was the last time the Blues reached the final round. The Bruins, meanwhile, are making their ninth finals appearance since 1970, having last won the big mug in 2011.

Sitting second overall in the Eastern Conference, the Bruins were among this season's dominant teams. The Blues were last overall in the standings in early January before staging one of the greatest comebacks in league history.

In two-way centre Patrice Bergeron and wingers Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, the Bruins possess one of the league's most potent scoring lines. They're also getting solid secondary offence from David Krejci and mid-season acquisitions Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson.

Boston's defence possesses considerable depth. It's a good mix of youngsters such as Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo and skilled veterans like Torey Krug and the ageless Zdeno Chara.

The Blues counter with scorers such as Vladimir Tarasenko and the surprising Jaden Schwartz, who leads both clubs in post-season scoring with 12 goals. They're also getting offence throughout their lineup, with forwards such as David Perron, Tyler Bozak and Pat Maroon netting big goals at critical moments.

Blues centre Ryan O'Reilly is also among the league's best two-way forwards. That should create an interesting match-up with Bergeron. The St. Louis blue-line is anchored by the often underrated Alex Pietrangelo and hulking rearguard Colton Parayko.

The series could be decided by goaltending and special teams. Those are areas where the Bruins have the advantage.

Blues left wing Pat Maroon (left) and right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (right) celebrate the team's 2-1 win against the Stars in double overtime in Game 7 of an NHL second-round playoff series in St. Louis on Tuesday, May 7, 2019.
Blues left wing Pat Maroon (left) and right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (right) celebrate the team's 2-1 win against the Stars in double overtime in Game 7 of an NHL second-round playoff series in St. Louis on Tuesday, May 7, 2019.

Blues rookie goalie Jordan Binnington is arguably the main reason behind his club's stunning turnaround this season. He's an unflappable presence in net, capable of shaking off a bad goal or bouncing back from a poor performance. 

However, Boston netminder Tuukka Rask has been outstanding this spring. He leads all playoff goaltenders with a minuscule 1.84 goals-against average, a stellar .942 save percentage and is tied for the shutout lead (two) with Carolina's Petr Mrazek. He's the favourite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

The Bruins also possess the best power-play (34 per cent) while their penalty-killing percentage (86.3) is the fourth-best of the post-season. The Blues, on the other hand, are ninth with the man advantage (19.4) while their penalty kill (78) is 11th.

Factor in the experience and leadership of players like Chara, Bergeron, and Marchand, and the Bruins won't need a generational talent like Bobby Orr to win this series.
Prediction: Bruins in six games.


Lyle Richardson is a freelance writer with the Sporting News and runs the website Spector’s Hockey. His column will appear in The Guardian throughout the NHL hockey season.

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