And then there were two.
Both of the conference finals now are complete, and it’ll be the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues facing off in the Stanley Cup Final.
The last time these two sides met in the Cup Final was 1970 and the Bruins won in a sweep, with Bobby Orr’s famous goal in Game 4 clinching the series.
Before the puck drops Monday night at TD Garden, NESN.com’s Logan Mullen and Lauren Campbell broke down the upcoming series.
STATS HEAD-TO-HEAD (REGULAR SEASON)
Goals/Game: Boston 3.13 (11th) | St. Louis 2.98 (15th)
Goals Allowed/Game: Boston 2.59 (3rd) | St. Louis 2.68 (5th)
Power Play: Boston 25.9 percent (3rd) | St. Louis 21.1 (10th)
Penalty Kill: Boston 79.9 (16th) | St. Louis 81.5 (9th)
Monday, May 27: St. Louis at Boston, 8 p.m. ET
Wednesday, May 29: St. Louis at Boston, 8 p.m.
Saturday, June 1: Boston at St. Louis, 8 p.m.
Monday, June 3: Boston at St. Louis, 8 p.m.
Thursday June 6: St. Louis at Boston, 8 p.m. (if necessary)
Sunday, June 9: Boston at St. Louis, 8 p.m. (if necessary)
Wednesday, June 12: St. Louis at Boston, 8 p.m. (if necessary)
Bruins Projected Lines
Brad Marchand–Patrice Bergeron–David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk–David Krejci–David Backes
Marcus Johansson–Charlie Coyle–Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom–Sean Kuraly–Noel Acciari
Blues Projected Lines
Jaden Schwartz–Brayden Schenn–Vladimir Tarasenko
Sammy Blais–Ryan O’Reilly–David Perron
Patrick Maroon–Tyler Bozak–Robert Thomas
Ivan Barbashev–Oskar Sundqvist–Alex Steen
Logan: While St. Louis’ top line might not have quite as much name recognition as Boston’s, it’s been on pretty equal footing this postseason.
Jaden Schwartz is playing out of his mind this postseason to the tune of 16 points. That only has elevated the play of his linemates Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko. So while the Bruins’ top trio has plenty of experience and played well against Carolina, the matchup pretty much is a push.
The Blues and Bruins also match up well down the middle. Boston boasts a sharp grouping of centers, but St. Louis arguably has the best four centers the Bruins will have faced this postseason (especially considering Nazem Kadri’s suspension in the first round).
Speaking of matching up well, the Blues’ fourth line is as good a bottom unit as the Bruins’ fourth line has seen all playoffs. Pretty much this entire spring Boston’s fourth has had a considerable advantage against its counterparts. That’s probably going to be put to a stop in the Cup Final.
All told, these two sides’ forwards match up well, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see the coaches match lines throughout the series.
Lauren: The Bruins’ top line has looked unstoppable of late, especially in their Eastern Conference Final sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes. But Boston also has gotten help from its bottom six throughout its playoff run. Charlie Coyle, Marcus Johansson and Joakim Nordstrom all have played pivotal roles throughout the playoffs. And even though Boston will be without Chris Wagner, Noel Acciari will step back in on the fourth line and more depth for the B’s.
St. Louis’ top line, of course, helped propel the Blues to the position they’re in now, but the trio of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron are averaging almost 3 1/2 goals per game more than the Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko line. But you can’t forget about their physical forecheck — especially Schwartz — who leads St. Louis with 12 goals.
The Blues also will need to be cautious of Boston’s power-play unit, which has been on fire through the three rounds, converting over 1/3 of its chances.
Bruins Projected Pairings
Zdeno Chara–Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug–Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk–Connor Clifton
Blues Projected Pairings
Joel Edmundson–Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester–Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn–Carl Gunnarsson
Logan: Put simply, the Bruins have the skill advantage, the Blues have the size advantage. Which advantage proves to be more important remains to be seen, of course.
There’s no questioning the experience Zdeno Chara brings and the talent Charlie McAvoy possesses, but Joel Edmundson and Alex Pietrangelo have been a heck of a duo. Meanwhile, Colton Parayko is an absolute house while Jay Bouwmeester is another seasoned vet, but they don’t necessarily have a clear advantage over the Torey Krug-Brandon Carlo pairing, which is a great fusion of offensive prowess and stay-at-home defense. But Matt Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton have shown the league this postseason just how valuable they are, and they could give St. Louis trouble.
Both groups have nice depth too, with John Moore expected to be a healthy scratch for the Bruins and Robert Bortuzzo for the Blues. So in the event there’s injuries, neither side should fall off too much.
This has been a really good postseason for both defenses, but the Bruins’ blueliners have been better, albeit narrowly.
Lauren: The Blues’ defense has been a huge reason for getting the team to the Cup Final. The defense will need to slow down the speed of the Bruins, much like they did against the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.
Zdeno Chara, who missed the clinching Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes, is expected to be ready for Game 1, but there’s no telling whether he’ll be 100 percent. Charlie McAvoy will need to have a big series and use his body in order to stop the Blues’ forwards.
The blueliners in St. Louis have a lot of size and was one of just two teams that had three defensemen score at least 10 goals in the regular season.
Advantage: Blues (narrowly)
Logan: Let’s not overcomplicate this: Jordan Binnington has been great, but Tuukka Rask has been better, and he’s got experience on his side.
Binnington’s time with the Providence Bruins probably will be among the most overstated storylines of the series, but Bruins goalie coach Bob Essensa is among the best at what he does. That means the Bruins, in addition to the knowledge they already have on Binnington from him playing in the organization, will be well-versed on the rookie’s weaknesses.
Lauren: Tuukka Rask has been absolutely stellar throughout the playoffs and totes a .942 save percentage through three rounds. He’s given Boston a chance to win game in and game out and there’s no doubt he’ll carry that explosive energy into the Stanley Cup Final.
Rookie Jordan Binnington also is having an amazing run between the pipes. He allowed just 1.89 goals-per-game during the regular season, but saw that number jump to 2.36 throughout the playoffs. Rask has had the opposite happen to him — allowing 2.46 goals-per-game in the regular season while giving up just 1.84 in 17 playoff games. Bennington has let at least four goals by on five separate occasions in his playoff run, while Rask let up the same amount just once.
Logan: Danton Heinen
The Patrick Maroon-Tyler Bozak-Robert Thomas third line for St. Louis is so, so good, but the Bruins’ third group is no slouch, either. Heinen is a responsible defensive player, but offensively he hasn’t made much noise. If he can step it up on that side of the ice, it certainly would boost the Bruins’ bottom six.
Lauren: David Backes
It’s hard to talk about this series without mentioning David Backes, who spent his first 10 NHL seasons with the Blues. St. Louis has a big and physical defense, so having Backes’ presence up front will be huge in order to help control the blueliners. Plus, after being a healthy scratch throughout some of the playoffs and having an impact in the games he did play, it’s likely a sure bet the 34-year-old will play his best hockey to help Boston bring home the Cup.
Logan: Bruins in six.
It wouldn’t be surprising if this one goes seven, but six seems more likely. Either way, these teams are going to beat the bejesus out of each other and it should be a plenty entertaining series.
Lauren: Bruins in six.
Boston’s experienced core and hot play of Tuukka Rask ultimately will be the deciding factor in a pretty evenly matched series. It won’t be easy and it probably will be physical, but it will be the Bruins who hoist Lord Stanley in the end.
Thumbnail photo via Joe Puetz/USA TODAY Sports Images