The beginning of the Stanley Cup Finals is upon us as the puck drops on game one in just a few hours from now. 31 teams began the regular season with playoff hopes. 16 teams earned the opportunity to compete in the Stanley Cup Finals but now we are down to just two. The Boston Bruins are making their 20th appearance in the Finals in franchise history. The Blues are making their fourth, however, it is the first time since 1970 they have competed for the greatest trophy in sports.
And that is where we begin with our Stanley Cup storylines.
The Rematch of 1970
It’s one of the most famous images in hockey history and it is immortalized in the courtyard of TD Garden with a statue. Of course, we are talking about Bobby Orr flying through the air after scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal in 1970 against the St. Louis Blues. It was the Blues third year in the league and third straight appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. They lost all three and have not been back since. Now, after 49 years they have an opportunity to exact revenge and win their first Cup in franchise history.
David Backes against the Blues
David Backes knows all about the Blues journey to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals. Backes spent the first 10 years of his career with St. Louis where he tallied 206 goals and 254 assists in that time. For the final five years of his tenure with the Blues, he was the Captain and leader of the team. Now, he wears the spoked “B” and will play in his first Finals against the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. With the Bruins, he plays a bit of a different role but an incredibly important one nonetheless. Since he was re-inserted into the lineup for game four of the second round series with the Blue Jackets, the Bruins have gone 7-0.
Worst to First
By now, everyone has heard about the Blues being dead last in the NHL on January 3rd with a 15-18-4 record and perhaps it has lost some of its luster. However, the turnaround for the Blues is truly remarkable. And, it’s no coincidence that it began with the team calling up goalie Jordan Binnington. Binnington, who spent last year with the Providence Bruins, posted a 24-5-1 record with a .927 save percentage and 1.89 goals against average. The steller performance catapulted Binnington into the Calder Trophy conversation and the Blues into the playoffs. They are now just four wins shy of their first Stanley Cup Championship.
Tuukka Rask’s Legacy
Fairly or not, Tuukka Rask has had to live in the shadow of Tim Thomas’ 2011 Stanley Cup run. Despite taking the Bruins all the way to game six of the 2013 Finals and bringing them just minutes away from a game seven, Rask has yet to prove (to some) that he is a big game goalie. And, even with his run thus far, that will not go away until he hoists the Cup as the starting goalie. To this point, Rask has been, by far, the best goalie in the playoffs. His .942 save percentage is better than Thomas’ in 2011 and better than his .940 percentage in 2013. In most people’s eyes, he is currently the frontrunner for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. Four more wins will erase all that “doubt”.
Boston vs St. Louis
They are the only two cities to have competed against each other in every major championship series. As mentioned before, the Bruins and the Blues squared off in the Finals 49 years ago and not long before that, the Boston Celtics and St. Louis Hawks met in four NBA Championships. However, there is more recent history between the two cities and like it was a half-century ago, it heavily favors Boston. In baseball, the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals have met twice in the World Series. First in 2004 when the Red Sox broke the 86 year curse and then again in 2013. They are 8-0 against the Cardinals in the World Series. And, of course, the New England Patriots upset the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl 36 and started this unprecedented run for New England professional sports over the past two decades.