The St. Louis Blues are back in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 49 years, and the way they got there was impressive.
The Blues were last in the NHLon Jan. 2 and quickly worked their way into contention after the arrival of rookie goalie Jordan Binnington and the continued defensive improvements under November coaching replacement Craig Berube. They finished with 99 points and briefly led the Central Division on the final day before dropping to third. No team in last place after Jan. 1 had wona playoff round, and the Blues won three - against theWinnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks - as they aim for their first Stanley Cup title.
The Bruins are more frequent visitors to the Final, winning in 2011 and returning in 2013. Their 107-point season was impressive, though overshadowed by the division-rival Tampa Bay Lightning's 62-win season. But the Bruins knocked off the Toronto Maple Leafs, edged the Columbus Blue Jackets (who shockingly swept had the Lightning) and swept the Carolina Hurricanes.
How to watch the Stanley Cup Final and what to know about the teams:
Best of seven, all times p.m. ET, x-if necessary
Monday, May 27: St. Louis at Boston, 8, NBC
Wednesday, May 29: St. Louis at Boston, 8, NBCSN
Saturday, June 1:Boston at St. Louis 8, NBCSN
Monday, June 3:Boston at St. Louis, 8,NBC
x-Thursday, June 6: St. Louis at Boston, 8,NBC
x-Sunday, June 9:Boston at St. Louis, 8, NBC
x-Wednesday, June 12: St. Louis at Boston, 8, NBC
RANKINGS: Which Bruins and Blues players could have biggest impact
ANALYSIS: Five factors that will determine Bruins-Blues series
Boston's Tuukka Rask leads NHL playoff goalies with a 1.84 goals-against average and .942 save percentage.... Binnington has stopped 75 of the last 77 shots he faced.... St. Louis forward Jaden Schwartz's 12 playoff goals are one more than he had in the regular season. ... After being limited to one point in the final six games of the conference semifinals, Vladimir Tarasenko had points in all six Western Conference final games, totalingthree goals and five assists. ... Marchand and Bergeron each had five points in the Eastern Conference final sweep.
Head to head:All Boston in the playoffs. The Bruins swept theBlues in the 1970 Final and in the 1972 semifinals. The first meeting was made famous by the photo of Bobby Orr flying through the air after he scored in overtime of Game 4.
Head to head II: The Bruins and Blues split the season series. Boston won5-2 with now-backup goalie Jake Allen in the Blues' net. St. Louis then won 2-1 in a shootout, withBinnington making 31 saves. That ended the Bruins' seven-game winning streak, coincidentally the length of Boston's current streak.
Experience edge:Marchand, Bergeron, David Krejci and Zdeno Chara won a Stanley Cup together with the Bruins in 2011. Rask was also on that team, though Tim Thomas played all of the minutes in thoseplayoffs. Krejci was the Bruins' leading scorer that postseason.
Familiar faces: Bruins forward David Backes ranks seventh in Blues' all-time regular-season scoring. He was Blues captain from 2011-16. He signed a five-year, $30 million free agent contract with Boston in 2016. Binnington played 28 games for the Bruins' affiliate in Providence, Rhode Island, in 2016 after being lent there to get playing time. He didn't break through in St. Louis until January. Bruins backup goalie Jaroslav Halak played for the Blues from 2010-14.
Resilient: The Bruins trailed 2-1 in the first and second rounds before rallying. The Blues overcame a 3-2 deficit in the second round and sloughed off a controversial overtime goal - the on-ice officials missed an illegal hand pass right before it was scored - to win the final three games of the Western Conference final.