Bennington looks to stand alone
Jordan Bennington is one of only seven rookie goalies to win 12 games or more in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If the Blues win the cup, he will become the fifth rookie netminder since the 1967 expansion to lead his team to the promise land joining Ken Dryden in 1971, Patrick Roy in 1986, Cam Ward in 2006, and Matt Murray in both 2016 and ‘17. But assuming he starts and wins the four games required to win the series, he will be the only rookie to win all 16 games. The first round of the playoffs expanded to a best of seven in 1987 so Roy only had the opportunity to get 15 wins, but that should take nothing away from what would be an incredible accomplishment for a guy that was not even the AHL starter at the beginning of the season.
Going full circle
Speaking of the AHL, did you know that St. Louis didn’t have an AHL affiliate last season? It seems crazy but with the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights, the Blues old minor league team, the Chicago Wolves, became the AHL team for Vegas which left St. Louis without one. The Blues sent players to other squads like the Wolves and San Antonio Rampage. But they sent one goalie to Providence to play games in the Bruins’ system. This was Jordan Bennington. One of the favorites to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie, played in 28 games on loan for Providence including three playoff games. Now, he will face the big Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final.
Backes looks to best his former squad
David Backes spent the first ten seasons of his NHL career with St. Louis and was the captain of the team for the last five. He still ranks in the top ten in nearly every franchise statistic including games played, goals, assists, and points. While he hasn’t had the same success he had while on the Blues, a Stanley Cup championship over his former team would cap off a solid career he’s put together.
Rask looks to overtake Thomas in Bruins’ lore
Until Tuukka Rask and the Bruins win a cup, there will always be people who compare him to Tim Thomas. But, if the Bruins do end up winning it, Rask will likely take home the Conn Smythe Trophy to match Thomas’ award from 2011. It would be the second run to the Finals for Rask in which he posted a save percentage near or exceeding .940. Many forget how good Rask was in 2013 when he sported a 1.88 GAA and 3 shutouts over the course of the playoffs. His playoffs that year were defined by the two goals in 17 seconds he allowed with 1:16 left in the third period of game six against Chicago to give the Hawks the Stanley Cup. The Bruins and Rask need to win this series in order to put those demons to bed. But, if they do, the two trips to the Finals combined with winning it, will finally take Rask out of Thomas’ shadow.
A couple old guys look to re-write the record book
The series will feature two veterans occupying each team’s blue line. Taken with the third overall pick back in 2002, Jay Bouwmeester has played in the 8th most regular season games before making their Stanley Cup Final debut. He’ll try to duplicate the success that the first player on that list, Dave Andreychuk, saw in his first finals when he led the Tampa Bay Lightning to a victory over Calgary in 2004. Meanwhile, Bruins’ captain Zdeno Chara looks to become the 5th player over the age of 42 to win the Stanley Cup. If Boston wins the series, Chara will be the oldest captain in league history to lead his team to the promise land.
With a win, is this the greatest Bruins core ever?
The Bruins have only won the cup six times. This number is a little low considering when they came in the league (1924) and how the first expansion team didn’t win a championship until 1974 when Philadelphia did it. The greatest player in franchise history, Bobby Orr, captured two rings and made five finals appearances during the 1970s. But there were less teams and less wins required in order to get there. This is the third trip for Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and Zdeno Chara on top of earning the Presidents Trophy in 2014 for having the most points in the regular season. They have to beat St. Louis, but if they do, they will have a great argument for passing the Big Bad Bruins of the 70s in team lore and for being the second-best team this decade after Chicago.
Photo source: USAToday.com