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STA N LEY CU P FI NA L PR EV IEW EDIT ION

MONDAY • 05.27.2019 • $2.50

IT’S TIME The Blues are just four wins away from delivering the city its first Stanley Cup INSIDE THIS SECTION

OUT OF NOWHERE Jordan Binnington, like Kurt Warner, has taken the city by storm. Pages 2-3 BENFRED: BOSTON AGAIN It would be fun to deny Beantown another sports title. Page 8 HOCHMAN: SENTIMENTS ASIDE Former Blues captain David Backes is focused on task at hand. Page 11 GORDON: REBEL RUN Strategy in quest for Cup hasn’t always enamored peers. Page 13 FAMILIAR MATCHUP A look at the 10 other times St. Louis and Boston have squared off for a major sports championship. Page 16

GAME 1

GAME 2

GAME 3

GAME 4

GAME 5*

GAME 6*

GAME 7*

7 p.m. Monday at Boston KSDK (Ch.5)

7 p.m. Wednesday at Boston NBCSN

7 p.m. Saturday at Blues NBCSN

7 p.m. Monday 6/3 at Blues KSDK (Ch.5)

7 p.m. Thursday 6/6 at Boston KSDK (Ch.5)

7 p.m. Sunday 6/9 at Blues KSDK (Ch.5)

7 p.m. Wednesday 6/12 at Boston KSDK (Ch.5)

* IF NECESSARY

Subscribe for every cold, icy detail at STLtoday.com/subscribenow TODAY’S COMPLETE NEWSPAPER INSIDE STANLEY CUP FINAL EDITION Vol. 141, No. 147 ©2019

1 M


STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

S2 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

M 1 • MOnDAy • 05.27.2019

SECOND COMING Binnington emerged from out of nowhere, like another St. Louis star BY JIM THOMAS St. Louis Post-Dispatch

BOSTON

Y

ou can take Kurt Warner out of St. Louis, but you can’t completely take St. Louis out of Kurt Warner. So it shouldn’t be totally surprising to learn that Warner has followed the Blues’ run to the Stanley Cup Final. Or even that he knows about the Blues’ surprise sensation in goal — Jordan Binnington. “I can’t say that I’ve followed a lot of hockey,” Warner said late last week. “But I have kept an eye on how they’ve been doing and the fact that they’ve been kind of rolling here through the playoffs. “And actually, I had seen a few tweets and comments about how this guy’s the Blues’ version of Kurt Warner.” It’s true. Binnington is the biggest outof-nowhere story on the St. Louis sports scene since Warner took over at quarterback for an injured Trent Green 20 years ago. At Stanley Cup media day Sunday at TD Garden in Boston, Binnington was asked if he knew anything about Warner’s rise from obscurity. “No,” Binnington replied. “Sorry. But sounds like a pretty awesome Warner story.” It is. And so is Binnington’s. In total, the Warner story may be more spectacular. For example, Binnington never stocked shelves at a Hy-Vee grocery store like Warner. In fact, he’s never had a job outside of hockey. “I’ve just been a hockey player,” Binnington said. “I was fortunate that I was able to focus on my hockey career. I was in a ton of goalie schools growing up. I put my time in, and my dad did a lot of work for me. “As you get older you realize just how much he did. I’m happy I can make him proud and hopefully win one more series here.” While Warner was exposed by the Rams in the expansion draft to stock the born-again Cleveland Browns following the 1998 NFL season, the Blues wanted to send Binnington to the ECHL — hockey’s version of AA minor-league baseball — prior to the 2017-18 season. Cleveland didn’t select Warner. As for Binnington, he balked at the planned

PHOTOS BY J.B. FORBES • jforbes@post-dispatch.com

Jordan Binnington answers questions Sunday at media day before the start of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden in Boston.

Jordan Binnington led the resurgent Blues into the playoffs with a 1.89 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in 32 regular-season games.

ECHL assignment. “Didn’t want to go there,” Binnington said. “I was confident in myself that

I could handle the next level and just be ready for the opportunity when it came.” The Blues did not have an American

Hockey League affiliate of their own last season.The San Antonio Rampage — then a farm team of the Colorado Avalanche — agreed to take on Ville Husso, the No. 3 goalie in the Blues’ organization. But that left the Blues with nowhere to send Binnington, their No. 4 goalie. General manager Doug Armstrong sent a memo to his NHL peers asking if anyone could use a goalie. That’s how Binnington ended up playing for the Providence Bruins, Boston’s affiliate in the AHL. “He’s a really nice guy. He was really calm and kind of to himself a little,” said Boston defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, a teammate of Binnington’s in Providence. “He was welcomed by the team. I’m sure it was quite a unique situation for him to kind of join a different organization. But he played great when he was down there.” Another Boston Bruin who spent that season in Providence, defenseman Connor Clifton, saw a different side of the goaltender.

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STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

05.27.2019 • Monday • M 1 “He’s a funny kid,” said Clifton, who at 24 is nearly two years younger. So much so that when Clifton saw the infamous “Do I look nervous?” video, he knew right away that Binnington was joking. “He got mixed reviews on that,” Clifton said, laughing. “But I knew he was kidding. I laughed. ... I knew his personality.” So Binnington was in organizational exile prior to his breakout season, honing his craft in hopes of getting a chance. In the spring of ‘98, Warner could almost say the same. While the rest of the Rams were engaged in spring practices and minicamps in St. Louis, he was in Amsterdam, honing his craft in NFL Europe. To large degree, both players were overlooked by organizations that didn’t know what they had. Both were itching for a chance. “I think the biggest thing is simply belief in yourself,” Warner said. “For me, every time I was between the lines I was very successful. The crazy part was that I couldn’t get between the lines.” At least not in the NFL. “Sitting on the bench for four years in college (at Northern Iowa),people see that and go, ‘Well, he must not have been very good,’” Warner said. “Yet the year that I played, I was player of the year in our conference. “And then I get cut by an NFL team (Green Bay), but when I played in Arena Football we were in two championships in three years and I was voted best quarterback in the league. And then I went to Europe (and led the league in passing). “So every time I played, I was very successful. The problem was I couldn’t get anybody at the NFL level to give me a chance to play.” Binnington, too, had success at lower levels. In junior hockey, he was named goaltender of the year in the Ontario Hockey League and led his team — the Owen Sound Attack — to the league title. With the Providence Bruins, he was named to the AHL all-star game. Binnington has yet to win a championship in the big leagues, as Warner did quarterbacking the 1999 Rams to the Super Bowl XXXIV championship over the Tennessee Titans. But the goalie from Richmond Hill, Ontario, in the Toronto area has the Blues in the Cup Final starting Monday against Boston. Warner led the Rams from worst to first — from a 4-12 record in ‘98 to a squad that finished 16-3 in ‘99 after winning the Lombardi Trophy. Binnington is trying to do all that in the same season — half a season, to be exact. It has happened so fast: In the 76 days between Binnington’s first career start Jan. 7 (a 3-0 win against Philadelphia) and his 20th career victory on Mar. 23 (a 4-3 win against Tampa Bay), the Blues rose from last in the 15-team Western Conference to playoff position

ST. LoUIS PoST-dISPaTCH • S3

ROBERT COHEN • rcohen@post-dispatch.com.

Jordan Binnington has been in the spotlight for the Blues since his first career NHL start on January 7.

and a nine-point lead over the nearest non-playoff team. After the series-clinching win Tuesday over San Jose, Ryan O’Reilly said it best when asked what factors led to the Blues’ turnaround. “There’s a bunch of them,” O’Reilly told NBC. “But I think the big one was having ‘Binner’ come in. He brought some swagger to us. He won some games by himself during the year that just gave us some confidence.

“Once we started to feel good about ourselves, we just really came together. He was a big reason for sparking us like he did.” Years after the Warner phenomenon, Dick Vermeil, Mike Martz and Charley Armey all said they had thought the guy had potential. But they had no idea he’d do what he did. Armstrong already is saying similar things about Binnington. “It would be disingenuous to say that

this was all part of the master plan, bring him in in January and be here today,” Armstrong said. “But what he did do is he never quit on himself, and that’s what I take away.” From Warner to Binnington. From out of nowhere to the pinnacle of his sport. “I’m trying to see if I can squeeze back to a (Stanley Cup) game in St. Louis, just kind of support ‘em,” Warner said. And wouldn’t that be fun if Binnington met Warner.

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STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

S4 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

M 1 • MOnDAy • 05.27.2019

BLUES-BRUINS MATCHUP BOX Game 1: 7 p.m., Monday, TD Garden TV/radio: NBC/KMOX (1120 AM) Series overview: The Blues have faced Boston only twice in the postseason and were swept both times — in the 1970 Stanley Cup Final and the 1972 league semifinals. The Blues were outscored by a combined 48-15 in those games. This season the Blues went 1-1 against the Bruins, losing 5-2 in Boston on Jan. 17 with Jake Allen in goal and winning 2-1 in a six-round shootout Feb. 23 in St. Louis. The Blues committed a season-high 25 giveaways in the 5-2 loss. In the Blues’ shootout victory, Sammy Blais scored the game-winner and Jordan Binnington outdueled Tuukka Rask in goal.

YOUR SUMMER STOP! J.B. FORBES • jforbes@post-dispatch.com

From left, Jay Bouwmeester, Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron skate off the ice following practice Sunday at TD Garden in Boston.

ABOUT THE BRUINS

ABOUT THE BLUES

REGULAR SEASON Goals for: 3.13 (11th) Goals against: 2.58 (3rd) Power play: 25.9% (3rd) Penalty kill: 79.9% (16th) Injury outlook: C Chris Wagner (arm) hasn’t played since Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final and isn’t practicing, but he hopes to play at some point in the Cup Final. F Brad Marchand (maintenance) did not skate Sunday but will play Monday. C David Krejci (illness) returned to practice after missing a couple of days and is expected to play Monday. Top threats: The Bruins had three 30-goal scorers in the regular season, and all play on the same line: David Pastrnak had 38 goals, Marchand 36 and Patrice Bergeron 32. Pastrnak tied for fourth in the NHL with 17 power-play goals. Torey Krug finished sixth among all NHL defensemen with 47 assists. In goal: Rask (27-13-5) and former Blue Jaroslav Halak (22-11-4) split time in the regular season; Halak’s numbers were a little better than Rask’s: a 2.34 (GAA) and .922 (SV%) to Rask’s 2.48 and .912. In the playoffs: The Bruins have gotten better in each series, needing seven games to get past Toronto in Round 1, dispatching Columbus in six games in Round 2 and sweeping Carolina in the Eastern finals. They have won their last seven games. Rask enters the Cup Final as the Conn Smythe favorite for playoff MVP with a 12-5 record, 1.84 GAA and .942 save percentage.

REGULAR SEASON Goals for: 2.98 (15th) Goals against: 2.68 (5th) Power play: 21.1% (10th) Penalty kill: 81.5% (9th) Injury outlook: D Vince Dunn hasn’t played since taking a puck to the face in Game 3 of the Western Conference final against San Jose. But he has been skating the past two days, wearing a protective face guard, and could play in the series. F Robert Thomas (maintenance) once again came out late Sunday in practice, didn’t skate with the team, but will play Monday. Top threats: The Blues had 13 players with 10 goals or more during the regular season, tied with Carolina for most in the league. Vladimir Tarasenko (33) and Ryan O’Reilly (28) led the way. Blues defensemen combined to score 46 goals in the regular season to lead the league. In goal: Binnington took the league by storm over the second half of the season and is a Calder Trophy finalist (24-5-1, 1.89 GAA, .927 save %) as rookie of the year. In the playoffs: St. Louis won its firstround series against Winnipeg 4-2, then its second-round series against Dallas 4-3 on Pat Maroon’s goal in double OT. After the controversial OT loss in the “Hand Pass Game” against San Jose, the Blues won the next three games — by a combined score of 12-2 — to win the series 4-2. Jaden Schwartz has 12 postseason goals, including two hat tricks. Binnington is 12-7 in the playoffs, with a 2.37 GAA and a .914 save percentage.

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STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

05.27.2019 • Monday • M 1

ST. LoUIS PoST-dISPaTCH • S5

STILL STANDING Belief was key as Blues rocketed from last place to this surreal stage BY TOM TIMMERMANN St. Louis Post-dispatch

BOSTON

B

ack in December, when the Blues were struggling and fans were booing, few could have seen this as the endgame: the Blues skating at TD Garden on the Sunday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend as one of two teams still playing, practicing on a sheet of ice with the words “Stanley Cup Final” on it. And yet, there they were, having not quite completed one of the more amazing rags-to-riches stories the NHL has seen, going from the fewest points in the league in the early days of January to being four wins away from, finally, scaling hockey’s highest summit. Could the Blues have seen this coming? “If I said, ‘Yes,’ would you believe?” asked Vladimir Tarasenko. The Blues may have had doubters — general manager Doug Armstrong admitted Sunday he headed off to an under-18 tournament in Russia in February not knowing if the team would be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline — but none of them seemed to spend any time in the Blues’ dressing room at Enterprise Center. The standings may have shouted otherwise, but the team felt differently and, it turns out, correctly, that this team had something more to give. This was a team that knew how talented it was but just couldn’t play like it. The team’s struggles had already cost former coach Mike Yeo his job. And if the Blues didn’t get their act together, his successor, Craig Berube, would possibly be looking for work when this season ended as well. Instead, the Blues started playing like the talented team that everyone thought they would be when the season began, eventually getting to a place, the Stanley Cup Final, the team hadn’t been in 49 years. “We were talking about it (in December), I’m not going to lie,” Tarasenko said Sunday. “I felt like our team can do more than what we used to do, when we were last place in the league. When some of those guys get confidence in each other and confidence in themselves, the results (will) come. As soon as we started playing for each other, work a little bit harder and maybe a little bit simple, it’s going to give us success because we have a good team. Now we’re here, and it’s going to be a tough challenge for us. “I think everything (made that happen). Coaches, players inside, there is so many things that make it possible. I al-

COLTER PETERSON • cpeterson@post-dispatch.com

The Blues stand pose with the Clarence Campbell Bowl as the NHL Western Conference champions on May 21 at Enterprise Center.

ways believe that teams that have good relationships inside the locker room have success.” The Blues at that early point were more an enigma than a disaster. How could a team with this much talent have so many losses? The players didn’t know what was going wrong, but they looked around the locker room and came to the conclusion that the answer was in there and that once they found it then the future would be as bright as expected. “As hard as it is to say, when you go through what we went through at the start of the year, when the expectations were a lot higher than we were, it brings you closer together as a group,” captain Alex Pietrangelo said. “It does. Part of the reason we were able to turn it around as we did was we still believed in each other. We still believed we could do something, we still had some games in hand throughout most of the year, we still felt like we could make a push. As cliché as it sounds, when you believe in what you’ve got in the locker room, it’s easy to go on the ice and keep pushing and not worry about the outside noise, knowing you still have a

chance to do something together.” Pietrangelo has talked of talking, how most everyone on the team spoke his piece during that stretch, and how that has enabled them to come out sparkling on the other side. It was a search for answers, said forward Oskar Sundqvist, that finally bore fruit. “I think a lot of guys in the beginning of the season didn’t know their role in the team, both on and off the ice,” Sundqvist said, “but when we started to find our roles, it started to roll and we started to win hockey games and we started to have fun with each other. After that, it felt like we kept going. We kept doing that, and it’s been great ever since.” Getting to the Final, of course, isn’t the story this team wants to write. As much as St. Louis is abuzz over getting back to the Final for the first time since the franchise’s earliest years, the players have their sights set on four more wins. “It was great when we won the last round,” defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. “People appreciate the magnitude of where we are. This is something, the experience where you look back down

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the road and say, ‘That was cool,’ but you want to win. Any team that makes it here, it’s a good accomplishment. It’s also very hard to make it here, and it’s even harder to win. That’s the focus. It’s not getting to the Final or being happy being here. Just like the other team, you want to win.” Back on July 1, when the Blues acquired center Ryan O’Reilly in a trade with Buffalo, general manager Doug Armstrong spoke to O’Reilly on the phone. O’Reilly was enthusiastic about the trade, telling Armstrong, “Let’s go win a Cup.” Almost 11 months later, that could happen. “The ultimate goal is available,” O’Reilly said. “We have a chance to do that now. I’m blown away. I thought from Day One, this is a team that has a chance. “There’s not a doubt in my mind we’re focused, and we’re here. This is the ultimate goal. To lift that Stanley Cup is on every single guy’s mind, and we know how tough it is. We’ve got so much work ahead of us.” The journey is almost over. And it’s only just begun.


S6 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

M 1 • MOnDAy • 05.27.2019

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05.27.2019 • Monday • M 1

STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

ST. LoUIS PoST-dISPaTCH • S7

Congratulations to the St. Louis Blues

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STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

S8 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

M 1 • MONDAY • 05.27.2019

BOSTON STRONG Beantown’s recent run of success is tough to stomach for St. Louisans BEN FREDERICKSON St. Louis Post-Dispatch

BOSTON

D

riving southbound toward downtown on Interstate 93, the reminder hits your windshield like a bug. There’s the city skyline. There’s the Zakim Bridge. And then, splat, there is the blaring billboard that makes any sports fan not from here want to politely ask his or her Uber driver to launch the car into the Charles River. “END THE DROUGHT!” screams the sign in massive letters, all uppercase. “112 DAYS SINCE LAST BOSTON TITLE.” The number updates daily since the Patriots’ latest Super Bowl win, a worker at the Ace Ticket company confirmed Sunday morning as Stanley Cup Final media day swarmed inside TD Garden. This is actually a secondedition model of the sign, it turns out. The last prodded Boston’s teams toward their next title during that horrific drought between the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2013 and the Patriots winning the Super Bowl in 2014. Gross. The Patriots won only two more titles since then. The Red Sox have celebrated just one more World Series. The Bruins, the big slackers, haven’t hoisted the Stanley Cup since 2011. Throw in the pathetic Celtics, without a ring since 2008, and Boston has been limited to just 12 parades in the last 17 years. The torture! Weathermen here think confetti is a form of precipitation. Kids here think it’s weird to see duck boats in the water. Sports fans here think we can’t stand them. They’re right. “It’s great to be Bostonian,” said 42-year-old Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, a seven-time All-Star and onetime Stanley Cup champ. “I’m sure fans are really enjoying these years. I would, too. I am still. I’m a fan of the Pats, the Red Sox, the Celtics. The teams have played well. For fans, it must be super exciting.” For the rest of us, not so much. And for those of us in St. Louis, it’s actually quite depressing. We have Boston baggage. Big time.

POST-DISPATCH PHOTO

Victory parades are nothing new for Tom Brady, who won the first of his six Super Bowls by besting the St. Louis Rams following the 2001 season. POST-DISPATCH PHOTO

Catcher Jason Varitek, left, and pitcher Keith Foulke celebrate a 3-0 win that capped Boston’s sweep of the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series. The Red Sox also beat the Cardinals in the 2013 Fall Classic.

The Blues’ third and final — until this one — trip to the Stanley Cup Final turned into a Bruins sweep. They’re having a grand time revisiting that around here this week. Bobby Orr is making the rounds. They say you never want to wind up on the wrong side of a poster. The Blues wound up on the wrong side of a statue. That football team we used to have was never the same after losing the Super Bowl to the Patriots in 2002. Maybe the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick dynasty would have been snuffed out if Adam Vinatieri missed. Maybe the Rams would have remained. Maybe, because the Bruins said they consulted the Pats on how to prepare for this series, the Blues should check their dressing room for recording devices. Does the NHL destroy tapes? The Cardinals are still stuck on 11 World Series championships with none since ’11 after losing to the Red Sox in 2013. The Red Sox rolled on. The Cardinals regressed. The Redbirds have missed more postseasons than they have made since then, in part thanks to

the Red Sox brain trust relocating to rival Chicago. And don’t forget the 2004 sweep. Even basketball, the sport St. Louis has forgotten about, is deflating. The Hawks lost to the Celtics three times in four NBA Finals. Then St. Louis lost the Hawks. The best we can do now is root for hometown hero Jayson Tatum. He’s a Celtic. Sigh. St. Louis is 3-7 against Boston in championships, and 0-4 since Bob Gibson dominated in the 1967 World Series. The notion of another championship loss to Beantown is, while familiar, crippling. And because St. Louis tends to lose its most meaningful games to Boston, that’s what most expect will happen now. But take a moment and understand what it would mean to not just break that Stanley Cup curse, but to do so by beating Boston, a bigger, better, braggart of a big brother. The Blues can do this, and beating Boston would make winning the Stanley Cup even sweeter. When it came time to make playoff

predictions for the Blues, I decided to pick them to win until they lost. I looked shortsighted for declaring them dead in December. I have looked smart for trusting them since April. These guys have the depth, composure and chemistry of a championship team. They are immune to the fragility that infects their fans. They want desperately to stop your suffering. “We know the support is there,” Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said Sunday after his team practiced beneath the Bruins’ six championship banners. “You start hearing the stories, seeing how excited the fans are. It’s been a long time. Forty-nine years. St. Louis is an under-rated sports city. I’ve always said that. To reward the city and the fans for being as patient as they have been, it’s pretty cool.” “The fans stuck with us. We weren’t playing the way we wanted to. They stuck with us. There was adversity in the playoffs that we faced. They stuck with us. They never wavered from how they felt toward the team. There is nothing better than rewarding in this way.” Well, there is one thing that would be more rewarding. End the real drought.

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S10 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

M 1 • MOnDAy • 05.27.2019

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STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH • S11

BLUE BLOOD? Former captain trying to separate love of STL from quest for Cup BENJAMIN HOCHMAN St. Louis Post-Dispatch

BOSTON

D

avid Backes shared this on Sunday — he loves St. Louis so much he and his family “may settle there when it’s all said and done.” Backes gushed about the city where he lived for a decade, where he and his wife had their first daughter, where he didn’t just play for the hockey team, he captained it. He made specific references to the sports fabric of St. Louis — “the 11 banners at Busch Stadium” — and the sports fervor, pointing out that after the Blues won the Western Conference, a radio station played a certain song for 24-straight hours (“I don’t know how their ratings went,” Backes said,“but good for them for their dedication.”). He spoke of his pride for the Blues’ culture he helped create — and that he didn’t want to “abandon it.” So, he shared, he quietly helps nourish the soul of the Blues from afar, giving advice to the new captain. And he sure is impressed by St. Louis’ storybook season. His blood is blue. But his heart is black. “I hate to ruin a good ending,” said Backes of the Boston Bruins. “But that’s our goal.” It’s a pretty amazing storyline. A team’s captain had numerous playoff runs but never made it to the Stanley Cup Final. So he chases his dream on another team and now, at age 35, gets to play for the Cup ... but against his old team. How rare is this scenario? Not since 1973 has a player been in the Stanley Cup Final against a team he played for at least 700 games. “I wish it was alternating years,” Backes said, “so that I could cheer for the Blues one year and they could win a Cup. And we could have the opportunity the following year, and they could cheer me on, and I can win a Cup. And we could all have one to our names, but it’s come to this — it’s a binary choice. It’s them or us … “There are a lot of thoughts going through my head, of my friends, and I’m glad they have the opportunity — I just hope, and I’m prepared, to not make it

J.B. FORBES • jforbes@post-dispatch.com

David Backes had 20 points for the Boston Bruins this season, the lowest in his 13-year NHL career.

beneficial at my expense.” David Backes is not the player we remember. From 2009 to 2015, he averaged 51.5 points per season with the Blues. This season, he tallied 20. Reporters referred to him as a “dinosaur.” He was scratched for some of the games in the first and second rounds of the playoffs. But he was out there for all games in the sweep of the Hurricanes in the conference final. He’s rejuvenated. He’s a reason his team is playing Monday night. That in itself makes for a great story — especially if he continues to contribute and gets his named etched on the Cup. Backes is on a line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, the latter 13 years younger than Backes. In a playful way on Sunday, Backes spoke about how messy DeBrusk is (kids these days). As for this trio, “I think it’s a simplified, hard-working line,” Backes shared, “that’s very high-skilled with Krejci and DeBrusk. If I can provide hard work and forecheck and separate guys from pucks and get in on defensemen — and with Jake’s speed and Krej’s play-making abil-

ity and ability to see the ice — we can be a very effective line.” Backes relationship with current Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo is a strong one, and keep that in mind Monday if you see, for instance, Pietrangelo slamming Backes in the back and into the boards. Both men seem to be handling this whole biggest-stage-of-their-hockey-lives thing pretty well. They’re not being naive and saying the emotions don’t exist. But they’re not allowing the emotions to seep into their heads or locker rooms. David Backes is in the way of the Blues winning a Stanley Cup. The two said they stopped texting with each other. Their wives? “I think they got the groundwork set for their relationships,” Backes said. And then, Backes began praising again, describing the amazing resolve and perseverance of the Pietrangelos, who dealt with tough pregnancy issues in the past and now have young triplets. As for the Blues fans, a handful of them find themselves in a bind. Some fans Sunday on Twitter said they only

have one St. Louis Blues jersey — a David Backes one. The good news is this. Regardless of what happens in this series, either David Backes or the St. Louis Blues will have won a Stanley Cup. “I’m very grateful that it’s not my first year out of there, because I’m not gonna lie — my first time back in St. Louis, I think I was (overwhelmed) with emotions,” Backes said. “Going around seeing security guards I hadn’t seen all year, or people in town and everyone saying ‘good luck,’ or the bellman at the hotel we’re staying at, the bus driver, it was like, man, this is a place that’s really touched me in my life. ... I feel like I made a little bit of an impression on the city. It’s something that made huge impressions on us. “So I’ve been able to be back there a couple more times and kind of get those warm and fuzzy feelings out of my system. Not that they’re gone, but they’re just not as, you know, the way they would have been if this is the first year back. So I think they’re the opponent now, and I need to think of them as such.”

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STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

S12 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

M 1 • MOnDAy • 05.27.2019

PLAYOFFS STATS COMPARISON Blues 45-28-9 (99 points) 12-7 57/48 19.4 (12 of 62) 78 (32 of 41) 6.18 30.9 29.4 49.4 16/16/24/1 17/16/13/2

Category Regular season Playoffs record Goals for/against Power play percentage Penalty kill percentage Penalty minutes/game Shots/game Hits/game Faceoff win percentage Goals by period Goals allowed by period

Bruins 49-24-9 (107 points) 12-5 57/33 34 (17 of 50) 86.3 (44 of 51) 6.21 33.6 30 53.3 16/16/24/1 6/12/14/1

Blues

Bruins

Points (G, A): Schwartz 16 (12, 4), O’Reilly 14 (3, 11), Tarasenko 13 (8, 5), Perron 13 (6, 7), Pietrangelo 13 (2, 11), Parayko 11 (1, 10), Bozak 10 (5, 5), Sundqvist 8 (4, 4), Maroon 7 (3, 4), Dunn 7 (2, 5), Schenn 7 (2, 5), Edmundson 7 (1, 6), Thomas 6 (1, 5), Barbashev 5 (2, 3), Bouwmeester 5 (0, 5), Steen 4 (2, 2), Blais 3 (1, 2), Bortuzzo 1 (1, 0), Fabbri 1 (1, 0). Plus-minus: Sundqvist 7, Parayko 6, Schwartz 6, Blais 5, Bouwmeester 5, Bortuzzo 3, Bozak 2, Gunnarsson 2, Maroon 2, Perron 2, Thomas 2, Barbashev 1, Edmundson 1, Steen 1, Pietrangelo 0, Sanford -1, Dunn -3, Fabbri -3, O’Reilly -3, Schenn -5, Tarasenko -5. Penalty minutes (min. 8): Bortuzzo 18, Bouwmeester 14, Pietrangelo 10, Schenn 10, Bozak 8, Perron 8, Thomas 8. Shots (min. 25): Tarasenko 64, Pietrangelo 55, Schwartz 53, Parayko 46, Perron 42, O’Reilly 38, Schenn 38, Sundqvist 38, Thomas 30, Maroon 28, Bozak 27. Hits/game played (min. 2): Blais 6, Sundqvist 3.2, Schenn 2.9, Barbashev 2.8, Maroon 2.5, Tarasenko 2.1. Faceoff win pct. (min. 50): Barbashev 52.6 (60-54), Bozak 52.3 (126-115), Schenn 49 (95-99), O’Reilly 48.7 (229-241), Sundqvist 44.7 (68-84). Average time on ice (min. 15): Pietrangelo 25:33, Parayko 24:26, Bouwmeester 23:02, O’Reilly 21:26, Schenn 18:58, Tarasenko 18:56, Perron 18:28, Edmundson 17:42, Schwartz 17:26, Sundqvist 15:59, Dunn 15:40. Goalies: Binnington .914 SvP (491 of 537), 2.36 GAA.

Points (G, A): Marchand 18 (7, 11), Pastrnak 15 (7, 8), Krejci 14 (4, 10), Bergeron 13 (8, 5), Coyle 12 (6, 6), Krug 12 (1, 11), Johansson 9 (3, 6), DeBrusk 7 (3, 4), Grzelcyk 7 (3, 4), Heinen 7 (2, 5), McAvoy 7 (1, 6), Backes 5 (2, 3), Kuraly 5 (2, 3), Nordstrom 4 (2, 2), Chara 3 (1, 2), Clifton 3 (1, 2), Wagner 2 (2, 0), Acciari 2 (1, 1), Carlo 2 (0, 2), Kuhlman 2 (0, 2), Kampfer 1 (1, 0). Plus-minus: Chara 11, Heinen 10, Coyle 9, McAvoy 9, Bergeron 8, Pastrnak 7, Carlo 6, Krug 6, Marchand 6, Clifton 3, Johansson 3, DeBrusk 2, Kuraly 2, Krejci 2, Backes 1, Acciari 0, Kampfer 0, Kuhlman 0, Nordstrom -1, Grzelcyk -2, Wagner -3, Moore -4. Penalty minutes (min. 8): Bergeron 12, McAvoy 12, Chara 10, Coyle 10, Marchand 10, Krug 8. Shots (min. 25): Bergeron 63, Marchand 57, Pastrnak 54, DeBrusk 50, Kuraly 38, Krug 37, Grzelcyk 32, Coyle 28, Johansson 27. Hits/game played: (min. 2): Wagner 3.7, Acciari 3.4, Backes 3, Chara 2.6, Coyle 2.6, Nordstrom 2.6. Faceoff win pct. (min. 50): Bergeron 59.3 (217-149), Kuraly 54.2 (83-70), Acciari 53.8 (42-36), Krejci 52.5 (103-93), Coyle 49.2 (94-97). Average time on ice (min. 15): McAvoy 24:20, Chara 22:32, Carlo 22:16, Krug 21:28, Marchand 20:36, Bergeron 19:10, Pastrnak 17:50, Grzelcyk 17:12, Krejci 16:57, Kuraly 15:43, Coyle 15:25, DeBrusk 15:21. Goalies: Rask .942 SvP (517 of 549), 1.84 GAA.

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STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

05.27.2019 • MONDAY • M 1

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH • S13

BIG SWINGS, NEAR MISSES Team has history of acquiring superstar talent in quest of the Cup JEFF GORDON St. Louis Post-Dispatch

T

he Blues are still seeking their first Stanley Cup, but it’s not been for a lack of management aggression during the franchise’s five-plus decades. Yes, many ownership groups came and went as the franchise teetered on thin financial ice. That has been a persistent storyline. But the other recurring Blues theme has been about outsized ambition. General manager Doug Armstrong’s “all in” bid for this season was this franchise’s latest push for glory. Earlier management teams made similar bids, often incurring the wrath of rivals and NHL executives in the process. The Blues aimed high from the franchise’s inception. The expansion team launched the Hall of Fame coaching career of Scotty Bowman and employed many prominent veterans, including Glenn Hall, Jacques Plante, Red Berenson, Al Arbour, Dickie Moore, Doug Harvey, Ab McDonald, Frank St. Marseille and Phil Goyette. The Blues won the Western Conference during their first three seasons and took their first three shots at winning the Cup. That set the tone for subsequent regimes. Emile “The Cat” Francis led the next big push by drafting Bernie Federko, Brian Sutter,Mike Liut,Wayne Babych and Perry Turnbull and acquiring the likes of Jorgen Pettersson, Blake Dunlop and Joe Micheletti. By 1980-81 the Blues had a 107-point squad featuring three strong scoring lines. While that team flopped in the playoffs, it was arguably the most talented squad the franchise has assembled. More ownership turbulence brought general manager Ron Caron to town with

J.B. FORBES • jforbes@post-dispatch.com

Six championship banners hang from the rafters at TD Garden in Boston, where the NHL’s oldest United States franchise will host Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday.

the mandate to cut costs.He hired the right coach, Jacques Demers, and made heady trades that landed Mark Hunter and playoff heroes Greg Paslawski and Doug Wickenheiser. Despite trading away Liut and forward Joe Mullen on orders from owner Harry Ornest, the frenetic Caron assembled a team that reached the 1986 Western Conference finals before falling to Calgary in Game 7. Then Caron went for the ride as Blues chairman Mike Shanahan and team president Jack Quinn became the NHL’s rebels. No team dared sign free agents back then, but the Blues did — plucking Scott Stevens from the Washington Capitals in 1990 at the cost of five first-round draft picks. That move flummoxed David Poile, then the Capitals general manager. “We’re in uncharted ground here,” Poile said at the time. “Scott is the first player in his compensation category to do this. There is no history to relate to.”

When the Blues tried their next big play, signing New Jersey Devils free agent Brendan Shanahan in 1991, the league was ready to strike back. The so-called “independent arbitrator,” Judge Edward Houston, famously awarded Stevens to the Devils. Ouch! That harsh rebuke only made the Blues more aggressive. They landed elite offensive defenseman Phil Housley in 1993 and, when that didn’t pay off big, flipped him for Al MacInnis a year later. The franchise stunningly hired Cupwinning coach Mike Keenan as coach and general manager in 1994, though he was under contract with the New York Rangers for four more years. Such trifling details were of no concern to Blues management. That was the ultimate outlaw play, and it triggered a steady barrage of player moves. “The management there has promoted superstar status without the team concept,” Keenan observed. “They filled

the building without developing a winning culture.” Iron Mike acquired many of his former players along with an army of former Edmonton Oilers (Esa Tikkanen, Glenn Anderson,Grant Fuhr,Shayne Corson,Wayne Gretzky, Igor Kravchuk, Charlie Huddy, Craig MacTavish, Joe Murphy) and some quality veterans (including Chris Pronger and Dale Hawerchuk) while trying to duplicate his success in New York. But the oily-haired despot didn’t have Mark Messier again, so he failed to bring the Cup to St. Louis. (Long after that renegade regime was gone, the NHL punished the Blues for vindictive tampering with Stevens when he was due a new deal in New Jersey. That “abhorrent” conduct, as commissioner Gary Bettman put it, cost the club $1.4 million and a first-round pick. Hey, if you’re not cheating, you’re not competing, right?) The next big push came after Bill and Nancy Laurie poured some of their Walmart billions into the franchise in 1999. Once again the Blues targeted bigname talent, landing, among others, forwards Keith Tkachuk and Doug Weight. They reached one conference final in that era — in 2001, with Joel Quenneville behind the bench and Pronger and MacInnis patrolling the blue line — and remained in the hunt before the Lauries ordered a fire sale and fled pro sports. The franchise rebuilt during the Dave Checketts Era. Then Tom Stillman’s ownership group stepped in and raised the bar, spending to the salary cap again and again. That commitment spurred the 2016 run to the semifinals and this championship bid. “We have two overriding goals: No. 1, win the Stanley Cup; it’s time to do that,” Stillman said after taking charge. “The second is to make sure the Blues franchise is stable and sustainable here in St. Louis for years to come. No. 1 would help with No. 2.” The ambitious quest continues.

Five keys to the series

JOHN LOCHER • Associated Press

Brad Marchand, front, celebrates with Bruins teammates Zdeno Chara, back left, and Patrice Bergeron after scoring against the Vegas Golden Knights in a February game.

CHARLES KRUPA • Associated Pres

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has been stellar in the playoffs, posting a .942 save percentage and 1.84 goalsagainst average with a 12-5 record.

COLTER PETERSON • cpeterson@post-dispatch.com

Left wing Jaden Schwartz has a team-best 12 goals in 19 games during this playoff run, one more than he scored in 69 games during the regular season.

DOMINANT NO. 1 BRUINS LINE

BOSTON’S SPECIAL TEAMS ADVANTAGE

GOALTENDERS HOLDING FORM

BIGGER, DEEPER BLUES DEFENSE

SCORING DEPTH

The Bruins have the three best forwards in the series: brilliant two-way center Patrice Bergeron, scoring winger David Pastrnak and scorer/agitator Brad Marchand. These stars have adhered to the playoff axiom that “your best players must be your best players.” After combining for 260 points during the regular season, they have scored 22 goals during the postseason. Each is averaging better than three shots per game. The line outscored Carolina 11-0 during the Eastern Conference finals. The Blues can’t expect to smother the talented trio, but they must at least contain it to remain competitive in the series.

The Bruins’ power play has been devastatingly effective during postseason play, converting at the rate of 34 percent. By contrast, the Blues connected on just 19.4 percent of their man advantages — although game circumstances skewed that efficiency rate. (The Blues had some brief power plays as well as some advantages where they were killing the clock with the game in hand.) Boston also has done a better job killing penalties, shutting down opponents 86.3 percent of the time compared to the Blues’ 76 percent. Winning the special-teams battle might be impossible for the Blues, but they must at least hold their own. The power-play adjustments they made against the San Jose Sharks must pay off against the Bruins.

The Bruins lessened Tuukka Rask’s regular-season workload by using former Blues netminder Jaroslav Halak 40 times. That helped Rask maintain peak form during the playoffs. He is 12-5 with a 1.84 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage — including a .924 save percentage while shorthanded. Meanwhile, Blues rookie sensation Jordan Binnington also has starred. Binnington’s postseason numbers aren’t as impressive (12-7, 2.36, .914), but he stopped 75 of 77 shots in the last three victories over San Jose. Which team will do a better job of disrupting the opposing goaltender? The Bruins had Binnington on loan to their Providence farm team two seasons ago, so the organization has some insight on him.

Even if Zdeno Chara returns to Boston’s lineup and Vince Dunn is unable to return for the Blues, the blue-line advantage goes to the Blues. They feature three pairings with size, physicality, experience and puck-moving skills. They got better at preventing rush attacks as the Western Conference finals progressed. When they get hemmed in, they can use their long reach to block shots, clog passing lanes and sweep pucks away from the crease and out of harm’s way to limit the damage. Colton Parayko has blossomed into a star blue-liner in his fourth season, and 35-year-old Jay Bouwmeester has turned back the clock in this playoff run.

While Jaden Schwartz (12 goals) and Vladimir Tarasenko (eight goals) have led the Blues’ attack, 17 other players have scored goals in the postseason, and 10 have scored more than once. But Boston has enjoyed similar depth with 19 goal scorers and 13 players scoring more than once. Both teams will need more of the same. Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn have a combined five goals in this postseason, so if they find their scoring touch it could play big for the Blues.

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S14 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

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STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

05.27.2019 • Monday • M 1

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S16 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

M 1 • MONDAY • 05.27.2019

FAMILIAR FOES St. Louis, Boston teams have met 10 other times for major pro titles 1946 WORLD SERIES

1957 NBA FINALS

1958 NBA FINALS

1960 NBA FINALS

This is one of the classic Fall Classic games. In the bottom of the eighth inning of a tie game, Cardinals outfielder Enos Slaughter just kept running. Harry Walker hit a ball to the outfield and Slaughter, on first, dashed to second … and third … and through the stop sign to home. He was safe, Red Sox infielder Johnny Pesky became somewhat of a goat (for hesitating on the relay throw home), and the Cardinals won 4-3.

The Celtics prevailed 125-123 in what is still the only double-overtime Game 7 in NBA history. With the Hawks down by two with one second left in the second overtime, coach Alex Hannum, forced into playing after four players fouled out, launched a miraculous full-court pass off the backboard to Bob Pettit, who missed the tip in. Bill Russell, who the Hawks drafted a year earlier then traded, led Boston with 32 points.

Although he was being double- and triple-teamed in clinching Game 6 at Kiel, Bob Pettit drained shot after shot. With a little more than 20 seconds to play, Pettit drove, stopped and scored over the outstretched hand of Bill Russell, giving the Hawks a 108-105 lead. Pettit finished with 50 points, including 18 of his team’s final 21, as the Hawks defeated the Celtics 110-109 and captured the NBA title.

Meeting in their third finals in four years, the Celtics and Hawks were bitter rivals. But the Celtics’ depth was too much for St. Louis, which was without quick guard Slater Martin, injured in the previous series. Bill Russell led the Celtics in a 122-103 Game 7 win with 22 points and 35 rebounds.

Pettit defends Tommy Heinsohn

Bill Russell

Slaughter scores the winning run.

Bob Cousy cuts through the Hawks

1961 NBA FINALS

1967 WORLD SERIES

Celtics center Bill Russell was everywhere as the Hawks dropped the series four games to one. In the final game, he had 30 points and 38 rebounds — as many as all five Hawks starters combined. Hawks coach Phil Seymour said, “When the Celtics get around to splitting up their $43,000 prize money they ought to vote Russell three shares.”

Boston’s “impossible dream” died in Game 7 at Fenway, when Bob Gibson outdueled Jim Lonborg, famously pitching on two days rest, and the Cardinals won 7-2. Lou Brock set a World Series record with seven stolen bases, including two in Game 7. After 1967 and 1946, it seemed like Boston was forever cursed against the Cardinals in the World Series.

Coach Red Auerbach celebrates

Bob Gibson and Tim McCarver

Bobby Orr flies through the air after scoring the winning goal

1970 STANLEY CUP FINAL In the final for the third consecutive year, the Blues were outscored 16-4 by Boston in the first three games. The Note put up a fight during Game 4 in Boston, taking a 3-2 lead in the third period. But the Bruins tied it, and 40 seconds into overtime Bobby Orr scored on Glenn Hall to end the series. Frustrated Noel Picard pitchforked Orr through the air for one of hockey’s iconic snapshots.

2004 WORLD SERIES

2013 WORLD SERIES

Manny Ramirez and the Sox, fresh off a comeback from a three games to none deficit in the ALCS, were too much for the Cardinals. Boston’s pitchers limited the Cardinals to three runs over the series’ final three games, and Ramirez hit .412 as the Red Sox powered their way to a sweep that ended an 86-year curse.

The Red Sox win in Game 6 clinched a World Series at Fenway for the first time since 1918. The series was marked by a pair of bizarre plays. In Game 3, Allen Craig scored the winning run when umpires ruled Boston’s Will Middlebrooks interfered with him. Game 4 ended when pinch-runner Kolten Wong was picked off first base, the only World Series game ever to end with a pickoff.

Jason Varitek and Keith Foulke Mike Matheny, Yadier Molina

Adam Vinatieri celebrates

2002 SUPER BOWL The St. Louis team was again there for the start of a Boston dynasty. Tom Brady, 24, started the season as a backup, and Bill Belichick at the time had more losing seasons than winning. ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’ racked up yards but managed only 3 first-half points. The Rams tied it late, but Adam Vinatieri’s final-play field goal gave the Patriots a win.


STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

05.27.2019 • Monday • M 1

ST. LoUIS PoST-dISPaTCH • S17

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S18 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

M 1 • MOnDAy • 05.27.2019

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STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

05.27.2019 • Monday • M 1

ST. LoUIS PoST-dISPaTCH • S19

BLUES REGULAR SEASON STATISTICS

Cardinal Sin Vodk a

Fill The Cup With

SIN C h e e r L o c a l

Player Alex Pietrangelo Alexander Steen Brayden Schenn Carl Gunnarsson Chris Thorburn Colton Parayko David Perron Ivan Barbashev Jaden Schwartz Jay Bouwmeester Joel Edmundson Mackenzie MacEachern Michael Del Zotto Oskar Sundqvist Pat Maroon Robby Fabbri Robert Bortuzzo Robert Thomas Ryan O’Reilly Sammy Blais Tyler Bozak Vince Dunn Vladimir Tarasenko Zach Sanford

GP 71 65 72 25 1 80 57 80 69 78 64 29 7 74 74 32 59 70 82 32 72 78 76 60

G 13 10 17 3 0 10 23 14 11 3 2 3 0 14 10 2 2 9 28 2 13 12 33 8

A 28 17 37 4 0 18 23 12 25 14 9 2 3 17 18 4 8 24 49 2 25 23 35 12

P 41 27 54 7 0 28 46 26 36 17 11 5 3 31 28 6 10 33 77 4 38 35 68 20

Goalie Jake Allen Jordan Binnington

GP GS W 46 45 19 32 30 24

L 17 5

+/- PIM PPG PPP SHG SHP GWG 2 22 3 15 0 1 2 2 14 2 5 1 2 0 3 40 4 12 0 0 5 8 6 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 20 15 4 8 0 1 3 3 46 7 14 0 0 1 -4 17 0 0 2 2 1 -6 16 2 5 0 0 1 -3 40 0 0 0 0 1 8 68 0 0 0 0 1 0 10 0 0 0 0 1 -2 0 0 0 0 0 0 -1 22 0 1 1 2 2 -3 64 2 11 0 0 3 -4 6 0 0 0 0 1 9 47 0 0 0 1 0 -2 14 3 7 0 0 0 22 12 6 22 1 3 5 -1 6 0 0 0 0 0 -3 20 2 8 0 0 3 14 45 3 8 0 0 4 8 22 12 22 0 0 5 8 21 0 1 0 0 2 T OT SA 0 8 1,277 0 1 807

GA GAA S SV% 121 2.83 1,156 0.905 59 1.89 748 0.927

OTG 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 1 0

S S% FO% 168 7.7 0 114 8.8 37.93 159 10.7 47.5 21 14.3 0 0 0 0 176 5.7 0 112 20.5 45.45 60 23.3 45.58 183 6 48.65 82 3.7 0 102 2 0 33 9.1 0 5 0 0 113 12.4 41.96 118 8.5 40 43 4.7 28.57 75 2.7 0 80 11.3 44.09 234 12 56.86 27 7.4 50 141 9.2 54.34 150 8 0 275 12 66.67 77 10.4 61.54

SO MIN 3 2,568 5 1,877

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S20 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

M 1 • MOnDAy • 05.27.2019

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STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

05.27.2019 • Monday • M 1

ST. LoUIS PoST-dISPaTCH • S21

NOTEBOOK

Bruins’ Marchand still feels sting of losing 2013 Cup BY TOM TIMMERMANN St. Louis Post-dispatch

BOSTON • Bruins forward Brad Marchand

has looked at the Stanley Cup from both sides now, from win and lose. In 2013, the Bruins lost to the Blackhawks in six games. In 2011, they beat the Canucks in seven. In his mind, the 2013 loss stands out more than the 2011 win. “It was so sweet to win, but it hurts to lose,” he said Sunday. “That was devastating, and it still hurts to this day. I probably look back more on the loss and what I would do differently than the win. That’s something, you lose something like this, you’re that close,you work that hard,it never leaves you. So hopefully we don’t feel that again. “It’s a matter of inches, it can be one play that separates a winning team from a losing team. When you’re that close and you watch another team celebrate and it should be you, it’s a tough pill to swallow.” Marchand, who had 36 goals and 64 assists for 100 points in the regular season, hurt his hand during an intrasquad scrimmage on Thursday as the Bruins tried to stay sharp during their 10 days off between

J.B. FORBES • jforbes@post-dispatch.com

Blues Vince Dunn wears a protective face shield Sunday at TD Garden. Coach Craig Berube said Dunn is expected to play in the Stanley Cup Final.

games and didn’t take part in Sunday’s practice, but he said he is good. Coach Bruce Cassidy declared Bergeron ready to play. “I just told (Cassidy) I wanted a day off,” Marchand said.“I’ve had enough of practicing.”

DUNN CLOSE Defenseman Vince Dunn, who has been out

since Game 3 of the San Jose series when he took a puck to the face, is getting closer to returning. Coach Craig Berube said Dunn could be available to play in the Final. “He’s close,” Berube said. “I didn’t talk to him or the trainers after practice yet, but he looked good in practice today. That was the best he’s looked, which is a good sign. He’s pretty close.” Asked if Dunn would play in this series, Berube said,“I think yes. Good chance.” Dunn, who now sports a full visor and a football-style guard around his mouth on the ice, was the only Blue who has played in the postseason who was not available for interviews at media day.

THOMAS’ TURN A year ago, Blues forward Robert Thomas was playing for the Memorial Cup, the championship of Canada’s junior leagues. This year, he’s playing for the Stanley Cup. “It’s been a whirlwind of a year and it hasn’t really sunk in,” he said. This was a learning experience for Thomas, both on and off the ice. “For your first year, it was actually a great learning experience for me,” he said. “I was

able to see when times are tough, what you have to do to fight through it. How as a team you have to prepare yourself going into the second half and how you really do turn it around. For me, as a first-year player I was able to sit back and watch it all and watch the leaders, what they do. I think that was a great learning experience for me.” Thomas hasn’t practiced much with the team lately, taking “maintenance” days, which usually means a player is protecting some sort of minor injury. He hasn’t missed a game in the playoffs. “I feel great,” he said.“I’m ready to go.”

KELLY AT THE MIKE Local broadcasts of the Stanley Cup playoffs end after the first round. At that point, it’s all on NBC or NBCSN, with network broadcasters. That means announcers like John Kelly of the Blues don’t get to call the biggest games of the year for their teams. But Kelly will get a chance to work the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in his career. Blues radio play-by-play reached out to Kelly and invited him to do the play-by-play for the second period of each game during the series.

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STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW

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