The Boston Bruins are riding a seven-game winning streak. The St. Louis Blues have won three straight to overcome a controversial overtime loss.
And yet, both teams will be looking to regain momentum after a lengthy layoff ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday in Boston.
The Bruins will have gone 11 days between games after finishing off a sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference finals, while the Blues will be six days removed from surging past the San Jose Sharks with a Game 6 win in the West. For its part, Boston held an intrasquad scrimmage in front of a near-sellout crowd Thursday as a way to try to stay fresh.
“Once you go 10 days with no playing, I think it’s good to get a little action in and get used to that pace,” said Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask. “I think that’s what we wanted to accomplish, and it looked good.”
Making sure Rask continues to play the way he has is perhaps the biggest key for the Bruins against the Blues. The former Vezina Trophy winner has a 1.84 goals-against average and .942 save percentage in the playoffs and has posted shutouts in two of his past five games.
“Yeah, it’s been a long layover I guess, kind of like a training camp situation in that sense,” Rask said. “But I think it’s always in the back of your head that we’re going to start the finals soon, so you’re focused but you’re just waiting.”
The Blues expect to have little problem maintaining focus heading into their first Stanley Cup Final since 1970. They were swept by the Bruins that year and are still seeking their first finals win (0-12) despite three trips.
“It’s one of those things,” Blues forward Brayden Schenn said. “You’re going to bed or you’re around the house and you’re thinking about it. It comes to the point you just want to get the games going already. Get in the heat of the series.”
St. Louis is perceived as the underdog in the series despite an impressive turnaround. The Blues came back from the worst record in the NHL in early January to make it this far and have no intentions of another early exit.
“We’re going to have a chance at this,” St. Louis center Ryan O’Reilly said. “It’s amazing how a season, the ups and downs of it, there are so many highs and lows, and to be able to stay even-keeled and keep working at it. It’s crazy to see how it pays off.”
As a benefit of the layoff, both teams could see key players return for Game 1. Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara played in the scrimmage and should be a go after missing the series finale against the Hurricanes with an undisclosed injury. Meanwhile, forward David Krejci returned to practice Sunday after missing time with an illness.
For the Blues, defenseman Vince Dunn (upper body) skated Saturday and will make the trip to Boston. Dunn has been sidelined since he took a puck to the face in Game 3 against the Sharks.
While Rask has been lights-out for the Bruins, the Blues continue to hitch their wagon to breakout rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington (2.36 GAA, .914 save percentage in playoffs). Jaden Schwartz, whose 12 playoff goals surpass the 11 he scored in the regular season, leads the team in scoring with 16 points.
The Bruins, playing in the finals for the third time this decade and seeking their second championship in that span, have been led offensively by a lethal power play that is converting at 34 percent (17 of 50). Brad Marchand has set the pace with 18 points.
-Field Level Media