The Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues battling for the Stanley Cup is a reasonable finale. They played outstanding hockey in the second half of the season. They earned their respective spots in the championship round with stellar runs through the conference playoffs.
One franchise has never won the Stanley Cup since coming into the league in 1967. The other city hasn't won a championship in [checks notes] at least the last 45 minutes.
Then there are the players. Some are more worthy of a Stanley Cup than others. As a public service, here's a check on 18 of the players in the final for the Bruins and Blues. Apologies for not expanding this bit to the entire rosters. Just let it be known that we're pulling for you, Danton Heinen.
Each player is ranked from one star, which means his time can wait, to four stars, which means he simply must hoist the Holy Grail this year.
David Backes, C. He's already winning points with us for being the NHL's preeminent dog rescuer. Whether or not you respect the way Backes has put his own well-being on the line during his career is a worthy debate, but doesn't obscure the fact that he has. And if you're someone looking for that special kind of gut punch as the rug is pulled out from under the Blues in the final round, seeing their former captain parade the Stanley Cup around their rink would be an awfully pungent way to end it. Three stars
Patrice Bergeron, C. On the one hand, the more rings Bergeron wins, the less chance a Hall of Fame player will have any difficulty getting into the Hall of Fame. On the other hand, he's already pretty well regarded, what with the automatic Selke Trophy nominations just for taking a minimum of five faceoffs in any given season. On yet another hand (so many hands!), he's the inspiration for what has come to be known as "The Perfection Line," so Bergeron needs more accolades like George Clooney needs another People magazine cover. Two stars
Zdeno Chara, D. As an unabashed fan of the Man Mountain, I'd like nothing more than to see Chara lift the Stanley Cup high about his head. (A short list of things that would rather not see that: birds, satellites, probably John Tavares.) I respect Chara for continuing to be an effective player into his 40s and for being a learned, thoughtful man away from the rink. Four stars
Charlie Coyle, C. The only reason I'm not down with Coyle winning the Stanley Cup is because I love my hockey friends in Minnesota, and I would absolutely hate to see general manager Paul Fenton's first season result in the absolute stink bomb of the Victor Rask-for-Nino Niederreiter trade and then watching Coyle raise the Cup with the Bruins. Two stars
David Krejci, C. Fun fact: Krejci has the third-most points in the playoffs in Bruins franchise history. More than Rick Middleton. More than Johnny Bucyk. More than Bergeron. Would another Stanley Cup put Krejci's legacy more at the forefront? Or is he destined to be Nicklas Backstrom, New England Edition? Three stars
Charlie McAvoy, D. He's 21, so there will be plenty of chances for him to win a Cup over the next two decades. Plus, why does one even need a ring when one has undying idolization from Pierre McGuire? One star
Brad Marchand, F. Remember how the Carolina Hurricanes were lauded as a thumb to the eye of the establishment and a pie to the face of the conformists? Why is it that the "bunch of jerks" get that adoration but this jerk doesn't? Yes, his villainy vacillates between immature and unhygienic, but he's the best at what he does. And what he does is in the grand tradition of Esa Tikkanen and Claude Lemieux and all the other players who could beat you on the score sheet or in your cerebral cortex. Marchand wins at all costs. It isn't pretty. Sometimes, it's downright deplorable. But ask Justin Williams if it's effective. Three stars
David Pastrnak, F. Pasta, who turning 23 on Saturday, has 284 points in his first 320 games. There's no question that his efforts should culminate in a championship, but like McAvoy, he has time Two stars.
Tuukka Rask, G. It has been fascinating to watch the anti-Rask forces in Boston admit their folly. Rask is a great redemption story, having left the Bruins for personal matters earlier this season and then posting an incredible .942 save percentage and a 1.84 goals-against average in the playoffs. Rask has played for years in the shadow of Tim Thomas, despite getting a Vezina Trophy of his own in 2014. What Rask hasn't gotten, yet, is a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe. That could change in the next two weeks. Four stars
Blues fan has $100K riding on Stanley Cup Final
In January, Scott Berry placed a $400 bet -- at 250-1 odds -- on the Blues to win the Stanley Cup Final.
St. Louis Blues
Jordan Binnington, G. In theory, the rookie Binnington leading the Blues to the Stanley Cup is something we all should want to see ... if we hadn't seen it before. Sometimes you get Ken Dryden. Sometimes you get Cam Ward. Two stars
Jay Bouwmeester, D. As Alex Pietrangelo said after Game 6, "Guys like Bo, those are the guys you're fighting these games for. Bo is a man of very few words but we got a couple of smiles out of him." If only we were able to get some words out of him. Bouwmeester might be the favorite for the "old guy seeking first Stanley Cup" moniker this year. Two stars
Tyler Bozak, C. Forget the Stanley Cup. Forget the Blues. Bozak was injured for Games 6 and 7 in 2013 for the Toronto Maple Leafs in their humbling defeat at the hands of the Bruins. Avenge Phil Kessel! Two stars
Ryan O'Reilly, C. O'Reilly probably should have been a Hart Trophy finalist, because he was great for the Blues even when they weren't. And he went from literally claiming he lost his joy for the sport in Buffalo to being one of the most loquacious members of the Blues after that trade. Which, let's be real, he hastened with his morose comportment. Three stars
Patrick Maroon, F. Burgeoning journeyman takes less money as a free agent to play in his hometown and be closer to his son, and scores the series-winning goal against the Dallas Stars in Game 7? Yeah ... Four stars
David Perron, F. Perron is on his third tour of duty with the Blues, which might be the most repeat engagements for a player with one team without Jim Rutherford involved. One demerit for having done this last year in Vegas. Two stars
Alex Pietrangelo, D. Petro is a bit like the Tuukka Rask of the Blues. At times respected, at times maligned and underappreciated. Truth be told, he hasn't been Rask in the playoffs -- Pietrangelo has 13 points but has had defensive lapses, and frankly hasn't been nearly as good as Colton Parayko. But seeing him capture the Cup would be validating. Two stars
Alexander Steen, F. Only five players have played more game with the Blues in franchise history than Steen (710). This man has seen some things. Three stars
Jaden Schwartz, F. The Blues forward has 12 goals in 19 games. And on a team with its share of emotional backstories, Schwartz's is paramount; he lost his sister Mandi to cancer in 2011. "Everything I do is for her," he said before her death. Four stars
The Week in Gritty
More awards for our orange nightmare fuel:
Gritty won Best in Sports Social Media at the Sports Business Awards, and raised the trophy above his head like the Stanley Cup the Flyers have been chasing for the better part of 44 years.
From ... me:
The "Play 'Gloria'" victory song tradition has made its way to the land of Jersey Fouls. Although we're a little unclear why they went with double-zeroes.
Listen to ESPN On Ice
The Stanley Cup Final matchup is set. The Blues eliminated the Sharks on Tuesday night, setting the stage for a 1970 Cup Final rematch with the Bruins. Emily Kaplan and I recap the year for the Sharks (5:26), and why the Blues are such a great option for bandwagon fans. Bruins defenseman Torey Krug joins the show to talk about Boston's 2019 playoff run so far (19:36). Stream it here.
Really nice piece by Benjamin Hochman on this moment for the Blues. Said Blues legend Brett Hull: "It was after the clock hit zero when, all of a sudden, the flood of emotions came. I saw Bob Plager and was like: 'Oh my God!' And I watched Kelly Chase out here crying."
Ken Campbell on the "heavy hockey" debate: "This final should be a compelling one because it will feature the Bruins' explosiveness against the grinding of the Blues. But as far as establishing any trends that teams might want to follow, they are both there because they've overcome adversity, received a balanced attack from all sections of the lineup and benefited from goaltenders who are the absolute top of their game. It has always been thus. And always will be."
A "please like my sport" bit from the Wall Street Journal.
This is a cool, retro logo.
Is Dave Tippett the right man to coach the Oilers?
Oh well, a unified Korean women's Olympic hockey team was a good idea at the time.
Sara Civian looks back at the wild ride of the 2018-19 Carolina Hurricanes. ($)
In case you missed this from your friends at ESPN