The Stanley Cup Final opens with Game 1 on Monday night. Will the Boston Bruins add another chapter to their city's book of epic sports dominance since 2000? Or will the St. Louis Blues win the first Cup in franchise history? Who will win the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs? Our experts weigh in.
Sean Allen: While the Blues have the feel of a team of destiny here, I don't think they can hang with the playoff-tested Bruins veterans. Tuukka Rask has been phenomenal throughout the playoffs, and the long layoff between rounds should have Boston rested and ready to roll.
Ben Arledge: Nearly every statistical category points to the Bruins; they have the hottest goalie on the planet and the power play is scoring a third of the time.
Aimee Crawford: The Blues already defied the odds by rocketing from the basement in January to Western Conference champs. They've won seven of nine road games this postseason, while the Bruins must shake 11 days of rust. Plus, St. Louis' best player -- Vladimir Tarasenko, who went on a tear during the conference finals -- is peaking at the perfect time. It'll be a Vlad, Vlad world as St. Louis sheds 49 years of Stanley Cup futility and becomes the toast(ed ravioli) of the NHL.
Dimitri Filipovic: Rask is the reason the Bruins have gotten this far, standing on his head and posting video-game-esque numbers. He's currently sporting a .942 save percentage through the first three rounds, which is a better mark than the .940 he had the last time the Bruins made it to the Cup Final in 2013, and also betters what Boston's goaltending did the last time the B's won it all (Tim Thomas had a .940 in 2011).
Emily Kaplan: I have no doubt this series is going to be a slugfest. I'm picking Boston because as good as Jordan Binnington has been, Tuukka Rask has been better. The Bruins' power play is historically good this spring. They have all four lines clicking (similar to St. Louis) but Boston's top line, in my opinion, is more potent and can steal a game or two. No Bruins player has been as consistent -- or frankly, as spectacular -- as Rask this spring. The Finn has been especially impressive in games in which Boston has had a chance to clinch, going 3-0 and stopping 95 of 96 shots (a .990 save percentage).
Tim Kavanagh: Like every other sport, the NHL is a copycat league, and GMs are going to be examining these two clubs as they build for 2019-20 and beyond. Finding a goalie who can play like Rask or Binnington certainly has a big impact, but building out forward depth is just as important to getting over the hump. As tight as this series will certainly be thanks to the goalies, I give the edge to the Blues because of what the Tyler Bozak-Patrick Maroon-Robert Thomas line (the BMT line, for Subway fans out there) can bring. And I think Jaden Schwartz has a few more big goals in him, too.
Steve Levy: Bruins in 7 in an absolutely bruising series that will go down as the best Stanley Cup Final in recent memory. I've got Patrice Bergeron for Conn Smythe, after he shuts down Vladimir Tarasenko and scores at least two critical goals, including one short-handed.
Vince Masi: I'm going with the Blues in six games, and Jaden Schwartz is my selection for Conn Smythe:
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Schwartz is one of three players who scored at least 10 goals in the regular season and then outscored their regular-season total in the playoffs that year (Marian Gaborik in 2014 and Claude Lemieux in 1997 are the others).
Schwartz has scored four goals this postseason that gave his team the lead -- three of them came within the first three minutes of the first period, and the other came with 15 seconds left in Game 5 against the Jets.
He's fifth in 5-on-5 possession percentage among players with at least 10 games this postseason, both in tied situations and in games within one goal.
Victoria Matiash: While a well-rested Tuukka Rask has been nearly impenetrable this postseason (1.84 goals-against average, .942 save percentage), he also benefits from having fought through a full regular season's worth of action (82 total games) in his NHL playoff career. Such invaluable experience projects as the difference maker in what should be a hard-fought series otherwise. I don't anticipate the Blues will score as early, or as often, as they have done thus far this spring.
Chris Peters: This is going to be a tight series with the style these two teams play and the quality of the two goaltenders. Though the Bruins have played excellent hockey as a group, especially over the past two series, Tuukka Rask is the biggest reason I'm going with Boston. He's playing some of the best hockey of his career.
Greg Wyshynski: The biggest advantage in this series, on paper, is home ice for the Bruins. But the Blues have won two of their three series without it, going 7-2 with a plus-9 goal differential on the road. Both of these teams are peaking at the right time, but I like this matchup for the Blues, who will generate enough offense against Rask and have Binnington do the rest.
ESPN experts panel: Sean Allen, NHL fantasy columnist; Ben Arledge, associate editor; Pierre Becquey, deputy editor; John Buccigross, SportsCenter anchor, "In the Crease" host; Matthew Coller, NHL writer; Linda Cohn, SportsCenter anchor, "In the Crease" host; Aimee Crawford, senior editor; Dimitri Filipovic, NHL writer; Emily Kaplan, national NHL reporter; Tim Kavanagh, general editor; Don La Greca, ESPN Radio host; Steve Levy, SportsCenter anchor; Vince Masi, Sports & Information research specialist; Victoria Matiash, NHL fantasy columnist; Barry Melrose, SportsCenter and "In the Crease" analyst; Greg Wyshynski, senior NHL writer