2019 Stanley Cup Final: The non-hockey fan's guide to following the Bruins-Blues series
It's not too late to enjoy some playoff hockey!
Huh, Stanley Cup Finals are here?
Stanley Cup *FINAL*. Singular. Hockey fans are sensitive about that.
What aren't hockey fans sensitive about?
Fair point. But yes, it's here.
I heard Toronto finally made the Finals. Uh, sorry...FINAL.
No, you're incorrect on this one. Toronto made the NBA Finals. Not the Stanley Cup Final.
Wait, what? I thought Toronto was the center of the hockey world, not a basketball city.
Yeah, turns out their hockey team still can't win a playoff series. Pretty embarrassing.
Who's in the Cup Final then?
Oh god, another Boston team playing for a championship?
Yes, and they're the favorites heading into the series. As someone from Boston, I fully understand why everyone hates Boston. Must be tough for you guys. So sad.
So the Bruins are really good?
Yup. They finished the regular season tied for second in the league in points and they've been playing well in the playoffs -- especially of late. They've won seven straight games heading into the Cup Final.
Do the Blues stand a chance then?
Definitely. The Bruins seemingly, but the Blues are a really good team that has sort of stunned people all year, so don't count them out.
Stunned people how?
Well the Blues were pretty terrible to start this season. They fired their old coach and were dead-last in the league as late as Jan. 3 of this year. They had an incredible second half turnaround, made the playoffs and here they are about to play for the Stanley Cup.
How the hell did they do that?
Well a big reason is they finally started to get solid goaltending. Jordan Binnington, a rookie, took over after things hit rock bottom and he's been awesome for the Blues. He stopped nearly 93 percent of the shots he faced during the regular season and earned a rookie of the year nomination.
Has a team ever won a Stanley Cup with a rookie goalie before?
When was the last time these two teams won a Cup?
The Bruins last won in 2011, which is basically a lifetime in Boston. But this is the third time they've made the SCF in the last decade (they lost to the Blackhawks in 2013). For the Blues, this is their fourth time playing for the Cup but their first since 1970, when they were swept by -- guess who? -- the Bruins! That was the SCF that birthed the infamous Bobby Orr diving goal celebration. In fact, the Blues have never won a Cup Final game -- they've been swept in each appearance.
So the Blues would be a better story if they won, huh?
Yeah, pretty much. Between their second-half comeback, the rookie goalie and the franchise's lack of postseason success, it'd be a pretty remarkable title run if the Blues were able to seal the deal as underdogs. They've also got a couple of really great human interest stories attached to them.
Pat Maroon is a Blues forward who is from St. Louis and took less money in free agency last summer in order to play for his hometown team and be closer to his family. That's . There's also Laila, the 11-year-old Blues superfan who, despite battling a rare disease, has become a fixture and rallying figure around the team this postseason.
Oh wow. Are there any good reasons to root for the Bruins?
Well, they're from Boston, so no... not really. But if you're looking for a cathartic Cup raise from a guy who has been doubted for years -- somewhat similar to Alex Ovechkin last year --- then Tuukka Rask is probably your guy. The Bruins goalie has been solid for years but has been victimized by a significant portion of his own fanbase that loves to blame him every time the team fails. One of his biggest criticisms was that "he doesn't show up in big games."
Is that criticism fair?
No, it has always been lazy. He was awesome during the team's 2013 run to the Cup Final but people blame him for the loss despite the fact the Blackhawks were a dynasty and the Bruins were insanely banged up by the end of that series. And this year he has been the Bruins' best player... by far. He's stopped over 94 percent of the shots he's faced and has been the top goalie in the playoffs. He'll win the Conn Smythe as SCF MVP if the Bruins win.
Any other interesting storylines?
Sure, David Backes. He used to be the captain of the Blues but then he left in free agency to join the Bruins because he thought he'd have a better chance of winning a Stanley Cup.. But get ready to hear about
Oh, well that could get awkward.
Yeah, there might not be a guy with more skin in the game than that guy.
Who should I root against?
Brad Marchand, probably.
Alright alright. So just be straight with me: Is this series worth my attention?
I mean, it's the Stanley Cup Final, so yeah. Playoff hockey is always a wild ride and one of the most pulse-pounding viewing experiences in sports. It's worth tuning into if you enjoy feeling like your heart is going to explode and you're going to vomit from nerves, and that's often without a rooting interest.
What should I expect?
I'd say it's a pretty good bet that this series is going to be a close one. Both teams have a lot of similarities in the way that they play -- they're both really physical and have deep rosters. They're strong defensively. We could be in for a real grind. But at the end of the day I'd say it's going to be a fun, entertaining series that inevitably gets decided by a terrible, nonsensical officiating decision that not even I, a diehard fan who has spent years obsessing over this game, can explain to you.
Wait what? You really had me up until that point.
Congratulations, you're officially an NHL fan.
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