The last time we saw the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup final, it was 43 years ago and Noel Picard was sending Bobby Orr airborne to create one of the most enduring images in the history of the game.
Could this be the year the Bruins and Blues reprise their roles as Cup finalists? Well, after watching the best team in the Eastern Conference and the best one in the Western Conference beat formidable conference opponents Monday night, the prospect is tantalizingly possible.
Each has the best winning percentage in its conference, thanks to the Bruins 4-3 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Blues’ 2-0 win over the Minnesota Wild. With 8-1-1 records in their past 10, they are the two hottest teams in the league.
And perhaps the most appealing aspect of it is both teams are heavy, physical teams that will punish people and can seem to play the game any way their opponents like.
Take Monday night, for example. The Bruins went into their game against the Penguins as the best defensive team in the NHL. They got off to a 2-0 lead, then blew the lead, then took the lead again, then blew it when Sidney Crosby scored with 0.3 seconds left. Rather than allow that to deflate them and lose their composure, the Bruins scored 34.3 seconds later to win the game on a slapshot by impressive rookie Torey Krug.
What makes the Bruins so effective is that they’re a bunch of silent killers. They don’t have a single player with double digits in goals, nor does one Bruin occupy one of the top 50 scoring spots in the league. But they have the highest scoring rookie defenseman in Krug, a third liner in Riley Smith who has 16 points and a revived Milan Lucic, who continues to make a case to be included on the Canadian Olympic team. And their goaltending, led by Tuukka Rask, has been outstanding.
The Blues, meanwhile, have been a bunch of surprising gunslingers this season, leading the league in goals per game. Against the Wild, they managed to make the most of their 21 shots, scoring two goals on Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, then adding one into the empty net. And has been the case on so many occasions this season, the Blues were led offensively by Alexander Steen, who continues to remain in serious contention for the Rocket Richard Trophy. And captain David Backes continued to be one of the most miserable opponents in the game, dishing out six hits and being both overtly and sneaky dirty.
The Blues beat the Bruins 3-2 in a shootout last week. The two teams don’t play again until Feb. 6 and chances are, they’ll still be occupying the upper reaches of the NHL standings. They’re too well coached and have too much depth to go into a free fall. And if the two teams keep playing the way they have, the Bruins and Blues could be the last two teams standing in June.
Ken Campbell is the senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column. To read more from Ken and THN’s other stable of experts, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Ken on Twitter at @THNKenCampbell.