By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
For one team, earning a trip to the Stanley Cup Final took the minimum number of games required in the conference final. For the other, it took six games and overcoming a controversial ending.
The Boston Bruins swept out the Carolina Hurricanes in four games to reach their third Stanley Cup Final in the last nine seasons. The St. Louis Blues defeated the San Jose Sharks in six games, reaching the Final for the first time since 1970.
In 1970, the Bruins swept the Blues in the Stanley Cup Final. You may be familiar with how it ended…
Anyway, let’s look at how both teams got here in the Conference Final round.
Boston sweeps Carolina
The Hurricanes magic just seemed to run out against the Bruins, as depth and goaltending took over.
Carolina actually opened up a 2-1 lead through two periods in Game 1. Steven Kampfer opened the scoring for Boston at 2:55, but Sebastian Aho tied the game on the power play just 47 seconds later. In the second, Greg McKegg scored the only goal at the 9:18 mark.
But in the third, Boston took over, taking full advantage of power-play opportunities. Marcus Johansson scored the tying goal at 2:26 on the power play. Patrice Bergeron added another power-play goal just 28 seconds later. Late in the third, Charlie Coyle scored into an empty net, then Chris Wagner beat Petr Mrazek on a breakaway 11 seconds later to cap the 5-2 decision for Boston.
Game 2 was a Boston beatdown. After playing the first 15 minutes with no scoring, Matt Grzelcyk got Boston on the board and Jake DeBrusk added a power-play goal with 1:28 left in the period. Connor Clifton padded the lead at 3:46 of the second and Grzelcyk scored his second of the game to make it 4-0 through two. David Backes and Danton Heinen scored to open up a 6-0 lead before Carolina got two goals from Justin Williams and Teuvo Teravainen to cap the scoring.
The series shifted to Carolina and in Game 3, Tuukka Rask stole the show. The Hurricanes put 36 shots on goal, only managing to beat Rask once on a goal by Calvin de Haan in the second. That was after Boston scored the only two goals they would need from Wagner and Brad Marchand on the power play.
Like Game 3, neither team scored in the first period of Game 4, but Boston broke through first. David Pastrnak scored on the power play at 4:46 of the second and late in the period Bergeron added another power-play goal. Bergeron scored his second midway through the third and Marchand scored into an empty net to seal the 4-0 result, as Rask made 24 saves in the clinching win.
St. Louis Takes Run to Final
Things didn’t start off so well for the Blues in the series against the Sharks. The Sharks had the upper hand in Game 1, opening up a 3-1 lead in the second and never losing the lead in a 6-3 win. Timo Meier and Logan Couture each had two goals.
The Blues rebounded in Game 2, getting an early goal from Jaden Schwartz and padding the lead early in the second on a goal by Vince Dunn. Couture countered with another pair of goals to tie the game, but Robert Bortuzzo’s first playoff goal put the Blues in front for good. A late goal in the third by Oskar Sundqvist sealed the win and the series was tied.
That takes us to a wild Game 3. San Jose opened up a 2-0 lead in the first on goals by Erik Karlsson and Joe Thornton. Alex Steen got the Blues on the board 1:18 into the second, only to have it countered by Thornton’s second of the game 18 seconds later. The Blues then pushed back three more goals before the end of the period by Vladimir Tarasenko and two by David Perron. With one minute left in the third, Couture scored to tie the game and force overtime. The Sharks scored at 5:23 of overtime with Karlsson getting his second of the game, but there was a ton of controversy surrounding the goal. Meier started the play with an apparent hand pass that was not detected by officials. A hand pass is not a reviewable play, so the goal counted despite replay clearly showing that play should have been blown dead.
The Blues were visibly frustrated with the ending of Game 3, but channeled that into a tremendous first period in Game 4. Just 35 seconds into the game, Ivan Barbashev scored. Tyler Bozak added another goal on the power play at 17:53 of the first to make it 2-0. San Jose finally got on the board with a power-play goal by Tomas Hertl at 6:48 of the third, but the Blues held on to even the series.
Game 5 was all St. Louis, starting with Sundqvist’s goal at 5:50 of the first period. Schwartz scored at 3:05 of the second and Tarasenko scored on a penalty shot to make it 3-0 after two periods. Schwartz finished off the hat trick with two goals in the third in the 5-0 win for St. Louis.
The Blues gained control early in Game 6 with an early goal by Perron. Tarasenko added a power-play goal late in the first and the Blues had all they would need. San Jose did get on the board in the second with a goal by Dylan Gambrell, but the battered Sharks had nothing left for the Blues. Brayden Schenn snapped a 13-game goalless drought on the power play to make it 3-1 after two. Bozak got a goal with 6:55 remaining in the third and the celebration was on. Barbashev iced the game with an empty-net goal with 2:15 remaining.
After allowing five goals in Game 3, rookie goalie Jordan Binnington allowed two goals in the final three games of the series.
The Stanley Cup Final begins on Monday night, May 27, at 8 p.m. in Boston.