Growing up in Ottawa, Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy had a photo of Bobby Orr proudly displayed in his bedroom. It showed the most iconic image in NHL history: Orr flying through the air after scoring his Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal in 1970.
"I used to deliver the [Ottawa Citizen] paper when I was a kid and I cut it out and it was on my wall,” Cassidy said. “And I had the hockey card, too. There was one where he had all the hockey trophies behind him. … That was what was on my wall. And maybe a Farrah Fawcett poster. Maybe.”
Why all the talk about Orr and the 1970 Stanley Cup Final? Because his title-winning goal completed the Bruins' sweep of the St. Louis Blues. Now, 49 years later, the two teams face each other again for the NHL’s ultimate prize.
Before the puck drops for Game 1 on Monday night at TD Garden, here are some more storylines to follow:
1. The Heavy Weight Of History
The Blues probably would prefer to forget what happened in 1970 — and what hasn’t happened since. The team hasn’t appeared in the Stanley Cup Final since Orr’s famous goal, and the franchise remains in search of its first Cup win. In that case, maybe it’s best that Bostonians not brag (too much) about the fact that local teams have won seven championships by beating St. Louis teams.
The Bruins are going for their seventh Stanley Cup and making their third Stanley Cup Final appearance this decade. Boston won the big prize in 2011, but the team fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013.
The Bruins hope to add to the city’s trophy haul. If they win, Boston will be home to the reigning World Series champion, the reigning Super Bowl champion and the reigning Stanley Cup champion. Detroit, back in 1935-'36, was the last city that was home to the reigning champions in baseball, football and hockey.
Cassidy likes playing in a city with a lot of champions. But he’s looking forward to the Stanley Cup Final shifting Boston’s sports attention to the Bruins.
“Listen, we want to be considered the best game in town, right?” said Cassidy. “Why wouldn’t we? And we’ve got some serious competition with the way the Patriots have gone and the Red Sox. We’re trying to do our part this year.”
With that in mind, Cassidy is seeking advice from the Patriots and the Red Sox on how the Bruins can join their championship-winning ranks.
2. Rest Vs. Rust
Since the Bruins swept the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final, the black-and-gold haven’t played a game since May 16. And there’s been lots of talk about the big layoff. Cassidy asked Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Red Sox manager Alex Cora about the best ways to keep players mentally focused during the break.
The Bruins coach also scheduled an intra-squad scrimmage at the Garden complete with fans and referees. Cassidy wanted to simulate a game-type atmosphere and get players into a competitive mindset where they battled for pucks and finished plays around the net.
Although there will be some rust to shake off, general manager Don Sweeney believes the long layoff will benefit the players physically and mentally. He knows how tough the playoff grind has been. And Sweeney isn’t worried about the Bruins losing momentum.
"I really believe our team has earned the right to be here,” Sweeney said. “They’re in the moment. If you really listen to our leadership group ... you can understand how dialed in they are. They recognize the finish line and they want to get there. It’s a long way between there. But I think there are so many different momentums. The series is spread out in the finals. You’ve got days in between and two days for travel. It’s game by game, shift by shift, and guys need to live in the moment. I think we recognize that.”
3. The In-The-Zone Goalie Factor
Speaking of living in the moment, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask has done just that. He’s been calm, composed and hyper-focused in goal. He leads the postseason with a .942 save percentage and 1.84 goals against average. During the Bruins' current seven-game winning streak those numbers improved to a .961 save percentage and a 1.29 goals against average.
Not surprisingly, Rask enters the Stanley Cup Final as the leading contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy for the MVP of the playoffs. If he continues to play the way he has been, then it could be a long, frustrating series for the Blues.
Meanwhile, the Bruins will have to contend with Blues goalie Jordan Binnington. He’s a big reason why St. Louis went from being the worst team in the league earlier this year to the Western Conference winner. The 25-year-old netminder is a finalist for the Calder Trophy, which is given annually to the league’s top rookie. And he enters the Stanley Cup Final on a hot streak, too. In the Blues’ final three games against the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final, Bennington faced 77 shots and allowed only two goals while helping his team take the series.
4. 'They're Very Similar To Us'
Cassidy sees a lot of the Bruins in the Blues, or vice versa.
“I think they’re very similar to us, the way they play,” he said. “They use all four lines; the fourth line particularly gets a lot of assignments like ours. Goaltenders are both playing excellent. Their [defense] is bigger than ours. But both can move the puck. So, I expect the games will probably be lower scoring, more physical."
When asked to compare the Blues to the opponents the Bruins have faced earlier in playoffs, Cassidy said they were “Columbus-ish,” referring to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Bruins beat the Blue Jackets in six games earlier in the postseason.
5. Backes Was A Longtime 'Blue'
It will be an emotional series for Bruins right winger David Backes, as he tries to win the first Cup of his career against his former teammates. He played in St. Louis and served as team captain for five years. Up until the Stanley Cup Final, he’d been rooting for his former team.
“One of my best friends is on [the Blues],” Backes said. “He’s the captain of that team. But I told him I’d love him now. I’m going to love him afterwards. But I’m going to hate him for the next three weeks here. Think that’s a mutual decision. We’re going to battle our butts off for this ultimate prize. We’ll patch up whatever needs to be patched up afterwards.”
That’s one way of saying it’s going to be one intense series.
This segment aired on May 28, 2019.