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Bruins, Blues put different value on playoff experience

The long wait is over, as the Blues and Bruins will don their sweaters and begin play in the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night at TD Garden.
The long wait is over, as the Blues and Bruins will don their sweaters and begin play in the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night at TD Garden.(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It still stings Brad Marchand, the way they fell short.

Two years after he and the Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup, reveling in Boston’s first glimpse of hockey heaven in 39 years, they wanted another duck boat parade. Sure, they wanted it for them, to validate and celebrate their championship effort, but just as much, they wanted it for their fraught city.

They were fighting for the 2013 Cup two months after the Boston Marathon bombings. They were trying to be Boston Strong, hoping to lift both the prize and the people. After Game 6, they stood on their ice at TD Garden and watched the Blackhawks steal it all away.

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“It was so sweet to win, but it hurts to lose,” Marchand said Sunday, reflecting on Cups won and lost. “I mean, that was devastating. That still hurts to this day.

“It was a tough time for Boston. Obviously going through a lot. We were hoping to be a bright spot. That one hurt a lot.

“It’s still something I think about all the time, to this day, how much that one hurt and how nice it would have been to win. All the things that could have gone differently, that I would have liked to go differently, that I could have done differently. That will never leave you. It’s going to haunt me.”

Torey Krug had a similar regret, since two goals in 17 seconds in that Game 6 spelled the end of his first postseason. Six years later, Tuukka Rask prefers to ignore how it ended. David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, and Zdeno Chara — 13, 15 and 21 years into their careers, respectively — understand the fleeting nature of these opportunities, and the meaning they create for those who keep taking this thrill ride every October.

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Another chance is here: Game 1 of the 2019 Final, Monday at TD Garden, between two teams that consider each other mirror images. Both the Bruins and Blues are four lines deep, defensively sound, and airtight in goal. The sharpness of Boston’s power play and the physicality of St. Louis’ blue line seem to be minor advantages in a series that could go the distance.

Asked to name the Bruins’ most significant leverage point, coach Bruce Cassidy pointed to those memories.

“Boy, that’s going to be board material,” Cassidy began, before settling on, “Experience. I’ll go the easy route. I just believe that our guys that have been there, that have won a Cup, have lost a Cup, that should give us an edge.”

Some might say it makes no difference, he added. Sitting in front of the same backdrop an hour later, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong did just that.

“I’m sure if I was managing Boston I would say our experience is really great,” Armstrong said. “But it is what it is. The puck’s going to drop and the guys are going to have to adjust to what’s happening. . . . Once they start the game, it’s going to be what they do normally. And hopefully a year from now we’ll say, ‘Geez, St. Louis has got a lot of championship experience.’ ”

As of now, they have little. Only 12-year winger David Perron, who reached the Final with Vegas last season, has performed on this stage. The Bruins boast the aforementioned six, plus ex-St. Louis captain David Backes, who reached the Western Conference Final in 2016 with a dozen current Blues. The B’s have 1,245 playoff games under their collective belts to the Blues’ 991, and Boston’s core performers are more battle-tested.

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Come puck drop Monday, it may not matter that St. Louis rookie netminder Jordan Binnington has suited up for 19 playoff games — and 33 in total — to Rask’s 82 and 495. The Blues, idling the last five days, may jump all over the Bruins, who sat for 10 after winning the East. They may use their bruising defense to frustrate Boston’s scorers; captain Alex Pietrangelo is one of the shrimps of St. Louis’ back line at 6 feet, 3 inches, and 210 pounds.

“We expect that,” David Pastrnak said. “We are not afraid of it. We can play that kind of game. I think it’s going to be a great matchup and great hockey, hopefully.”

Boston may be able to weather that storm, picking up where they left off in Carolina, and lean on their 107-point lineup, their scorching-hot netminder, and all that veteran experience.

“We have been through a lot, that’s for sure,” Krejci said.

“In ’11 and ’13, I was a young guy trying to steal a Cup from the opponent. This time around I know how hard it is to go to the Final, how hard it is to win it.

“You don’t do it just for yourself. You do it for your teammates, for the coaching staff, organization, for the city.”

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Follow Matt Porter on Twitter at @mattyports