What the Bruins are up against in the Stanley Cup Final

The Sharks and Blues play Game 4 of the Western Conference Final series Friday.

Joe Thornton San Jose Sharks NHL
The Sharks’ Joe Thornton, in his 21st season in the NHL, could return to the Cup Final to face his former team. –Elsa / Getty Images

Having punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2013, the Bruins are now playing the waiting game to see who they will face next as the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks battle it out in the Western Conference finals. The Sharks lead the series, 2-1. Should it go the distance, Game 7 would be played Thursday.

The Bruins have home-ice advantage regardless of who wins the West. Here’s a look at both possible opponents in the Stanley Cup Final.

San Jose Sharks

How they got here: After finishing second in the Pacific Division to Calgary with 101 points, the Sharks opened the playoffs against the Las Vegas Golden Knights, and won a wild seven-game series.

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Facing elimination in Game 6, the Sharks won on the road in double overtime to send the series back to San Jose.

They trailed, 3-0, in the third period of Game 7, but took advantage of a controversial five-minute major call with 10:37 remaining, scoring four goals with the man advantage and eventually winning in overtime.

The Sharks faced the Colorado Avalanche in the second round, and were again pushed to seven games. San Jose prevailed, thanks in part to a favorable replay review that overturned what would have been a game-tying goal for the Avalanche, allowing the Sharks to hold on and advance to the conference final.

Players to watch:

Joe Thornton: Jumbo Joe facing his former team would be the big story line. Now in his 21st season, Thornton is still getting it done, notching 16 goals and 35 assists during the regular season. He had two goals in San Jose’s controversial Game 3 win over the Blues.

Logan Couture: The 30-year-old has been the star of the postseason for the Sharks. He has a playoff-leading 14 goals and 20 points. He had 27 goals and 43 assists.

Joe Pavelski: The free agent to be has played an inspirational role for the Sharks. He suffered a gruesome head injury in Game 7 of the first-round series, which caused him to miss the first six games of the second round against the Avalanche, but he returned for Game 7, notching a goal and an assist to send San Jose to the conference final.

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Erik Karlsson: Bruins fans are well aware of this defenseman from his time with the Ottawa Senators, particularly his play in the 2017 playoffs, when he helped Ottawa prevail over the Bruins in six games in the first round. The Senators reached the Eastern Conference finals before losing to the Penguins in seven games. He was traded to San Jose last offseason, and helped stabilize their defense after missing considerable time with a groin injury.

Brent Burns: The veteran defenseman is a Norris Trophy candidate who is dangerously offensive, recording 16 goals and 76 assists this season, and five goals and 10 assists in the playoffs.

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Martin Jones: The short-term Bruins goalie (four days in between trades in the summer of 2015), Jones backstopped the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016. This has not been his best year, with a 2.94 goals against average and an .894 save percentage in the regular season. Those numbers have improved slightly in the playoffs, where he has a 2.89 GAA and .903 save percentage in 17 playoff games.

St. Louis Blues

One of the big storylines would be Bruins forward David Backes skating against the team he played 10 seasons with, the last five of which he served as the captain before signing with the Bruins in the summer of 2016.

How they got here: The Blues were floundering during the regular season and did not appear to be headed for the playoffs. They made a coaching change, firing Mike Yeo and replacing him with Craig Berube, and proceeded to go 38-19-6 the rest of the way.

A third-place finish in the Central division left the Blues opening up the playoffs at Winnipeg, where they were able to knock off the Jets in six games A second-round matchup with Dallas Stars was next, and St. Louis appeared to be in trouble when the Stars took Games 4 and 5 to bring a 3-2 lead back to Dallas. But St. Louis took a 4-1 decision on the road before closing out the series with a dramatic double-overtime win back home in Game 7.

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They’ve got your number: While the Blues were going on their run to reach the playoffs, they picked up a new celebration song, “Gloria,’’ the 1982 hit by the late Laura Branigan. The trend dates back to when Alexander Steen, Joel Edmundson, Robert Bortuzzo, Jaden Schwartz and Robby Fabbri watching the Eagles-Bears NFC Wild Card game in Philadelphia. Chris Pinkert had the full story on NHL.com.

Players to watch:

Jordan Binnington: The rookie goalie went 24-5-1 with an NHL-leading 1.89 GAA and .927 save percentage.

Ryan O’Reilly: The 10-year veteran had his most productive season with 28 goals and 49 assists to be the leading point-getter for St. Louis.

Vladimir Tarasenko: The seven-year veteran was the leading goal scorer for the Blues with 33 this season.

Colton Parayko, Alex Pietrangelo, Joel Edmundson, and Jay Boumeester: The St. Louis defense plays heavy and brings a lot of size, with Parayko, 26, checking in a 6-6, 230 pounds, and Boumeester, 35 at 6-4, 205 pounds. They have formed the top pairing in the playoffs. Pietrangelo, 29, is 6-3, 210 pounds and is in the second pairing with Edmundson 6-4, 215 pounds.