BRIGHTON, Mass – It’s now well established that the Perfection Line isn’t having a good Stanley Cup Final.
Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak have been slow out of the gate in each of the four playoff rounds this spring and they have just a combined one point and a minus-7 in the first two games of the Cup Final vs. the St. Louis Blues.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice, the top line for the St. Louis Blues has kicked in three goals with Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn leading the way while scoring in the head-to-head matchup with Boston’s top line.
Bergeron said it simply comes down to making better decisions with the puck, and there’s also no doubt that playing a simple, hard north-south game would also benefit Boston’s top trio.
“For us, it’s about being better. We’ve dealt with this for these entire playoffs with different lines, and it’s no different,” said Bergeron. “You look at video and you look at tendencies, but we also know how we can play the right way. It’s about simplifying and taking care of the puck in our own zone before taking off for our offense.”
Bruce Cassidy was more concerned about the defensive end of things after the Perfection Line had done a good job neutralizing the John Tavares' line in the first round, and shut down Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson in the second round against Columbus. But the B’s bench boss also made sure to add that he’s confident Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak will have their best games of the series in Game 3 Saturday night after the top line fielded some criticism in the Game 2 OT loss.
“That’s something we’re looking for. Any team will tell you that when their best players perform they have the best chance to win. So, I suspect they’ll be better in St. Louis offensively and we’ll go from there,” said Cassidy. “What they’ve done well during the playoffs even when they’re not scoring is they played against Tavares and [Mitch] Marner and certainly kept them off the score sheet. Then you go to Panarin and Atkinson and they did a good job, and then [against Carolina] it was Jordan Staal and Justin Williams.
They’ve been able to at least do that part of the job, and so far in this series, the Schenn line has some 5-on-5 goals. That’s why we made the switch to free them up and defensively kind of lock them down with [Sean] Kuraly’s line. I suspect they’ll go to that matchup in St. Louis because they were trying to get it here, so that will be a big challenge for Bergeron, Pastrnak and Marchand. But they’re typically up to it. They’ve always found their game and don’t go very long without being a factor. I suspect in Game 3 we’ll see their best game of the series.”
Marchand, in particular, was having some major trouble managing the puck in Game 2 and was also way too lackadaisical on a half-hearted back-check that led to an odd-man rush and a Tarasenko tying goal. But it’s the entire trio that needs to be better at both ends of the ice, much sharper managing the puck and keep things simple while getting back what's made them the NHL’s best line the past two seasons.
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