Bruins

Is Craig Berube sending a Game 7 message he wants Blues to run Bruins players?

Is Craig Berube sending a Game 7 message he wants Blues to run Bruins players?

BOSTON – Once again St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube is sending messages through the media leading into a winner-take-all Game 7 against the Bruins for the Stanley Cup.

The words are coming off a 5-1 win for the B’s in Game 6 where Boston exploded for four goals in the third period and the Blues didn’t have the same physical edge they showed at times throughout the best-of-seven series. Not so coincidentally, the Blues also didn’t have a player suspended in the wake of the game for only the fourth time in the six Cup Final games played thus far leading into Wednesday night’s Game 7.

The Blues are already the first team in Stanley Cup Final history to have a pair of players suspended in the NHL’s showcase event. Oskar Sundqvist was given a one-game suspension for running Matt Grzelcyk from behind at the beginning of the series, and Ivan Barbashev had to sit for a game after throwing a head shot at Marcus Johansson in the opening minutes of Game 5.  

Now it seems that Berube is actively encouraging the Blues to get back to that level of dirty hits designed to injure players as the Blues bench boss lamented the lack of physicality from his team in the Game 6 loss on home ice.

“I think we can be more physical than we were last game. That will help in penalty killing. Just being the player that [Ivan Barbashev] is, that line, we can use them against anybody and they can do the job,” said Berube, when asked about Barbashev drawing back into the lineup after serving his one-game suspension in Game 6. “Who knows what goes on, what goes through guys' heads, things like that?

“A lot of times you just don't get there in time to make the contact. You don't want to chase it, but when it's there, you're on your toes. I think a lot of it personally, just watching the game today, our puck placement wasn't great to make the hits, things like that. Also, too, I mean, maybe it runs through their head they don't want to take a penalty, making a bad hit. We got to be aggressive. That's our style. That's the way we have success.”

On the surface Berube is saying that his Blues team can be more physical than they were in Game 6, but it also sounds like he’s tacitly giving the green light for his players to pin their ears back and “be aggressive” without fear of penalties holding them back.

After all, what does a suspension for next season matter to a desperate Blues team as they enter a Game 7 for all the marbles on Wednesday night?

Adding even less of a deterrent, the NHL has shown a complete unwillingness to call an in-game major penalty in these Stanley Cup Playoffs dating back to the first round when the call on Joe Pavelski completely changed the direction of the San Jose Sharks/Vegas Golden Knights first-round playoff series.

So what downside is there for the Blues to start running Bruins players to take them out of a decisive Game 7, and then next season go ahead and pay whatever supplemental discipline tab comes due?

Series-long targets like Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug, David Pastrnak and Marcus Johansson will have to watch their backs, and it feels like on-ice awareness will be key for every Bruins player. 

Surely the B's realize all of this headed into a Game 7 scenario where they have plenty of past experience, and it will be a part of a game plan where the Bruins power play will need to make the Blues pay dearly should they cross the line with bad hits and worse intent.  

One thing is for sure. It’s been eight years since there’s been a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final and this one is setting up to be a nasty piece of business between a pair of hockey clubs that have engaged in serious battle over the first six games.

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Bruins Summer Series: Can David Pastrnak use playoffs as learning experience?

Bruins Summer Series: Can David Pastrnak use playoffs as learning experience?

Today’s piece on David Pastrnak is the last in a 10-part series over two weeks breaking down the core Bruins group of players, and where they stand headed into next season after last spring’s Stanley Cup playoff run.

When you look back at the numbers, they certainly didn’t tell the entire story.

David Pastrnak finished tied for the team lead with his nine playoff goals and he had a perfectly respectable 19 points in his 24 playoff games during Boston’s run to the Stanley Cup Final. But the 23-year-old Bruins right winger wasn’t nearly as dominant as he was while scoring 81 points in 66 games during the regular season. Worse still, he appeared to lose confidence during Boston’s postseason run and at points was turning away chances to shoot away and rip one-timers that he was scoring on frequently during the regular season.

How much of it can be attributed to problems related to the thumb injury he suffered away from the rink during the regular season? How much of it was battling through the playoff grind where mental strength is just as important as dazzling physical abilities?

It sure felt like a combination of both, and the Bruins are hoping that Pastrnak’s battle with his own self-confidence is something that will make him a better player moving forward.

“I go back to his first postseason against Ottawa and it wasn’t very good. Then the following year he was strong in the first round against Toronto and maybe slipped a little bit in the second round. Then this past postseason, I thought he got better and then it got even harder in the third round,” said Bruins President Cam Neely in an exclusive 1-on-1 interview with NBC Sports Boston. “So these are learning experiences for these young players to really understand what it takes as you advance in the playoffs. Each round is different than the previous one.

“Then you get to the conference final and the finals and it’s tough hockey out there. I look at Pasta and he’s grown from the first playoff experience to this last one, and I expect even more growth out of him moving forward. I understand losing confidence, but I don’t understand losing confidence and not shooting. That’s what I’d talk to him about.

"For me, if you lose confidence, it means putting more pucks on net if you’re counted on to score goals. But everybody’s different when they lose confidence and everybody thinks differently. Pasta came out and said that he wasn’t confident shooting the puck, so maybe he’d just give it to somebody else. From my perspective, you put pucks on net and then everybody has to turn around and find where the puck is. Maybe that creates two opportunities out of it. You could tell he was fighting it because he was struggling with the one-timer.”

So is the player based on his own comments following the season where Pastrnak called the 24-game playoff run “a big mental experience.” Certainly that was obvious as he flailed away at one-timer attempts and eventually turned down shooting opportunities when the laser shot from the face-off circles is his scoring bread and butter. Pastrnak vowed to be better moving forward, and it’s a good bet he will be based on his willingness to work hard, and his undeniable upward trajectory since joining the NHL as the league’s youngest player at 18 years old during his rookie season.

Pastrnak is an NHL superstar-in-the-making and his first run to the Stanley Cup Final is another opportunity to better himself as a hockey player.

Now it’s more a question as to how good he can be where he finished with 38 goals and 81 points last season, and clearly has the ability to get up in the neighborhood of 50 goals and 100 points if healthy and at his best.

The other question is where he’d be best at moving forward. It would appear the Bruins are comfortable keeping the skilled, game-breaking Pastrnak on the right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the Perfection Line. But there’s always the option to move Pastrnak down with his fellow Czech David Krejci and diversify their scoring at times, while also potentially moving a bigger, stronger forward with Bergeron and Marchand.

This will be a daily question for Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins coaching staff on a game-by-game basis, but the bigger picture is about Pastrnak’s evolution into the best player on the B’s roster. The 23-year-old isn’t there yet and he showed during the long postseason run that there are still areas where his game can mature into the complete player he will become.

But there’s still no denying the bright future for Pastrnak after five brilliant NHL seasons, and that this past spring will end up being another formative experience that is pointed toward being the future of the franchise.    

Key stat: 81 – The career-high number of points in 66 games for Pastrnak, who is just scratching the surface of how good he can be at 23 years old. Now it’s about continuing to evolve during the regular season and becoming that kind of dominant player in the postseason as well.  

Pastrnak in his own words: “It was obviously challenging for me, but I had 25 guys to help pick me up just like I would do the opposite [for them]. It was the mental stuff, you know? In this kind of life, even if you don't want to see stuff, read stuff and blah-blah with the media, it's tough. You're always going to see it. And that's fine, you know? I will take a lot of positives from this. I'm just going to get stronger mentally. So it was a good experience. It's a big mental experience. I gained a lot this postseason. The mental stuff is what I learned the most. [I learned] that it doesn't [expletive] matter if you play a bad friggen' game. It's the playoffs. Or if you have a bad shift. It's the playoffs and you just need to come back to the bench and make sure you're ready for the next shift no matter what happened behind you. It's the tough part of hockey sometimes when you get back stuck on something instead of looking forward, and focusing on the next shift. Sometimes you get stuck on thinking what happened before and that brings you down kind of."

The biggest question he faces: Can Pastrnak evolve after admitting to losing confidence during the Stanley Cup playoff run? Was the thumb injury a one-time blip that the young right winger is going to learn from and become an even better pro as a result? Beyond that it’s a matter of Pastrnak becoming as good as he wants to be, provided he can continue to improve his two-way game, retain all his offensive gifts and learn how to do deal with being targeted by other teams on a nightly basis.

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20 Under 25: Jake DeBrusk hopes to salvage 2015 Draft for Bruins

20 Under 25: Jake DeBrusk hopes to salvage 2015 Draft for Bruins

Don Sweeney didn’t earn many fans when he got creative with three consecutive picks in the first round of the 2015 draft.

Jakub Zboril, the perceived safe pick, proved to be anything but. Zach Senyshyn hasn’t exactly proven those who called him a reach wrong. Meanwhile, the three players taken right after the Bruins were on the clock have become bona fide stars (Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor, Thomas Chabot).

At least the second of those three Bruins picks has been really good. 

Truly, Jake DeBrusk has been. For a team that’s already got its share of regular 30-goal-scorers in Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, DeBrusk is well on his way to becoming the fourth. In just his second NHL season, DeBrusk pushed for 30 by netting 27 goals in 68 games. 

While DeBrusk’s points have been consistent in each of his two years (43 as a rookie, 42 last season), he’ll have plenty of motivation to further break out as he enters the final year of his entry level contract. 

One unknown with DeBrusk: What kind of postseason player will he ultimately be? After first-round heroics as a rookie against the Maple Leafs, the left wing struggled in his second playoff run. His 11-point showing in 24 games left more to be desired. 

At 22, DeBrusk is already a solid top-sixer. If he becomes a star, it will really soften the blow of what was at the time a really rough draft night for the B’s. 

Click here to see this year's candidates for the 20 Under 25 list

Click here to vote for this year's 20 Under 25

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