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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Zdeno Chara joins Patrice Bergeron in admirable action this week while attending Boston protest

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File photo

Zdeno Chara joins Patrice Bergeron in admirable action this week while attending Boston protest

The Boston Bruins leadership group has shown they are about more than simple lip service and social media posts when it comes to what’s been going on in this country over the last few weeks.

Patrice Bergeron made a $50,000 donation to a pair of worthy causes this week in the Boston branch of the NAACP and Centre Multiethnique de Quebec while releasing a lengthy, passionate statement through the Bruins.

B's captain Zdeno Chara was spotted in all his 6-foot-9 glory walking in Boston on Friday afternoon during one of the protests through the city streets while sporting a Bruins mask in the crowd.

None of this is a surprise as both the 43-year-old Chara and the 33-year-old Bergeron have fostered a welcoming, friendly environment in the Bruins dressing over the years. The Bruins veterans don’t even really use the word “rookie” because Chara has always believed that it creates unnecessary separation between younger and older teammates that shouldn’t exist in a team setting.

Bergeron is partially credited with helping pull a black teammate named Gemel Smith out of a mental funk that he was mired in during his time with the Bruins. Bergeron urged Smith to talk to somebody professionally when he sensed that something wasn’t quite right with his new teammate and it helped Smith turn things around personally and professionally when he was with the Tampa Bay Lightning this season.

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Smith ended up playing just three games with the Bruins last season after being picked up on waivers, but even in that brief time Bergeron had managed to reach out and make a connection with the player that made a lasting impact. That’s exactly the kind of healthy, welcoming dressing room that’s made the Bruins a success over the years.

There isn’t a long history of black players with the Bruins in recent years as Smith, Jarome Iginla and Malcolm Subban are the only black NHLers to suit up with Boston over the last decade. So there haven't been a great deal of opportunities for Bergeron, Chara and the rest of the B’s leadership core to show just much they embrace the diversity and equal treatment for all that so many around the NHL are voicing in the days since George Floyd was horrifically killed by Minneapolis police officers.

But give full credit to both Bergeron and Chara for stepping up this week, representing the Bruins in a manner they would be proud of and showing that it’s about actions as much as -- if not more than -- words when it comes to promoting equal treatment for all, and a better tomorrow for people of all races and backgrounds.

Breaking down the winners and losers of NHL 24-team season return format

Breaking down the winners and losers of NHL 24-team season return format

The NHL has their 24-team postseason format and they’ve even drilled down on some of the specifics this week.

We still don’t know exactly when the Stanley Cup postseason can start or when NHL training camps would be going full speed ahead. Also, all of the matchups beyond the “qualifying round” are still very much in the air.

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Clearly there is still plenty we don’t know about the Stanley Cup Playoffs once the NHL presses the play button in the next few months.

But we do know enough about the proposed postseason to know who will benefit, and who will be getting the short end of the stick. So that’s enough to put together the always popular winners and losers list when it comes to the new NHL postseason format. 

Click here for the gallery.