Bruins

Perfection Line 'just got lucky' in kicking into gear, demolishing the Blues

Perfection Line 'just got lucky' in kicking into gear, demolishing the Blues

ST LOUIS – As has been the case in each of the first three rounds of the playoffs this spring, there’s only so long that you can hold down the Perfection Line.

Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak finally busted through for a combined two goals and five points on Saturday night in Boston’s 7-2 massacre of the St. Louis Blues in Game 3 at the Enterprise Center. Bergeron led the way with a goal and three points including the B’s first goal of the game during a three-goal uprising in the first period, and it put far into the rearview the first two games of the series when the high-powered, pretty perfect trio combined for just a single empty net goal.

After the game it was pretty clear that the three forwards were getting perturbed about the media converging on them after a couple of so-so games in the Stanley Cup Final, with Marchand multiple times saying that they “just got lucky tonight” in finally breaking through offensively.

“Yeah, we got lucky tonight,” said Marchand, while choking down the laughter while answering the question. "We’ll take that one and hopefully we’re good next time. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. We knew we would be better, but it was just one of those nights where things bounce your way. You can’t expect that to happen every night.”

Marchand and everybody else knows that luck ain’t got nothing to do with it, but it’s pretty clear that an angry, determined Perfection Line with a point to prove is a pretty good thing for the Bruins.

It was Bergeron that started things off in the first period when he tipped home a Torey Krug point rocket on the power play, and then loudly and aggressively celebrated with his teammates at the Bruins bench. Then it was Pastrnak just 41 seconds into the second period making the Blues pay for incorrectly attempting to challenge an offside play on a goal, and he popped in the PP rebound of another Torey Krug shot from the point.

Both Marchand and Bergeron picked up the helpers on a Krug point blast on the PP that chased Jordan Binnington from the game when it was a 5-1 lead for the Black and Gold, and that was enough for the top line to ensure Boston once again had the home-ice advantage. The trio still only combined for 10 shots on net and 14 shot attempts overall and there wasn’t any 5-on-5 production in a trend that’s been consistent during these Cup Final. But it won’t really matter if Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak can be that efficient and deadly as they were on the man advantage on Saturday night, and it doesn’t really matter where the goals come from as long as they arrive against a Blues team that’s outgunned offensively in this series.

The best part is the Bruins sounded genuinely unsatisfied after just blowing the doors off the Blues, and have their eyes on the goal.

“We are comfortable playing in these kinds of games. Now we need to refocus and just get back to it tomorrow,” said Pastrnak. “We know that we still haven’t played our best. But we won and now we need to meet tomorrow, watch the video and get even better. That’s our focus in this group. We’ve got a lot of good players so we know we can elevate even more.”

And the Bruins collectively were confident it was going to come from their top three forwards just like it has all season. Pastrnak smirked when asked what kind of pressure those three put on themselves to step up and score in this pivotal Game 3 win, and gave the perfect answer in response to the question showing A) their general annoyance at the criticism over the first couple of games and B) just how sky-high their confidence is after lighting up opposing teams for the better part of the last two seasons as the NHL’s most prominent line.

“I don’t know,” said Pastrnak, when asked how much pressure they felt to perform after going silent in the first two games. “From a [scale] of 1-10 about a ‘2.’ Yeah. It’s about time that we get going. But the whole playoffs we’ve had all the lines going, and that’s how a team works.”

The numbers back up the notion that it just takes a little time for Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak to figure out the other team in each of the three previous playoff series. In Games 1 and 2 of each playoff series the Perfection Line has combined for just four 5-on-5 points with a minus-17 in eight games during this playoff run. In Games 3-7 of the playoff series thus far the top trio has combined for 19 goals, 39 points and a plus-29 in 12 games played this far in this postseason.

That pretty much tells the story that it takes a couple of games for the Perfection Line to assess their opponent, figure out what’s going to work and then get to work on exploiting whatever matchup they’re going to be in for a best-of-seven series.

The good news for the Bruins?

Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak are now locked in on the Blues after their two-goal outburst in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final series, and need only two similar uprisings to capture the Cup and prove once and for all that there is something pretty damn perfect about them as a trio.

Talking points from Bruins' 7-2 win over Blues>>>

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Canadiens in the playoffs? Tony Marinaro calls that 'the stupidest thing I've ever heard'

Canadiens in the playoffs? Tony Marinaro calls that 'the stupidest thing I've ever heard'

The one clear benefit of the play-in round for this summer’s Stanley Cup playoff conclusion to the 2019-20 campaign is it gives new life to hockey clubs otherwise out of it with a month to go in the regular season.

The biggest beneficiary of that new postseason life is undoubtedly the Montreal Canadiens, who had the lowest point total (71) of any of the 24 teams that will qualify for the play-in round. The Habs were a bad team playing out the string that’s now been thrown a life preserver due to the unforeseen circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Montreal is scheduled to play the fifth-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins once the postseason format begins and will face an uphill battle against a healthy, rested group that still features Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and is just a few seasons removed from back-to-back Stanley Cup titles. One would expect that Canadiens fans, media and anyone interested in the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge would be looking for reasons to justify their newfangled postseason presence.

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But TSN 690 radio host Tony Marinaro wasn’t having any of that sunshine Habs talk during a recent NBC Sports Boston Zoom call with myself and Boston Sports Now’s James Murphy when asked about Montreal’s new life.

“The station I work for TSN 690 is the official partner of the Montreal Canadiens. We air Montreal Canadiens on our radio station. This is great for the Montreal Canadiens. It’s great for the fans. It’s great for the radio station that I work for. It’s great for me and it’s great for my show,” said an animated Marinaro. “Now, personally how do I feel about it? I think it’s stupid. [This is] a team that lost eight in a row at one point, and on another occasion lost another eight in a row. On another occasion lost five in a row.

“On another occasion lost three in a row and finished with 31 wins and 40 losses. [They] have a chance at a play-in to get into the actual playoffs? I think it’s the stupidest thing that I’ve ever heard in my life. These are exceptional times that call for exceptional measures. There are a lot of things that I don’t agree with. I think I speak for all of us that we all want hockey back and that the National Hockey League would want to have as many markets involved, in the mix, as possible to try and generate as much interest as possible, and to try and generate as much of the lost revenue as possible. I’m at a point where I just want sports back. As I much as I think it’s stupid, I want sports back more than I think it’s stupid if that makes sense.”

It certainly should make sense to anybody and everybody that loves, and right now misses, the NHL.

The hapless Canadiens were 10 points out of a playoff spot when the NHL regular season went on pause, haven’t made the postseason in back-to-back years, and will have not won a playoff series in five years when they eventually suit up against the Penguins this summer. Despite all of this, they might have a fighting chance with a rested, healthy Carey Price in a short series against a Penguins group coming off a long break.

A win by the Habs in the play-in could even eventually set up a playoff series between the Bruins and the Canadiens. Selfishly, who wouldn’t want to see Claude Julien and his Canadiens match up with the Black and Gold in a playoff series that could help rekindle a rivalry that’s been on life support over the last few seasons?

All that being said, it’s going to be tough to feel like low-seeded play-in teams like the Canadiens actually deserve a regular Stanley Cup playoff berth given so many critical voices viewing skepticism at the 24-team postseason format set up by the NHL.

This Week in Bruins Playoff History: The best B's game I've ever covered

This Week in Bruins Playoff History: The best B's game I've ever covered

After covering almost 20 years’ worth of NHL games with the Bruins and hundreds of Stanley Cup Playoff games, the Game 7 between the Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2011 Eastern Conference Final goes down as the single best game I’ve ever covered.

The 1-0 win for the Black and Gold that vaulted them to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final was played this week nine years ago -- May 27, 2011 -- at TD Garden with everything on the line for a Bruins core group at the height of its powers.

It was a perfectly-executed game between the Bruins and Lightning fine-tuned by a pair of long postseason runs. There wasn’t a single penalty called in the entire game by the referring crew of Dan O’Halloran and Stephen Walkom and just a miniscule 57 whistle stoppages. Both teams were locked into playing mistake-free hockey and did just that for the first two and a half periods of the do-or-die game with everything on the line. 

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“I have nothing really intelligent to say right now,” said legendary NBC play-by-play man Doc Emrick on the telecast at the beginning of the third period, “other than to say, ‘It’s been terrific.’ ”

The Bruins had the better of the chances with Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson forced to make 37 saves, while Tim Thomas had to stop just 24 shutouts in the eventual shutout performance. 

The Bruins had the better of the chances whether it was a Milan Lucic breakaway in the first period, or the 22 shots on net peppered by the top two forward lines of Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Mark Recchi throughout the game. 

But it was all about the entire Bruins team with top shutdown pair Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg both topping 26 minutes of ice time for the game and the B’s defense holding both Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos to just single shots on net.

It was the mild-mannered, powerful Seidenberg who drilled St. Louis with a big open ice hit in the first two minutes of the game and summarily made the announcement to the finesse Lightning bunch that that they were in for a tough night. 

For the Bruins it was about cracking the 1-3-1 trap employed by Lightning head coach Guy Boucher, and that opening finally presented itself midway through the third period. It took the perfectly-executed play to break their system and win the game, and that’s exactly what the Bruins pulled off. 

Andrew Ference carried the puck out of the defensive zone before hitting Krejci in a perfect spot in the neutral zone between two defenders. Krejci skated it quickly into the offensive zone and created a 2-on-1 with Horton moving without the puck to the net, and it was a perfect, slick dish from the playmaking center to Game 7 hero Horton that produced the game-winner.

 

Horton scored the Game 7 game-winner against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round as well, and those two goals cemented his massive status in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final run before a dirty Aaron Rome hit in the Stanley Cup Final took him out of that series. 

The game was finished off by Seidenberg blocking his eighth shot of the game in a warrior performance from the German defenseman, and featured Stamkos playing with his nose all stitched up and repaired after taking a heavy, deflected Johnny Boychuk slap shot right to his face. 

The game had toughness, playmaking and the ultimate compete level with none of the nonsense that can sometimes mar postseason affairs. 

There certainly have been Bruins playoff games with more nastiness and times when it took an amazing, iconic play to win a clinching game in a series. But from beginning-to-end there has never been anything quite as tense and well-played as a 0-0 game through the first 50 plus minutes of the game where it became clear that the first hockey team to crack was going to lose the game. 

It took a perfectly designed and executed play from the Black and Gold to put the finishing move on the Lightning, and that was only appropriate given the tenor of the game. Anybody who was at TD Garden on May 27, 2011, remembers the exact emotion in the aftermath as they left the building saying to themselves, “Damn, that was a good hockey game."