What the Bruins need to do to win in St. Louis and regain home ice
ST. LOUIS - The Bruins and St. Louis Blues are tied at 1 in the Stanley Cup Final and the next two games at the Enterprise Center will be critical for a Black and Gold bunch that’s been extremely good on the road this postseason. The B’s need to get at least get a split so they can regain the home-ice advantage and head back to Boston again holding the slight advantage against a Blues team that looks like it's going to be a handful.
So, here are a few things the B’s have to do right Saturday and Monday:
1) The Bruins just have to keep doing what they've been doing on the road
A veteran-laden team with Stanley Cup-winning experience, the Bruins have not been intimidated by any of the road venues in this postseason whether it was hockey-crazy Toronto in the first round, a bombastic Columbus crew reaching the second round for the first time or a Carolina crowd that is always loud and rowdy when the Hurricanes are in the postseason. The Bruins took two of three in Toronto in the first round, two of three from Columbus, including the 3-0 clincher at Nationwide Arena in Game 6, and took both of the road games in Carolina in sweeping the Hurricanes. So, the Bruins are 6-2 on the road in these playoffs. I’d say that shows they aren’t going to be thrown by anything coming their way as St. Louis celebrates its first Final appearance in almost 50 years. The Bruins will be ready to once again silence the road crowd, though it should be noted that they lost Game 3 vs. both Toronto and Columbus before rallying to win Game 4. So it may be that Monday is Boston’s night rather than tonight's date with the Blues.
2) The Perfection Line needs to start playing like it
Quite simply, the Bruins' best three forwards need to begin living up to their billing in a matchup where they’ve been subpar in the first couple of games. Brayden Schenn, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz have combined for three goals in the series, and have outplayed a Bruins trio that has one empty-net goal and a combined minus-7 to show for their efforts. They flat out need to be better at both ends of the ice. The good news is that the B’s Perfection Line has gotten better in each playoff series with slow starts followed by torrid endings, which indicates that Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak figure things out as it goes along in a series against the same players in every game. So, with the Bruins needing their best players performing well in order to win the Cup, there is a reason for optimism that they will do just that over the final five games of this series.
3) The power play needs to be the dagger that strikes back at the Blues
It’s clear St. Louis is going to try and win the war of attrition by playing a hard, physical brand of hockey with big hits designed to knock players out of the series. The Blues did just that when Oskar Sundqvist drilled Matt Grzelcyk from behind with a head hit that resulted in a concussion and has perhaps knocked the puck-moving defenseman out of the series. It was a dirty hit that earned Sundqvist a one-game suspension but the Bruins weren’t able to do anything on the ensuing power play in an eventual overtime loss. A power-play goal there could have been the difference-maker in the game and would have been the proper vengeance for what St. Louis did. Instead, they were shut out on that PP, lost in overtime when they ran out of gas and now will be missing one of their fastest puck-movers in a series where they want to push the pace. The Bruins need to make the Blues pay every time they take runs at them, which they will continue to do to Pastrnak, Torey Krug and Tuukka Rask among others.
4) The Bruins need to also keep the rest of their puck-movers intact and upright
Losing Grzelcyk is more important than simply missing out on one of their puck-moving D-men given his ability to skate and move the puck with efficiency and skill. He was a big reason, along with Charlie McAvoy and Krug, that the Bruins were able to dominate puck possession and really pick up the pace against a bigger, slower and more physical team. Now, John Moore likely will replace Grzelcyk and bring some puck-moving to the bottom pairing, but the Bruins can’t afford to lose either McAvoy or Krug with Grzelcyk already out. So, those other Bruins D-men are going to need to have their heads on a swivel against a Blues crew that’s going to be hitting them early and often with the same kind of physical, punishing game that saw them throw 50 registered hits in Game 2. McAvoy and Krug need to watch their back after the Blues systematically destroyed the San Jose Sharks roster with their predatory hits and physical play in the Western Conference Final.
5) The Bruins' second line needs to show up
Paging David Krejci. Paging Jake DeBrusk. Paging David Backes. It’s time for the B’s second line to step up and be counted in this series after they’ve been hit or miss for long stretches of the postseason. The trio has only a combined eight shots on goal in the two games and just a single point from DeBrusk in the overtime loss in Game 2 while not really registering any kind of offensive presence in the series. While it’s true that a Stanley Cup-winning team needs standout performances from their third- and fourth-line players in the postseason while top lines battle it out, they do need their top-6 forwards to show up and score in some of the games as well. The Krejci line’s quiet first few games has been overshadowed by the under-performance from the Perfection Line, but they need to step up. It will be interesting to see if Bruce Cassidy tinkers with the lines and drops Pastrnak down to the second line to shake things up a little bit in Game 3. Bottom line: Boston’s best forwards need to play better.