Game 1 loss served as ‘wake-up call’ for Blues
BOSTON — Since their Game 1 defeat to the Boston Bruins Monday night, the St. Louis Blues have heard plenty about the success rate of teams that grab a 1-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final.
Since the NHL went to a best-of-seven format in 1939, 61 of 79 teams that won the first game of the Final went on to win the series (77.2%). That’s an encouraging statistic for the Bruins, although they don’t have to look too far into the past to see why that number isn’t 100%. Just last season the Vegas Golden Knights took Game 1, but then the Washington Capitals reeled off four straight. The 2011 champion Bruins not only lost the opening game, but fell behind 0-2 to the Vancouver Canucks before staging a comeback to take the series in seven games.
“I think that’s why you guys are doing the stats and we just play on the ice,” said Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko. “It doesn’t really matter this part of the year. You never know what’s gonna happen.”
Those numbers aren’t in the Blues’ heads, added Tarasenko, who also noted what the Capitals did in 2018.
There’s plenty for the Blues to clean up in Game 2 so as to not fall into an 0-2 hole heading back to St. Louis for Games 3 and 4. They wasted a strong opening 21 minutes and allowed their discipline to ruin the momentum they had grabbed following a strong start.
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask was basically a “spectator,” as he put it, following the first period as St. Louis mustered only 12 shots on goal over the final 40 minutes, while the Bruins went into attack mode and took 30 shots on Jordan Binnington and scored four times.
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“Our support needs to be better, our neutral zone needs to be better,” said Blues forward Jaden Schwartz. “Our zone time wasn’t very high, so we need to do a better job of getting through the neutral zone and supporting the puck in the offensive zone. We just didn’t do a good enough job and didn’t get enough pucks to the net.”
A look the even strength heat map from Game 1 tells just much real estate the Bruins took up in the Blues’ zone (via Natural Stat Trick):
Tyler Bozak gave the old hockey cliche of getting pucks in deep and cycling in order for the Blues to increase their zone time. When those pucks were getting behind the defense, however, the Bruins were able to quickly transition out of the zone. That’s one adjustment needed for Game 2.
Discipline is obviously the other area that needs fixing. The Blues gave a Bruins’ power play that was clicking at 34% five opportunities in Game 1. Boston only scored once — Charlie McAvoy’s tying goal 12:41 into the second period — but it prevented St. Louis from maintaining a hold on the game.
Teams that have gone up 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final have won the series 46 of the last 51 times. We’re one game in and there’s still plenty of hockey left to play. What gets cleaned up between Games 1 and 2 for the Blues will determine just how desperate they’ll have to become when the series shifts to St. Louis after Wednesday night.
“We did a little too much feeling it out and just deviated from our game plan,” said Ryan O’Reilly. “It’s a wake-up call for us. Whether it’s coming off a high and not realizing the work that we got to put in. We’re not worried. We know we have to get back and it’s not going to be easy, but we’re confident in each other.”
Blues-Bruins Game 2 is Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET from TD Garden on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app.