Bruins Upstage Blues: Game 3 Report Card and Analysis
The St. Louis Blues were physical. The Boston Bruins responded with equal force. The St. Louis Blues blitzed the Boston Bruins early in the first period and bombarded Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask with four shots on an early power play. The Bruins responded with three first period goals and Rask continued to respond with stone wall goaltending. St. Louis scored a second-period goal and the Bruins responded with another power-play goal just one minute later and chased goalie Jordan Binnington. For every challenge, the Bruins served a sour note to St. Louis. The Bruins coasted to a 7-2 win in Game 3 at the Enterprise Center and a 2-1 series lead.
Rask stood tall. Binnington was chased in the second period and failed to finish the game for the first time in the playoffs.
The Bruins continued to build on their five-player puck support and used that team commitment to fuel the breakout past the St. Louis forecheck. The Bruins didn’t need to be as physical as St. Louis–though they held their own–because the Bruins speed game zipped past St. Louis. And around them. And through them. The Bruins were able to spend their energy in the offensive zone and not in the defensive zone.
“I think we did a better job of getting back on pucks. Four guys who weren’t the first to touch it made sure they supported well. Whether it was a little bump, or we mixed in some long (passes around the boards),” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Gotta win those battles in the neutral zone. We started the forecheck there and created a few turnovers.”
The combination of the St. Louis attempt to outmuscle the Bruins and the Bruins speed through the neutral zone and clean zone entries created offensive pressure and power play opportunities.
The Bruins lethal power play salted the superior effort. It was a perfect four-for-four.
“They got the power play goal (in the first period). It gave them momentum for sure,” said St. Louis head coach Craig Berube. “We had trouble breaking the puck out of our own end. That caused some issues.”
One overlooked factor in the series has been the Bruins shot blocking. Just as Pittsburgh and Washington did in the past three seasons when they lifted the Cup, the Bruins are shot blocking at an extraordinary rate. As St. Louis charged in the second period, the Bruins blocked seven of 16 attempts. Conversely, St. Louis blocked only two Bruins attempts. Rask has been brilliant but many scoring chances are also dying in the Bruins shin pads, too.
Boston Bruins Report Card
The Perfection Line: B
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy asked for and got more from his top line with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. Pastrnak tied Vlad Pasternak for most shots among all players with five.
Statistically, the Bruins top line dominated their competition of Brayden Schenn, Jayden Schwartz and Vlad Tarasenko. The Bruins trio allowed the St. Louis top line only four shot attempts. Four. The Bruins perfection line attempted 11 shots on goal with four scoring chances and just two scoring chances against.
BHN prizes scoring chances. If Bergeron and company dominate the puck like that in Game 4, the Stanley Cup will be in the barn in Game 5.
Bruins Special Teams: A
Four power play goals in four chances and the Bruins PK nullified the first four St. Louis man-advantage chances. Not until five minutes into the third period did the St. Louis power play light the lamp.
The Bruins three power-play goals were indeed the backbreaker which staked them a healthy lead and put the overly physical Blues on their heals. Teams can’t be too physical when they trail by two or three goals.
Tory Krug: A
Krug became the first Bruins ever to post four points (1g, 3a) in a Stanley Cup Final game. Krug was one of a few Bruins with positive differentials at even strength. Believe it or not, in a 7-2 game, six of the nine goals were scored on special teams. So, the even strength numbers are skewed.
The defenseman moved the puck with precision and didn’t commit a turnover in over 22 minutes of ice.
Tuukka Rask: A
At this point, it’s an automatic A until proven otherwise, isn’t it? Rask is making every save within reach. He’s anticipating chances and deflections. He’s simply playing as well or better than goalie in the last five years, including Braden Holtby, Matt Murray and Corey Crawford.
Sean Kuraly: C+
It wasn’t the best game for the energy line but Kuraly provided the backbreaker with the quick-snipe third goal, which became the GWG. Stanley Cup Winners get great production from the down line players (see also, Devante Smith-Pelly, Jay Beagle). The Bruins down line players are in that same conversation. Big goals in big moments are important. Oddly, the Bruins energy line didn’t register a scoring chance and gave up four, hence the middle grade.
Kuraly has four points in this series. The fourth line has attacked St. Louis.
Bruce Cassidy: A
The Bruins made all of the necessary changes. He got the players to buy into the aggressive and unsexy fix to deal with the St. Louis forecheck. Specifically, on Bruins goals No. 2 and No. 3, at least four Bruins touched the puck. In fact, on the second goal, all five players touched it before Charlie Coyle buried it.
Coaches win Stanley Cups as much as star players and role players. Cassidy isn’t getting the credit the last few Cup winning coaches got, but that’s because there isn’t a feel-good Boston Bruins story or big change.
Read More: Key Takeaways From Boston’s Game 3 Win