When did the Big Bad Bruins become the speedy, skilled cubs? Since taking over as the General Manager of the Boston Bruins back on May 20, 2015, Don Sweeney has done an amazing job of retooling his roster on the fly and adapting to the speed and skill of the ever-changing NHL. What’s been arguably even more impressive with Sweeney’s body of work is how he has somehow been able to combine the trademark Big Bad Bruins style with a younger, faster and talented roster and in just four seasons has the Original 6 franchise back in the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in eight years. As the Bruins head into Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, however, have they become the complete opposite of the Bruins team that hoisted the Stanley Cup in Vancouver eight years ago? Could one even say they are the current version of that 2011 Canucks team they beat in seven games for the Stanley Cup?
If Games 2 and 4 are any indications, the Bruins need to regain the fight that the 2011 team had before Brad Marchand – pointless 5-on-5 in this Stanley Cup Final – finds himself taking the same rabbit punches from David Perron that he delivered to Daniel Sedin in Game 5 of that series in which the Bruins’ brute physical force overtook the speed and skill of the Canucks.
The 2018-19 Bruins have shown they have the ability to turn it up physically and maintain the speed-skill game Sweeney has done such a great job of incorporating but so far in this series, they have the let the Blues do exactly what they did to the Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks en route to the Stanley Cup Final. Former tough guy and now head coach of the Blues Craig Berube had a specific gameplan in the playoffs, and that was to beat the opponents’ defense and star players into oblivion, and that’s precisely what they have done to earn every game and series they’ve won. Ask San Jose Sharks stars Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Erik Karlsson, and their teammates how that went.
Surely the Bruins advance scouting staff and then head coach Bruce Cassidy and his staff did their job heading into this series, so why are Bruins players not countering the Blues physical approach and gameplan with even more physicality? One can point to the fact that the Bruins’ powerplay has been absolutely lethal – with their 4-for-4 on four shots performance in a 7-2 win in Game 3 being the prime example – and that discipline and taking the high road has worked, but then why are they passing up shots because they know a Blues player is bearing down?
Just heard @tony_amonte say this is reminiscent of Dougie Hamilton letting up on puck because of an incoming Alexander Ovechkin and completely agree. Hopefully David Pastrnak got called out by his teammates and coaches for this. Not a good look and he played that way all night. pic.twitter.com/lPCgIZalqJ
— Jimmy Murphy (@MurphysLaw74) June 4, 2019
Following practice Wednesday, Bruins forward Charlie Coyle didn’t exactly see it that way but admitted that the Bruins need to match their intensity more from the start.
“We expected a lot that they brought already, so it’s up to us to bring our game and make sure we have that good start that we talk about,” Coyle said. “You can always do more, you can always be better I think. The games we’ve dropped I think, and even that Game 1 too, not the greatest of starts and they kind of just come out hard and. …I don’t if we’re ready for it. …I know we’re ready for it, but they have pushes – especially in their own building they have pushes – and come at us with their game, but it’s up to us to just kind of hold our ground and then push back after that. You need waves coming in after that. So it’s up to our next line to come out and get some momentum for us, but I think we can always do that a little more and have that focus right from the get-go.”
So then why haven’t they done that every game in this series? Do they still have it in them to match the physicality and intensity the Blues have shown more than them so far?
“Oh yeah. This team’s here for a reason,” Coyle said. “We’ve seen it at the games we’ve won here (in Boston), and how good we’ve played. We come out, we get a great start and it just kind of floats from there and we keep going. So that’s what we try and aim for, that first five minutes. We try and win our battles and that kind of sets the tone for us.”
Coyle is exactly right but like his teammate, David Krejci said Tuesday, “talk is cheap” and that Dougie Hamilton moment by David Pastrnak above isn’t exactly setting the tone is it?
No one can blame the Bruins for thinking their power play would answer the Blues targeting their defensemen and star players better than retaliating and ending up in the penalty box themselves, but there comes a time where you need to stand up to the bully in the schoolyard and send a message. Zdeno Chara may or may not play in Game 5 but without or without him, his teammates need to bring the grit and intimidation he brings every night, despite being the oldest guy on the team. The Blues have challenged the Bruins physically for four games now,
and the Bruins have had no answer. With the potential of heading back to St. Louis for Game 6 facing elimination, it’s time for the speedy, skilled Bruins to be the Big Bad Bruins again.