The Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues are tied 2-2 in the best of seven Stanley Cup Final after a 4-2 loss in Game 4 back in St. Louis. As the scene shifts back to TD Garden for Game 5, the Bruins have a great opportunity with home-ice advantage in two of the next three games. However, the Bruins will have the work cut out for them against a Blues team that is really good on the road.
“We realize we are in a position to be a lot better,” Charlie McAvoy said on Wednesday after the Bruins practice. “I think we bounce back well. We are a resilient group and I think we show up those following games and we tend to play a lot better so that is promising is for us.”
The Bruins received good news at the team’s optional morning skate as captain Zdeno Chara, who broke his jaw in Game 4, and Matt Grzelcyk, who suffered an apparent head injury in Game 2, are both game-time decisions. The Bruins lineup will be in a lot better shape if Chara and Grzelcyk do play, especially against a Blues team that likes to play physical.
Here’s what the Bruins need to do in Game 5 to move within one victory of the Stanley Cup:
Better Start – This may sound like a broken record, but the start to any game in the Stanley Cup Final is key. The Bruins have not had the greatest of starts, especially in St. Louis. The Bruins survived Game 3 because of the stellar play of Tuukka Rask, but in Game 4, the Blues scored within the first minute of the hockey game.
“Start wasn’t the kind we wanted,” Rask told reporters after the Bruins Game 4 loss. “First minute you get scored on, so that wasn’t that start we planned. They came out hard in the first two home games for sure, we tried to weather the storm as much as we could.”
The Blues are not known for hot starts, but with the home crowd backing the Bruins in Game 5, look for the Bruins to come out with their best start of the series.
Back to Bruins Hockey – As Boston Hockey Now’s own Jimmy Murphy wrote this morning, the Bruins need to get back to being the Big Bad Bruins again. With so much physicality in this series, the Bruins will need to equal the Blues physical play. When Bruins legend and Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque sat down with NHL Network’s Billy Jaffe, the one thing Bourque pointed out is that the Bruins are always a tough team to play against.
“The Bruins always are a hard working tough to play against with talent, and you know you are in for it when you play the Bruins,” Bourque told Jaffe.
The staple of the Bruins hockey has always been about physicality and the Bruins need more of that at the start of Game 5.
Better Breakouts and Play off the Rush – Another thing that makes the Bruins so difficult is how well they move the puck off the rush. One of the reasons the Bruins lost Game 4, as they got pinned in their own zone for long periods of time especially when Chara left the game. The Bruins are most dangerous when they establish play off the rush, which made them so effective in Game 3.
“We need to play our game,” said McAvoy on Wednesday. “It’s noticeable that when they have success, they’re imposing their game forechecking, getting on the puck and they cycle low to high, they get shots, get opportunities. We need to find our way out of the zone quickly to eliminate those 30 seconds, 40 seconds shifts where they are just forechecking and hanging on to it.”
That can’t happen again or else the Bruins are in real trouble over the next couple of games. McAvoy was confident the Bruins can get back to their style of play.
“We play a little bit of that system as well. We play a creative brand down low and our guys, our forwards especially, are able to show their skill. We can easily possess the puck a lot more in the offensive zone. When we’ve had success against this team, we’ve been able to do that. That’s something we need to get back to.”
Special Teams – The Bruins special teams have been great all playoffs long. While the talk has been about the power play and rightfully so, which stands at 34.8 percent conversion rate, the Bruins penalty kill has been just as good as they have killed off penalties at 87.5 percent. Both are tops amongst the remaining two teams. The penalty kill has only given up one since the Columbus series and that was in Game 1. If power plays will be a premium like they were in Game 4, the Bruins will need to make the most of their opportunities.
The Bruins have a great opportunity on their hands to go into St. Louis within one victory of the Stanley Cup. Execution will play a major faction in the Bruins success in Game 5. Game 5 between the Bruins and Blues is scheduled for 8 pm ET (NBC, CBC, SPORTSNET, TVA SPORTS).