In the aftermath of their seven-game series loss to the St. Louis Blues in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, the Boston Bruins were a bruised and battered bunch and resembled a M*A*S*H unit more than a hockey team. The Blues gigantic blue line, overall team size and forecheck were clearly major factors in their Stanley Cup win and in an interview on ‘The Montreal Forum’ on TSN 690, Tuesday, St. Louis Blues Senior Consultant to Hockey Operations and now ten-time Stanley Cup champion Larry Robinson gave some insight as to how the Blues wore down the smaller Bruins defense.
“I think if you’ve got a bunch of small forwards or a bunch of small defensemen, sooner or later, you’re going to get worn down,” he said. “Krug may be the only small guy around that can seem to take a pounding and can still play, but even him, after a while, we had guys running at him and he was shying away from the corners because he didn’t want to get hit. I mean you don’t have to be brave in there as well. If you’re going to go in there and get hammered, that’s a little bit stupid on your part as well. So definitely if you’ve got a heavy team, it’s a big plus when it comes to playoff time.”
While he admits speed has taken over the NHL, Robinson still believes when it matters most you need size and endurance.
“Oh definitely,” the hall of defenseman and a former thorn in the side of the Bruins during his days in Montreal. “If you’ve got a heavier team, eventually you’re going to wear other teams down and I think with the length of the playoffs, I think attrition is as important as anything else. I mean you gotta have guys who are able to take the pounding and take the wear and tear of playoff hockey.
The game today is speed, there’s no doubt about it. The game today is speed and you’ve gotta have some skill out there as well. But, you certainly, if you’re going for the long run, you’ve gotta have some physicality too because otherwise, you’re never going to get the puck. Some of these guys are so big and so strong that they can hold onto the puck and you’ll never get to touch the puck. Last time I looked, you still need the puck in order to score goals.”
After Brad Marchand admitted he reaggravated a wrist injury in the Bruins’ intrasquad scrimmage four days before the Stanley Cup Final, head coach Bruce Cassidy has been widely criticized for holding the scrimmage. Robinson was asked if he were in Cassidy’s position, heading into the Final on an 11-day layoff, would he had done the same?
“Probably; I probably would’ve,” Robinson said. “I mean hindsight, it’s easy for us to judge, but Bruce Cassidy, I think did a marvelous job there. They had a great system. …great system and I mean, the way that they play, they were really one of the toughest teams to play against the way that they swarmed around their net and blocked shots. I think their powerplay was one of the best that we went against through the whole playoffs.
So you can’t blame Bruce Cassidy because Brad Marchand could’ve hurt his hand in practice in one of the drills. That’s just the way it is. It’s just part of the game and you have to be able to get through those things, but I thought Marchand played pretty good. It’s easy to say he wasn’t at his best, but we had some pretty good guys against him. Colton Parayako and [Jay] Bouwmeester did an unbelievable job in defending against him. They didn’t give him much room.”