BLUES (12-8) AT BRUINS (13-5)
8 p.m. ET; NBCSN. CBC, TVAS, SN
BOSTON — Blowing a two-goal lead to lose Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Boston Bruins on Monday was no doubt a hit for the St. Louis Blues, but it was another hit during the loss that remained the talk of media availability Tuesday.
A helmetless Torey Krug put down Blues rookie Robert Thomas with a punishing blow during the third period that perhaps stands as a metaphor for how the Blues were KO’d in the eventual 4-2 defeat on Sunday.
Boston rallied with four unanswered goals, held a 30-12 edge in shots over the final two periods and had its way with St. Louis in the physicality department.
“There’s a lot of plays that people look back on in playoffs and talk about for a long time,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. “That will be one of them.”
The Blues will look to change the conversation when they face the Bruins in Boston again for Game 2 on Wednesday. Teams that win Game 1 of the finals have gone on to win the Stanley Cup 77.2 percent of the time since the format was changed to best-of-seven in 1939, but St. Louis isn’t backing down from the challenge at hand.
“It’s a wakeup call for us,” Blues center Ryan O’Reilly said. “We’re not worried. We know we have to get back. It’s not going to be easy, but we’re confident in each other.”
The Bruins extended their winning streak to a season-high eight games with the Monday victory. After a slow start, a goal by rookie defenseman Connor Clifton early in the second period got the team going, and Charlie McAvoy, Sean Kuraly and Brad Marchand each scored to complete the comeback.
“The biggest thing is we have a complete effort from our whole group,” Marchand said. “We just have all the depth showing up right now, and we’re able to rely on different guys every night.”
Boston has relied on goaltender Tuukka Rask the most to this point of the playoffs, but he was barely needed in Game 1. Aside from a late push with their net empty, the Blues failed to create many offensive chances, allowing the Bruins to maintain the momentum until the finish.
“We need a lot more O-zone time in the game,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “Our puck support wasn’t very good in the second and third period and puck play in general. Just too many turnovers. We need better support, better puck play.
“I think we’re going to get a much better game (Wednesday).”
The Blues could receive a boost in the form of Vince Dunn’s return from an upper-body injury. The defenseman has been out since taking a puck to the face in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals but hasn’t yet been ruled out for Game 2 in Boston.
“There’s a chance,” Berube said. “We’ll see how he does (Tuesday).”
For the Bruins, coach Bruce Cassidy doesn’t expect much to change, stressing team defense as the key for Boston to sustain its success.
“I think once we’ve gotten the lead, we’ve played the right way and played winning hockey,” he said. “We’ve held our discipline.”
The Bruins are so focused, some on the team didn’t know they were on an eight-game winning streak. All eyes are looking forward, not back, and players are steamrolling anything — or anyone, in Krug’s case — that gets in their way.
“It’s the swagger, the confidence to continue to play our game,” Krug said. “Knowing we’re always in it, and we can step on the other team’s throats when necessary.”
–By Kyle Brasseur, Field Level Media