BOSTON – The St. Louis Blues spent the final two periods of Game 1 getting bullied, physically and on the scoreboard, by the Boston Bruins. Now, if the Blues hope to bounce back and play a more consistent Game 2, they’ll have to do it shorthanded.
Defenseman Vince Dunn (upper-body) always seemed like a long shot to play Wednesday, and coach Craig Berube confirmed Dunn’s absence after the morning skate. It wasn’t a surprise but still hurts, as Dunn brings quick puck-moving acumen, which would be useful to counter the Bruins’ aggressive forecheck. The day’s big piece of news, however, was the surprise scratching of right winger Robert Thomas with an undisclosed injury. Berube confirmed Thomas is out for Game 2. The natural question to ask immediately: was the injury the result of the monstrous hit Thomas took from Bruins defenseman Torey Krug in Game 1?
“No, nothing to do with the hit,” Berube said.
The collision couldn’t have helped things, but Thomas had been nursing some malady before Game 1. Berube said he made the decision on the off day Tuesday that Thomas wouldn’t play and confirmed that the decision was injury-based, not merit-based. Taking him out creates a hole on the third line alongside Patrick Maroon and Tyler Bozak.
“It’s a change for sure, but these guys are veteran players, they’ve been around a long time, so they’ll be fine,” Berube said. “It’s just going to be a different look for them, that’s all.”
So who slides in? Berube wouldn’t show his hand Wednesday afternoon, but the expected replacement is “game-time decision” Robby Fabbri, who will bring some speed, feistiness and dynamic puck skills to the lineup if called upon.
“He’s a tenacious player,” Berube said. “He’s quick. He gets on the puck. He’s a competitive kid. He’s got the ability to score goals. We’ve seen that in the past from him. So those are the types of things we’ll look for if he’s in.”
The hope would be that Fabbri provides a spark to what was a strong forecheck in Game 1’s first period 1 but disappeared once the Bruins scored their first goal in the second period. At 5-on-5, the Blues generated 68.4 percent of the shot attempts in period 1. In the second and third, their slices of the possession pie were 22.2 percent and 42.9 percent, respectively.
“When we forecheck, we’re doing it really good and winning the puck back and getting some offensive time,” said center Oskar Sundqvist Wednesday.
Now, we find out if the Blues can shake off the panic that seemed to afflict them in the second half of Game 1 and took away that strong forecheck. Maybe a fresh body in the lineup will inject them with fresh resolve.
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