ST. LOUIS – Going into the Stanley Cup final, one of the decided advantages the Boston Bruins had over the St. Louis Blues was big-game experience. The Bruins have the Stanley Cup rings and there is literally nothing in the playoffs that the core of this team has not seen before.
In 2010, the spring before they won the Stanley Cup, the Bruins blew a 3-0 lead on the Philadelphia Flyers and a 3-0 lead in Game 7 of the series. They’ve won the Cup, of course. They’ve lost the Cup after being ahead 2-1 in the final over the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013. They’ve closed out series and they’ve been on the brink of elimination and come back to win. Just this season in the first round, they faced elimination on the road against the Toronto Maple Leafs and won. When they won the Stanley Cup in 2011, they did so after falling down 2-0 in the final to the Vancouver Canucks and won twice in elimination games. Zdeno Chara, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Tuukka Rask have clearly been there and done that before.
So when the Bruins step on the ice at the Enterprise Center for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final facing a must-win scenario, they will do so knowing they are well-equipped to handle the situation. The Blues, meanwhile, are on the verge of winning their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Will the moment be too big for them, the way it was in Game 3 when they came home and played one of their worst games of the playoffs? It’s difficult to gauge how the Blues will react to all of this, but we do know that the enormity of the situation will not be an issue for the Bruins.
“That’s where your veteran guys really help you get settled,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “Relax, breathe. But once the puck drops, the players play. I know it’s a bigger stage, but I think they’re able to block it out and I think that’s why we’ve been able to get this far.”
Part of the issue for the Bruins is that with the exception of Rask, those core players are either playing injured (Chara) or have underperformed in this series (Bergeron, Marchand and Krejci). The leadership qualities are there, but the production has gone shockingly absent. That is going to have to change if the Bruins hope to force a Game 7 Wednesday night. Bergeron and Marchand make up two-thirds of the Bruins' top line and have been shockingly quiet 5-on-5 in this series. That line was stuck in the second round against the Columbus Blue Jackets before breaking out and Cassidy thinks it can do so again.
“I do with Brad,” Cassidy said. “He shot more (in Game 5). We asked him to attack a little more. What happens with Brad is if the puck’s not going in, then he wants to make plays for (linemate David Pastrnak) because ‘Pasta’ can score. They’re all 30-goal scorers and he defers a little bit. We try to get him out of that mindset and just play. If the pass is there, obviously make it, but don’t be afraid to shoot. There was some stuff going on for him and I though Pastrnak was closer to the net, so that encourages me. I do believe they were better and closer to scoring.”
And the power-play unit that was historically great and scored four times on four opportunities with four shots in Game 3 has suddenly gone dry, going 0-for-5 and not looking nearly as dangerous as it did earlier in the playoffs. The Bruins have made an adjustment, taking Jake DeBrusk off the first unit and replacing him with Marcus Johansson.
The Bruins haven’t done nearly as good a job of gaining the zone and gaining control of the play on the power play and many of their efforts have been one-and-done. “I think if you create off the original shot, that’s when you start spreading them out,” Cassidy said. “You have to recover from the original shot and create from there. Now you’ve got them moving around. Everyone practices from a box set-up and you have to get some people out of position and start making your plays.”
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