ST. LOUIS – When Don Larsen made history by pitching a perfect game in the 1956 World Series, it prompted Joe Trimble of the New York Daily News to write these immortal words: “The imperfect man pitched the perfect game yesterday.” Fifty-three years later in the Stanley Cup final, the 'Perfection Line' may not have played the perfect game in Game 3, but it was close enough and more importantly, it was light years ahead of their first two efforts.
If the Boston Bruins were going to win this series, it was imperative that their top line of Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak had to play better. Much better. Mission accomplished. Not only did they score three of the Bruins’ four power-play goals on an extra-man unit that went 4-for-4 on four shots, they found themselves on the right side of the puck, generated chances and were far more responsible in their puck management.
And the result was a 7-2 win in Game 3 for the Bruins. There had been a lot of speculation about the Bruins' top unit going into the game, including the notion that Bergeron was playing with an unspecified injury. “You saw him tonight,” Marchand said. “Did he look hurt to you?”
Nope. Nor did the Bruins by their performance in Game 2, which was decidedly uneven. Everything they failed to do in their Game 2 loss they did in their Game 3 victory. They shot more. They got the puck out of their own zone without succumbing to the St. Louis Blues’ vicious forecheck. Boston created far more room for themselves in the offensive zone, which allowed them to find seams for cross-ice passes and avoid the Blues sticks that those same plays seemed to go to die in Game 2. And for all the talk of the power play, it should be noted that St. Louis actually had five power-play opportunities to the Bruins’ four. And the Bruins set the tone by snuffing out a kneeing penalty to Jake DeBrusk at 1:04.
The Bruins really have been ridiculous on special teams. When you combine their power-play success (86.9 percent) with their ability to kill penalties (35.9 percent), you get a combined score of 122.8. Most teams shoot to be at 100 or better. Much of that is because of Torey Krug, who scored a goal and three assists in Game 3 and is beginning to sneak his way into the Conn Smythe conversation with 16 points in 20 games. If the Bruins win this thing, Tuukka Rask is going to win the Conn Smythe by a country mile, but you could definitely make the argument that Krug is a distant second at the moment.
“I think it was just a night where everything went our way,” Krug said. “We tried to be more decisive and assertive, getting pucks to the net after one or two passes. The fact that we knew that someone was going to shoot the puck after one or two passes allowed our guys to get to the net and in front of the goaltender’s eyes and recover the puck if there’s a rebound. Assertiveness and good decision making.”
Indeed. If the Bruins were to provide a blueprint for their games for the rest of this series, they would want them all to look like this one did. Actually, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy made a really good point after the game. And we should get used to that because he does it a lot. Much of the success in the game came from the way the Bruins played with the extra man, but the reality is they probably would have won if they had not received a single power play. And in many ways, the latter led to the former. “I thought (the Perfection Line) started well 5-on-5,” Cassidy said. “(Pastrnak) had a great look through the seam, they were controlling plays, recovering pucks, changing sides, making an east-west pass and putting it on net. And that’s their game. So it might have been the other way around. Maybe their 5-on-5 play early helped them get going on the power play.”
As for the Blues, for all the talk of how jacked up this market is for its first Stanley Cup final in 49 years and how the Enterprise Center would be such an intimidating place to play, they certainly do their fair share of sucking in this arena. The Blues were only a middling team at home during the regular season and are just 5-6 in St. Louis in these playoffs. And they took some very questionable penalties that ended up costing them dearly. Of course, as Marchand so rightly pointed out, thinking the Bruins would be intimidated by playing on the road is ridiculous. In the Stanley Cup final, every building is loud, every fan base is amped up.
“Vegas has more energy in warm-ups than any team in the entire league,” Marchand said. “It’s loud in every building in playoffs. When you get on the ice, they mean nothing. It means nothing.”
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