ST. LOUIS — The Bruins reasserted themselves as the alpha males in the Stanley Cup Final.
But first, they had to withstand an early push from a St. Louis Blues squad playing its first Cup Final game in front of its fanbase in 49 years. Feeding off the energy from a rowdy Enterprise Center crowd, the Blues peppered Tuukka Rask with the game’s first six shots — four coming on their early first-period power play.
It all came together once the Bruins got their legs going en route to three first-period goals. Their top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak bounced back with a dominating performance. The power play displayed surgical precision every time it had the chance. Rask stood tall when needed. And the Bruins, both physically and mentally, overwhelmed the Blues in a 7-2 victory.
“Every building is loud and full this time of year. We lived it in Toronto, we lived it in Columbus, and we lived it in Carolina,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said about earning a victory in front of another hostile environment.
“Early on, I thought we were ready to play. I thought we would be, because the guys have been here and done it, and they tend to respond well after a loss. Did I think that we score three goals in the first period? No, but being in the game, and being in a competitive first period, [pucks] happened to go in for us.”
Here’s what we learned after one of the more dominating efforts of Boston’s postseason run.
The ‘perfection line’ returned with a vengeance
You can’t keep Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak down for long.
The potent trio came into St. Louis with a mere two points on a goal and an assist. Their lone tally came on Marchand’s empty-netter to seal Boston’s come-from-behind win in Game 1.
They couldn’t get anything going together defensively either in their top line matchup against Jayden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko, giving up three goals against St. Louis’ No. 1 trio.
The script changed in Game 3. Bergeron led the way with a goal and two assists. Pastrnak netted his eighth of the postseason just 41 seconds into the second period. Marchand assisted on Torey Krug’s power play tally just 1:07 after Ivan Barbashev put the Blues on the board.
Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak took their series-opening struggles to heart. Cassidy felt the trio were due for a breakthrough in Game 3. His words came to fruition Saturday night. But one member of the ‘perfection line’ never succumbed to any pressure.
“I would say [on a scale] from one to ten, two,” Pastrnak said to a round of laughs when responding to a question on how much pressure he put on himself.
Pressure is a part of sports. But it isn’t in the DNA of Pastrnak.
A perfect night for the Bruins’ power play
Not much of a chance for Binnington on this one. Krug has had a strong postseason. 13 points in 20 games. He has 41 points in 58 career playoff games. Huge DMan Numbers. pic.twitter.com/RAJPLQsp91— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) June 2, 2019
The ‘perfection’ line set the tone for a historic night for the Bruins’ power play.
The man advantage units netted a goal in Game 1 and Game 2 but didn’t really do enough with their chances after going 1-for-5 on both nights. That changed Saturday as the series shifted venues.
The things that didn’t work during the first two games — aggressive puck pursuit, clean zone entries, and clean looks at shooting lanes — worked in Game 3 en route to a flawless 4-for-4 night.
A perfect 4-for-4 on four shots no less, and on four different setups.
The first tally came on a set play following Bergeron’s faceoff win. Jake DeBrusk corralled the puck and fed it to Krug at the point as Bergeron set himself up in the slot for the tip in. A backhander from Pastrnak, a point shot from Krug and a rip from Marcus Johansson from the right faceoff dot capped off the power play’s perfect evening.
“I think it was a night where, just, you know, everything went our way,” Krug said after becoming the first Bruin to tally four points in a Stanley Cup Final tilt.
“We tried to be more decisive and assertive — getting pucks to the net off of one or two passes. And the fact that we knew that someone was going to shoot the puck after one or two passes, it allowed our guys to get to the front of the net, in front of the goaltender’s eyes and recover a puck if there’s a rebound to be had. So assertiveness, and good decision making, and our skill allowed us to come through.”
Boston’s top-ranked power play, sitting at an otherworldly 35.8 percent success rate, helped Boston get to this point. Only the 1980-81 New York Islanders had a more efficient power play percentage (37.8) in playoff history. Krug and company are well within the range of history — in more ways than one.
The Bruins stayed composed as things got chippy
David Perron vs….Tuukka Rask? pic.twitter.com/bJVZ4o432a— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) June 2, 2019
A lopsided Game 3 put the Blues in a tough spot. They clearly didn’t have the same sharpness that helped them even the series in Game 2.
Goalie Jordan Binnington’s shaky night paved the way for Jake Allen’s first appearance of the postseason. Heck, Rask might have notched a shutout had pucks not gone off the skates of Bruins defensemen — leading to Barbashev and Colton Parayko’s tallies.
Trying to make up for its struggling offense, St. Louis appeared poised to muck things up with Boston. In the heat of battle — from Pat Maroon’s exchange with Zdeno Chara to David Perron trying to rattle Rask on more than one occasion — the Bruins stayed composed.
“Especially in this game, when they’re down a couple of goals, they’re going to come to you after the whistle,” defenseman Brandon Carlo said. “We had to, you know, stay composed in that regard and not buy in to that pushing and shoving after the whistle. Ultimately it doesn’t help anybody on our team, so when you’re in that position with the lead, you just want to stay composed and let them play after the whistles.”
The chippy play between two physical teams made for intriguing developments. Players from both teams are trying to get under one another’s skin for hockey’s ultimate prize.
A handful of Bruins — Bergeron, Chara, Marchand, Rask, and David Krejci — appeared in a pair of Stanley Cup Finals. The Blues roster just completed its third game of the last round.
It’s times like this, where things can go from routine to a downright Donnybrook, that separate the Bruins from the Blues. It’s also why they’re halfway to ending Boston’s 100-plus day championship drought.