ST. LOUIS — Temptations can bring out the worst in teams.
Through three games, the Boston Bruins resisted the temptations thrown at them from the St. Louis Blues.
David Perron and Pat Maroon attempted to goad the Bruins into retaliatory penalties in Game 3. Maroon succeeded when he skated to the box with Zdeno Chara following a faceoff altercation. Perron, not so much, especially during his altercation with a calm Tuukka Rask between the pipes.
The Bruins, for the most part, didn’t take the bait. And that composed physicality through three games separates the Bruins — with five players still leftover from their 2011 Stanley Cup triumph and subsequent run to the Cup Final two years later — from the Blues just three games into the series.
“I think it’s been excellent,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said about his composed squad through the first three games. “I think Tuukka leads the way — Perron kind of bumped into him a few times — and he’s focused on stopping the puck and not worrying about some of that sideshow stuff.
“We might have pushed back at times. It’s human nature in the playoffs. Zee [Chara] got taken off the ice by Maroon in an exchange down low and we’re going on the [penalty] kill [before the altercation] so whether that was by design or not to keep our best penalty killer away, I don’t know. But at the end of the day, Zee wants to stand up for himself.”
Tuukka Rask is NOT a fan of David Perron. pic.twitter.com/nwXOfiLi55— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) June 2, 2019
There’s a time and place for a player to defend himself or a teammate following a hit or altercation. Chara and Rask did just that in Game 3. Cassidy won’t give any of his players a short leash for an appropriate retaliation.
The Bruins didn’t need to retaliate though. Not when they have a historically potent power play that went a perfect 4-for-4 on four shots Saturday night.
The context here provides another example of situational awareness. Besides Perron, every member of the Blues roster is playing in their first Stanley Cup Final. Their coach, Craig Berube, has previous Cup Final experience during his playing days with the Washington Capitals.
Berube sounded off on the officiating during Sunday’s media availability at Enterprise Center. The Blues, chasing the score all night in Game 3, took 17 penalties in the first three games — giving that Bruins power play 14 attempts with the man advantage — including seven on Saturday night.
A far cry from a St. Louis squad that came into the Stanley Cup Final as the least penalized team. But they never faced a deep squad like the Bruins during their first three rounds. Now they’re rattled and desperate heading into Game 4.
“They’re a physical team, and, like you said, they’re probably going to take some liberties,” Jake DeBrusk said following Boston’s optional skate. “[We’re] just trying to stay even-keeled and composed and [we] understand that there’s going to be times where you’re frustrated as well…but at the end of the day, it’s just a matter about wins right now. And these hits or plays that guys have been taking, I think they understand that there’s a bigger picture and to move on to the next play.”
DeBrusk and company understand that the next play is the most important. That singular focus separated them from the Blues in Game 3.
St. Louis, like Boston, showed resiliency all postseason long. The Blues know they need to stay composed in a pivotal Game 4. Otherwise, they’ll head back to Boston down three games to one giving their former teammate David Backes and the rest of the Bruins a chance of clinching the series come Game 5 Thursday night at TD Garden.
“This team is not laying down,” Backes said. “They’re resilient and they’re going to push back. When their backs are against the wall, they seem to play their best. They’ve shown that time and time again, and that’s our outlet moving forward for Game 4. They’re down 2-1 in the series, they’re at home and they’re going to come out with the best game of the series. And we have to match that [desperation] as well.”