What experts are saying as the Stanley Cup Final shifts to St. Louis

What experts are saying as the Stanley Cup Final shifts to St. Louis

The Blues defeated the Bruins in overtime in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday when defenseman Carl Gunnarsson scored his first-ever postseason goal to break a 2-2 tie.

It was the first Stanley Cup Final game to go to overtime since Game 3 between the Penguins and Sharks in 2016. The Sharks won that game 3-2, but the Penguins ultimately won the series in six games.

As the Bruins-Blues series shifts to St. Louis for Games 3 and 4, here is how NHL experts are handicapping the series now.

Matt Porter, The Boston Globe: “It’s clear through two games that the Bruins and Blues will run over each other to win a Stanley Cup.”

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Torey Krug laid a monster hit on Blues rookie Robert Thomas in Game 1. Thomas did not play in Game 2 – though Blues coach Craig Berube said Thomas’s absence has “nothing to do” with the hit.

Porter points out that the Blues enacted some revenge, whether intentionally or not, when Oskar Sundqvist boarded Matt Grzelcyk in Game 2, forcing Grzelcyk out of the game. Grzelcyk is in concussion protocol and is listed as day-to-day, while the NHL suspended Sundqvist for Game 3.

“So what now?” Porter asks. “Will officials continue to let the teams extract a pound of flesh? Or is this eye-for-an-eye business done now that two players are injured? Both the Bruins and Blues got here by playing hard and physical. The bet here: It’ll get uglier.”

Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside, The Athletic: “The entire Bruins’ top line has been quiet through two games at five-on-five.”

Both Burnside and LeBrun agree that the Bruins need more out of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak as the series shifts to St. Louis. According to Natural Stat Trick, the trio was uncharacteristically out-shot at five-on-five (four shot attempts for vs. 11 shot attempts against) and Bruce Cassidy even moved Pastrnak to play with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci at times.

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Brad Marchand was visually frustrated Wednesday night and told reporters he was not satisfied with his own performance thus far in the series.

Burnside notes Bergeron’s rare poor night at the faceoff circle in Game 2. No. 37 is typically one of the best in the league at winning faceoffs, but he won five of 13 Wednesday – the fifth postseason game this year his faceoff percentage was below 50 percent.

“It’s not so much that Bergeron has played poorly, but the bar is set so high for the four-time Frank J. Selke Trophy winner and future Hall of Famer that, when he’s merely mortal, it stands out,” Burnside writes.

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Jim Thomas, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “One of the hallmarks of this Blues team is superior roster depth; it has helped get them this far. But playing a game without Sundqvist, and possibly Robert Thomas and Vince Dunn as well, will test that depth.”

The Bruins aren’t the only team with a “next man up” attitude. For the Blues, it appears Zach Sanford, who has not appeared since Game 3 of St. Louis’ first-round series, would be that next man with Sundqvist suspended for Game 3.

Thomas points out the Blues will miss Sundqvist on the penalty kill and his depth scoring (four goals, five assists in the playoffs). But after Thomas went down, Robby Fabbri stepped in and skated for 10 minutes.

“So we’ve had injuries all year,” Pietrangelo told the Post-Dispatch. “We’ve had guys go down and other guys have stepped up. You want to have depth for this exact reason… It’s not easy to jump in at this level and play the way [Fabbri] did.”

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Tim Campbell, NHL.com: “Harnessing the energy and enthusiasm that’s expected Saturday will be important, but Blues coach Craig Berube added a note of caution for what’s to come.”

St. Louis has not hosted a Stanley Cup Final game since 1970, both teams expect Enterprise Arena to be loud come Saturday evening. This is not unprecedented territory for the Bruins – when they played the Blue Jackets in round two, it was that franchise’s first time advancing out of the first round – but Berube’s concern came more for his own players.

The Blues took five minor penalties in each of the first two games of the series. Berube said the team needs to “be pretty even-keeled out there” in Game 3.

“I’m excited, for sure,” Berube said about playing at home. “Our whole team is, definitely. The fans have been great here. It’s been a good run here so far and we’ve had great support from our fans and the crowd’s been awesome during the games. It’ll be a good atmosphere, so we’ve got to be ready.”

Barry Melrose, ESPN: The Blues’ physical play “will take its toll” as the series goes on.

St. Louis players threw 19 more hits in Game 2 than the Bruins did, with Brayden Schenn (eight) and Jay Bouwmeester (five) leading the way for the Blues. As Melrose notes, hard hits have been a theme for the Bruins’ opponent all postseason.

“Like we saw with San Jose, [the Blues were] dropping guys left and right,” Melrose says. “Two guys didn’t make the last trip. Both these are big teams – Bouwmeester, a big 6-foot-4 defensemen, you’ve got Pieterangelo, a big 6-foot-3 defenseman, Edmunson’s a big 6-foot-4 defenseman. Everybody’s big and tonight everybody knew what their role was, and that was to be a wrecking ball.”

Game 3 is Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, MO.

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Published at Fri, 31 May 2019 19:42:10 +0000