After what felt like an eternity, the Stanley Cup Finals finally got underway on Monday and for the first 22 minutes, it looked as though the Blues were going to capitalize on the Boston Bruins long layoff. Then, the wheels fell off. Four unanswered goals from the Bruins changed what would have been a 1-0 series lead to a 1-0 deficit and whole bunch of questions moving forward for the Blues.
Here are three keys for the Blues entering game two in Boston.
— Full Press NHL (@FPC_NHL) May 28, 2019
Stay out of the box
This seems painfully obvious but it is the most important one. Both the Bruins and the Blues came into the Finals as the two least penalized teams in the playoffs. And no, it wasn’t because of some conspiracy, these two teams play a very disciplined game. However, that was not the case for the Blues on Monday as they were short-handed five times including four straight from the middle of the first through the second. Most notably, the two penalties assessed to Joel Edmundson and Oskar Sundqvist in the second period were the result of undisciplined play and helped the Bruins find their game as they battled back from a 2-0 deficit with two in the period. One of which came on the power play.
Clog the neutral zone
When playing the Boston Bruins, it is imperative to not allow them to gain clean entries into the offensive zone. They did a decent job of that in the first period, however, it may have been more about the Bruins sloppy play that allowed that to happen. Once the Bruins found their game, the Blues didn’t have an answer to the Bruins forecheck. Unlike most teams in the current NHL, the Blues have several big defensemen like Jay Bouwmeester who can play that style and they will need to do that in game two in order to stymie the Bruins offense. As a result, the Blues can get their forecheck rolling and try to create more chances in front of Tuukka Rask. Something they failed to do in game one as they struggled in their own zone.
“Obviously, they’re a good forecheck team,” Blues coach Craig Berube said via NHL.com. “They pressure, they’ve got good speed, they’re a well-structured hockey team. But our puck support wasn’t very good in the second and third period and puck play in general. Just too many turnovers.”
Despite the Bruins playing sloppy to start the game, the Blues never really had any sustained pressure. Especially after the first period. In fact, it was the Bruins miscues that led to the Blues offense and to their credit, they took advantage of it early on. Over the course of the last two periods, the Bruins outshot the Blues 30-12 and at one point the Blues were credited with just three shots in nearly 30 minutes of gameplay. Now, a lot of that has to do with being in the penalty box five times as it didn’t allow them to roll four lines like they are accustomed to. In addition, the Bruins did a far better job at winning puck battles and were more consistent in their forecheck as mentioned above. This led to several turnovers from the Blues in their own offensive zone which is a recipe for disaster.