By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins’ best player was Marcus Johasson. In Game 2, their best player was probably Joakim Nordstrom.READ MORE: Rally Calls For Asian Studies To Be Added To School Curriculum In Massachusetts
That’s … that’s nice and all, but if the Bruins want to win the Stanley Cup, that trend cannot continue. As was the case after losing Game 2 of the second round at home against Columbus, it’s time for the Bruins best players to once again be their best players.
Through nearly 124 full minutes of hockey in this series, all played on home ice where Bruce Cassidy can employ them in favorable matchups, the trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak has produced zero real goals. (Marchand scored the empty-netter in Game 1.) Together, the three forwards have 18 shots on goal, but nothing to show for it. Conversely, the Bruins have been outshot by a healthy margin when those three have been on the ice in 5-on-5 play. Marchand’s the only one of the three with a Corsi For Percentage above 50 (at 51.52), with Pastrnak at 45.45 percent and Bergeron at a wildly uncharacteristic 45.16 percentage. (Bergeron was at 56.77 percent during the regular season, with Pastrnak at 55.10 and Marchand at 54.76)
Through two games of the biggest series of the year, The Best Line In Hockey™ has been anything but.
“Yeah, we need to be better,” Marchand admitted in the losing locker room Wednesday night. “Personally, I wasn’t good the last two games so we can’t be playing like that.”
The Blues deserve credit, of course, because these things don’t happen on their own. But for the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak trio to live up to their billing, they’re going to have to figure out a way to turn things around. And quickly.
“I wouldn’t say we’re not finding anything. We’ve had some opportunities,” Marchand bristled. “So, you know, it’s, maybe a little cleaner on some details and we’ll be back to normal.”
Again, it’s not uncharted territory. After scoring 106 goals during the regular season (41.2 percent of Boston’s production) despite significant missed time for both Bergeron and Pastrnak, the trio went silent early in that second round series to the Blue Jackets. Pastrnak had the lone goal, on a fortunate bounce off his skate while standing in the crease. Marchand was a minus-2, Bergeron was a minus-1, and the Bruins trailed in the series 2-1, facing a tough test on the road for Game 4. But they managed to figure out John Tortorella and the Blue Jackets, with Marchand scoring a goal with three assists, Pastrnak scoring three goals with one assist, and Bergeron scoring a pair of goals with one assist over those final three games of the series.
It was no coincidence that the Bruins won all three of those games. In fact, the Bruins are 7-0 this postseason when Marchand scores a goal. They’re 5-1 when Bergeron scores, and 4-1 when Pastrnak scores.
When the Bruins’ best players perform to their capability, the Bruins win hockey games. It’s probably time for the Bergeron line to get back to being the Bergeron line. Time is sort of running out.
With that, leftover thoughts from the Blues’ 3-2 overtime win in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Let’s boogie.
–You could live with the lack of offense from that top line, somewhat, if they were at least preventing opportunities in their own end. But on Vladimir Tarasenko’s game-tying goal in the first period? Yeeeeesh. There’s nothing else to say.
Marchand had the right point covered in place of Charlie McAvoy, who ended up behind the St. Louis net. Marchand was in position to temporarily serve as Zdeno Chara’s defensive partner. Chara was back and in position to man-up on Tarasenko, who was carrying the puck up the right wing. Yet instead of covering his own lane on the other side of the ice, Marchand made a beeline for Tarasenko, who saw Marchand coming and casually flicked a backhand feed to a now-uncovered Jaden Schwartz.
Chara was left to get in the way of what was now a 2-on-1, which forced Schwartz to shoot. Tuukka Rask made the save. No harm, no foul. But Tarasenko was able to corral the rebound and fire another shot on net. Rask was in position to make another save, but he didn’t need to. Chara blocked the shot. Crisis averted.
Except, well, Marchand was nowhere to be found when it came to preventing a third Blues chance. Tarasenko finally flipped a backhand over the downed Rask to end what was a scrambling sequence for the home team.
It wasn’t the best visual for Marchand to be doing his best “controller disconnected” impression while his team held a 2-1 lead in a Stanley Cup Final game.
–Despite all of that, Marchand was the subject of some sweet sports photography.
This one won’t be hung up in any Boston bars, but because it was the first Stanley Cup Final victory in Blues franchise history, I’d say this one’s a pretty sweet shot too:
–The beginning of this story was in no way a shot at Nordstrom, because he really did have himself a great night. Well, it could have been a great night, but when such performances come in a loss, they tend to lose some shine.
In Nordstrom’s case, he showed some goal-scorer’s patience while kicking a puck to his skate blade, waiting out Jordan Binnington, and slipping one five-hole.
That’s two goals this series where a Bruins “fourth-liner” has nonchalantly kicked a puck to the skate blade to score. This one came just 40 seconds after St. Louis had tied the game, so it seemed like it’d be a fairly large one.
Nordstrom also laid a thunderous hit on Sammy Blais in the second period, which set the stage for his best Gregory Campbell impression a few minutes later. That display came with Connor Clifton in the box for four minutes on a high-sticking double minor. In a 2-2 game late in the second, a power-play goal could have been a dagger.
So, as penalty killers tend to do, Nordstrom put himself in harm’s way by blocking a slap shot from Colton Parayko. The shot hit the inside of Nordstrom’s left foot, and he was clearly in agony, unable to move for several seconds from his standstill position in the slot, even dropping to one knee at one point and diving to try to block another shot. And 15 seconds after the initial block, Nordstrom got that chance. Parayko teed up another one. Nordstrom stood right in front of it.
At this point, adrenaline must have been pumping, because Nordstrom began moving his legs some more. He burst toward the left point to block one more shot to help stifle a St. Louis scoring threat. (Nordstrom used his stick for that one. It likely hurt less.)
Contributions like this from fourth liners are what can help lead to big wins at this time of year. Provided, again, that the top players contribute as well.
–I don’t think Oskar Sundqvist’s hit that sent Matt Grzelcyk to the hospital was dirty. It was illegal, which is why a two-minute penalty was assessed. One could argue that it’s Sundqvist’s responsibility to be more aware and cautious of the opponent’s head, especially when that opponent’s numbers are in clear view to Sundqvist as he approaches the boards.
But the fact that Grzelcyk was basically sprawled out across the boards makes it really hard to deem Sundqvist’s head contact to be intentional. He intended to go in and hit a player in a vulnerable position, yes, but the driving through of the head was not something he could have set out to do and accomplish in that split-second.
Maybe more simply, I don’t think Sundqvist could have intentionally hit Grzelcyk’s head, because I don’t think Sundqvist could have known where Grzelcyk’s head was going to be. It looked like Sundqvist was really trying to inflict pain. I just don’t know that he’d be able to hit the bull’s-eye on a moving target like that, if that was indeed his intention.
Bad result, bad hit, but not a case of dirty head-hunting. He’ll have his hearing, but I’d be surprised to see supplemental discipline.READ MORE: Dorchester Grandmother Killed By Stray Bullet While Sitting On Porch Identified As Delois Brown
–It’s also important to note that a hit like Sundqvist’s doesn’t happen in a vacuum. That first period was a rowdy affair, as referees Chris Rooney and Gord Dwyer let a ton of minor penalties — hooking, holding, roughing — go uncalled. They were, as the folks say, lettin’ the boys play. It made for a spectacularly entertaining product, right up until a line was crossed and a player was injured.
–Torey Krug should just wear a football helmet for Game 3.
Maybe like an astronaut’s helmet or something? Anything that will stay on his head, you know. It’s getting dangerous.
–I never like to make predictions on hockey games and series, because I’ve seen enough hockey to know that it’s an unpredictable beast. I, like everyone else, have seen a team largely dominate an opponent in just about every single way except on the scoreboard. Hockey is not always fair or considerate in that way.
It was striking, then, to see the Blues leave absolutely nothing to chance in that overtime. After each team got a chance late in the third — Carl Gunnarsson off the post for the Blues, David Pastrnak off a faceoff for the Bruins — the Blues showed in that overtime that they were’t interested in trading chances.
It was as thorough a dominance as you’ll ever see in a Stanley Cup Final game, and though no Bruins fans enjoyed bearing witness, it was somewhat of an awe-inspiring sight to behold.
–In the ultimate “STATS!” note, Jordan Binnington won Game 2 and made 21 saves doing it. Tuukka Rask won Game 1, making 18 saves along the way.
The losing goaltender in each game this series has made 34 saves.
–Speaking of stats:
Tuukka Rask, 2019 Postseason
13-6 record, .939 save percentage, 1.91 GAA
Tim Thomas, 2011 Postseason, Through Game 2 Of Cup Final
12-8 record, .930 save percentage, 2.27 GAA
Stats are stats (STATS!), but I shared those to say this: Over the final five games of the 2011 playoffs, Thomas went 4-1 with a .978 save percentage (WHAT?!), a 0.81 GAA (WHAT?!) and two shutouts. He allowed four goals over nearly 300 minutes on the ice. As a result, the Bruins won the Cup, and Thomas’ performance went down as legendary.
Rask has been otherworldly this postseason — both in terms of STATS! and in terms of real life — but there’s a lot of work to be done if he wants this postseason to be remembered the right way.
–These are the kind of saves that Rask is making this postseason:
They’re saves where normally, even when he’s in position, pucks can squeak by. It’s been remarkable to see him elevate his play to really play a little but bigger than usual, leading to a ton of saves this postseason where he just gets a body part on rubber to keep the puck out of the net.
–Show the doctor where it hurts:
–I don’t think the Blues were necessarily deciding, “Now is the time we will run right over Rask’s face.” But I also don’t think the Blues were all that worried about potentially taking a penalty for running right over Rask’s face.
One goaltender interference penalty could happen to anyone. But when it happens twice in two periods, against the world’s hottest goaltender … it raises an antenna or two.
Rask wasn’t bothered by it postgame, because both plays resulted in penalties. But Rask was concussed earlier this season in a collision, and all it would take is one more flying hip check to the head to really change the dynamics of this whole postseason.
And because it’s the Cup Final, it’s not as if the Bruins can really retaliate. But if any game gets out of hand, with either team grabbing a three-goal lead late, I do believe we’re guaranteed at this point to see things get a bit out of hand. These teams have quickly learned to dislike each other.
–Cliffy Hockey was the story of Game 1. In Game 2, the rookie was served some humble pie. He had a bad turnover early in Game 2 behind the Boston net, leading to a St. Louis scoring chance. And though the first penalty called on him was suspect (he was penalized for essentially existing in space), the second penalty was a no-doubt-about-it four-minute minor in a 2-2 game late in the second period.
He did deliver five hits and block three shots, and the minus he took for being on the ice when a shot deflected off Grzelcyk’s knee and past Rask wasn’t indicative of bad coverage. But it’s nevertheless fascinating to watch a young player being forced to learn and adapt on the fly to Stanley Cup Final-level hockey. Given what he’s done so far, I expect him to bring back some Cliffy Hockey on Saturday night.
–Speaking of Stanley Cup Final-level hockey:
–Charlie Coyle is from Weymouth. Not sure if that’s been mentioned or not? But yeah. Weymouth.
OK. All right. Game 3 is Saturday.MORE NEWS: Water Conservation Urged In Massachusetts Amid Dry Spell