Heading into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night, a lot was made of the fact that the St. Louis Blues didn’t have as much Stanley Cup experience on their roster as the Boston Bruins did. Whether or not that played a factor in Game 1 is debatable, but the Blues will have to draw from their Game 1 experience if they’re going to get back into the series tonight (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN).
As for the Bruins, everyone is giving them credit from battling back from a 2-0 deficit, but they have to make sure they start Game 2 on time if they want to take a stranglehold of this series. The Blues are a good team and they’ve battled back after dropping the opening game of a series before. Boston has to be ready for that.
Here are the keys to victory ahead of Game 2:
• Stay out of the box:
This one is meant for the St. Louis, but it also applies to Boston for the same reasons. The Bruins had the number one power play in the playoffs coming into this series and they managed to get a goal on the man-advantage from Charlie McAvoy in Game 1.
Penalties are going to happen over the course of a game and a series, but the silly infractions in the offensive zone need to stop immediately for the Blues. They can’t give the Bruins another five opportunities on the power play in Game 2. Boston’s power play is too good and even when they don’t score, they find a way to draw momentum from their special teams.
“It takes a lot of guys out of the game and that burns up a lot of energy from other guys that are killing all the time… It’s too much,” head coach Craig Berube said after Game 1. “We’ve got to be better there. We’ve got to be more disciplined.”
This is the single most important adjustment the Blues need to make heading into tonight’s contest. They can’t win if they take five penalties, again.
• Need for speed:
Vladimir Tarasenko used his speed to beat out an icing call on Brayden Schenn‘s goal in the first period, but thee Blues really seemed to stop moving their legs over the final two periods of Game 1. As much as the Bruins are known for playing a tough brand of hockey, they also have guys that can push the pace when they have to.
Some of the smaller, speedier defensemen on the Bruins roster caused a lot of problems for the Blues throughout the game. It took a while for Boston to get going, which wasn’t too surprising after their 10-day layoff, but once they started skating they were nearly impossible to slow down.
There’s no denying that this series will be physical (just ask Robert Thomas), but the speed factor can’t be lost on either team. Physicality can only take you so far at this point. Generating chances off the rush and getting to loose pucks first will be a major key in Game 2.
• Get depth contributions:
As we mentioned prior to Game 1, you can’t win a Stanley Cup without getting contributions from everyone on your roster. The Bruins have gotten goals from 19 different skaters this postseason, which is a big reason why they’re here. On Monday night, fourth-liner Sean Kuraly picked up two points including the game-winning goal, and Connor Clifton also found the back of the net.
The Blues got goals from top-liners Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko, but they weren’t able to generate much else the rest of the way. It’s a good sign that two of the top forwards on the team contributed in the opening game of the series, but they won’t be able to do it on their own.
Offensive contributions aside, Berube just needs his depth players to be better. The third pairing of Robert Bortuzzo and Carl Gunnarsson are a prime example of this, as they were fighting it in Game 1. That can’t be the case on Wednesday night.
If Boston keeps getting offense from their bottom-six forward group, there’s a good chance they’ll be hoisting the Stanley Cup at some point in the next two weeks.