The way that the Boston Bruins trampled over the St. Louis Blues in the second and third periods of Game 1 had some folks wondering.
Wondering, perhaps, if the Blues had finally met their match. Wondering if, maybe, their Cinderella run wasn’t going to have the happiest of endings.
This is Boston they’re facing, and this is the Stanley Cup Final where the stakes are the highest.
The Blues knew Game 1’s suboptimal performance wasn’t going to cut it. The players said it, the coach said it, the pundits said it. Everyone knew if that was all the Blues could muster, it’d likely be curtains on a fairytale season.
But St. Louis had their own trick up their sleeve. Again.
You see, the Blues entered Game 2 sporting a record of 5-2 on the heels of a loss in this postseason. Losing has seemingly elicited something extra from the Blues in these playoffs. They’re quick to make the right adjustments. They tinker with their setup to find that extra oomph.
In a different industry, the Blues might just be the best mechanics around.
The Blues added another tick to the win column after a loss — now 6-2 — after a 3-2 win to level the best-of-seven series 1-1 as it shifts back to St. Louis on Saturday.
“I just think we find ways just to challenge ourselves,” forward Patrick Maroon said. “It’s all mental. It’s all in the ears, it’s between the ears. You’ve just got to find ways to just grind through and stick with it, and when you do that, you’re going to get results and you find ways.”
The Blues trailed by a margin of a 1-0 and 2-1 in the first period, the fourth time they’ve been able to come back in a playoff game this season (Games 1, 2, and 5 vs. Winnipeg).
Leading the charge in these comebacks has been Jordan Binnington, the rookie goaltender that’s set the bar of what green goalies can accomplish in the NHL.
Binnington fought off 21 of the 23 shots he faced to improve to 6-2 following a loss in these playoffs, including a .935 save percentage. The ‘Iceman’ is now 12-2 in the regular season and playoffs combined following a defeat.
“Life of a goaltender,” Binnington said. “Just keep moving forward and regroup, just try to be there and give your team a chance to win. I keep that mindset.
Per NHL Public Relations, only five goaltenders in NHL history have posted more wins after defeat within a single postseason: Nikolai Khabibulin in 2004 (8-0), Ron Hextall in 1987 (8-2), Miikka Kiprusoff in 2004 (8-3), Marc-Andre Fleury in 2009 (7-2) and Henrik Lundqvist in 2014 (7-4).
“They’ve always responded to not a very good game,” said head coach Craig Berube. “Going into Game 2, I knew we’d be a hard team to play against tonight, and we were.”
Blues frustrated Boston’s power play
The Blues gave the Bruins another five looks on the power play throughout the course of the game, but limited the number of shots they got to just four, down six from the 10 they allowed in Game 1 over the same number of power-play opportunities.
It’s not ideal to give the best power play in the playoffs the time the Blues are offering them, but it’s manageable if they can hold the fort like they did on Wednesday.
Berube said his team won more faceoffs and were able to clear the puck on more occasions.
“Really do a good job with our gaps on their entries from their breakouts,” he said. “I thought we were really good there. We were tight. We forced them to turn pucks over in that area and got it down the ice. That was really important.”
Blues-Bruins Game 3 is Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET from Enterprise Center on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app.