This is starting to sound like a broken record.
Scratch that. It is a broken record.
The lyrics go something like this: “The St. Louis Blues need to stop letting the Boston Bruins have their way with them on the power play. They need to stop taking bad penalties to prevent the former. They need to stop shooting themselves in the foot, killing momentum gained by handing the Bruins the keys to turning the game around.”
These aren’t seminal lyrics in music history by any means. It’s certainly no Gloria, either. But it’s the sad song the Blues will be singing all summer long if they can’t stop Boston’s madness.
Craig Berube must feel like he’s talking to a wall, assuming he’s spoken to his team about this crucial issue in the Stanley Cup Final. That is, of course, if he hasn’t obliterated the wall with his head already.
“We know they have a dangerous power play and we’ve been flirting with danger all series,” he said following the game.
It happened in Game 1. In Game 2, they allowed five power plays and one goal, but it was downplayed by the fact they won the game and stopped Boston from scoring anymore. And then it steamrolled into Game 3, as the Bluenotes had none of their Game 2, penalty-killing magic left to spare.
[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
You won’t be surprised, then, that the outcome was identical on Saturday night at Enterprise Center. The Blues giveth and the Bruins tooketh — handily — snatching a 2-1 series lead after the Bruins went 4-for-4, on four shots, in a 7-2 win.
“They got the power-play goal that gave them momentum, for sure,” Berube said. “We had trouble breaking the puck out of our own end for a little bit that caused some issues.”
It’s not just that the goals are coming, either. That’s a massive issue, but the ferocity of Boston’s power play was on full display. Boston’s four power-play markers came 21, 51, 31 and 23 seconds into their respective power plays. The quickness of the strikes is stunning.
Berube lamented a couple of the goals that were deflected, most notable Patrice Bergeron‘s goal that gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
“We’ve got to be better. The penalty kill has got to be better,” Berube said. “We do have to limit the penalties. We know they have a dangerous power play. We’ve been flirting with danger the whole series and it burnt us. But in saying that, we’ve got to do a better job killing them tonight. We didn’t it. That’s why they won the hockey game.”
The Bruins have now equaled a franchise record for consecutive games (7) with at least one power-play goal (done on three other occasions, most recently in 1991) and their 23 goals thus far in the playoffs is one off their franchise mark in a single playoff run (1991). They’re 6-for-14 in the series (43 percent), after coming into the series operating at 34 percent.
“They were shooting the puck from the top a lot more,” Ryan O'Reilly said of Boston’s adjustment after Game 2. “I think we might read it a bit better and collapse and just be ready for that. I think they a couple times caught off guard with that shot and broke us down from there.”
It’s not just the Blues who have fallen victim to Boston’s nasty power play, but they’re letting the Stanley Cup slip out of their hands at the moment with their lack of answers.
Having a bad penalty kill is debilitating enough, but pairing that with a terrible power play of their own is damn close to flatlining.
The Blues went 1-for-5 in Game 3, which was an improvement on their 0-for-3 Game 2 and 0-for-2 Game 1.
Recent history might suggest the Blues start slow with the man-advantage and find their way as a series ages. They were 0-for-6 in the first two games of the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks but finished the final four games with five goals on 15 attempts. That said, the Blues were 2-for-22 in their series against the Stars, so a longer look just reinforces a bad trend.
You can dig for silver linings on your own time.
The fact remains the Blues need to be better at both ends of the rink, up a man or down one (or get lucky like they did in Game 2). And it’s not like that Game 2 well was overflowing to begin with.
Game 4 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final airs on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Monday (stream here).
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck