ST. LOUIS — It was no surprise that the Boston Bruins’ depth continued to step up in the opening two games of the Stanley Cup Final. It was, however, surprising to see their top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak struggle for a combined two points after 18 shots.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was firm in his belief that his No. 1 line would deliver in Game 3, and they did, with help from a perfect power play that went four-for-four during their 7-2 win over the St. Louis Blues. Bergeron scored the game’s opening goal and assisted on Pastrnak’s power play marker 41 seconds into the second period. Marchand would get the primary assist Torey Krug’s goal that made it 5-1.
“I think we were taking what’s there,” said Bergeron afterward. “I think maybe earlier we were forcing plays a little too much and tonight we put the puck on net, and when you do that good things happen.”
Cassidy wanted his power play units to shoot more after a combined 14 shots on 10 opportunities. Well, in Game 3 they didn’t really need to fire many pucks on Jordan Binnington and Jake Allen in those situations. The Bruins only needed four shots for their four extra man goals.
The veteran savvy and experience that makes up the roster, especially the top line, ensured that their struggle to get going wouldn’t hamper the process.
“The big thing is just we’ve been through so much together this year that we just rely on one another in uncomfortable situations,” said Marchand. “We rely on uncomfortable situations within our group and our leadership group. When we get through it, we get through it together.”
Bergeron’s goal opened that scoring at 10:47 of the first period was the result of a set play the Bruins have used during the season. Cassidy spoke on Friday about wanting to make an adjustment to the power play set up after seeing how tight the Blues were playing Bergeron in the bumper spot. Instead of trying to get him a pass in the slot from the half wall, Bergeron went to the net and deflected Torey Krug’s shot right off the face off.
“The PK, we have to be sharper,” said Blues forward Ryan O’Reilly. “I have to be better in the circle taking those face-offs to not give them any easier opportunities. It wasn’t good. We know we have to respond and be a lot better in that area.”
The power play goals from Krug and Pastrnak were each executed with a little help from the Blues’ penalty kill. The four-man unit concentrated on Marchand and Jake DeBrusk on the wall, completely forgetting about No. 88 right in front of Binnington. Twelve minutes later, Krug had time and space to rip a wrist shot off after O’Reilly and Alexander Steen double-teamed Marchand as he was attempting to control the puck at the blue line.
A power play that was two-for-10 entering Game 3 will get a boost from a perfect performance Saturday night. The top line trio played well at even strength, too, which could have benefited their success on the power play.
“I think in terms of confidence, they know they have the ability to score and generate offense,” Cassidy said. “The first two games, very small sample size, not going offensively. And one of the ways you get going offensively is to finish your chances and get going on the power play. We talked about that.
“Most skilled guys, if they feel the puck on the power play, things start to happen, it bleeds into five-on-five, although I thought they started off well five-on-five.”
As the Bruins eye a 3-1 series lead in Monday night’s Game 4, the contributions from the top line early in the game provided a spark that set up what would be a blow out. That’s something they hope keeps up as the series advances.
“That was big to get us going right away,” said Marcus Johansson. “I think it was good for them, too. They’ve led us all playoffs. They’re such good leaders off the ice and on the ice. It’s just fun to see them cash one in and get us going.”
Game 4 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final airs on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Monday (stream here).