Feast-or-famine Bruins left starving by Blues

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There are a couple of trends emerging when the Boston Bruins lose in this Stanley Cup Final.

It’s occurred twice now and in both games, they’ve lost an important defenseman (Matt Grzelcyk in Game 2 and Zdeno Chara in Game 4), they’ve been unable to limit the St. Louis Blues to fewer than 30 shots, and their top line hasn’t found its stride enough to take over the game.

So the Bruins will head back to Boston and into Game 5 without a chance to win the Stanley Cup thanks to a 4-2 loss in Game 4 on Monday. The Blues, meanwhile, will head on the road knowing it’s a best of three and that they were able to put a miserable 7-2 loss in Game 3 behind them on the back of an inspired performance from up and down their roster.

The Bruins didn’t generate much. They couldn’t.

St. Louis had them on the back foot in every period. The Blues dominated possession — 62 percent of it in this game — and kept Boston to just four shots in the third period, including a single puck on Jordan Binnington in the final 10:22 of the game.

That vaunted power play?

They conjured up just one shot across two attempts with the man-advantage, getting blanked for the first time in this series. It’s sort of a feast-or-famine routine with these Bruins, sort of like it was in 2011 when they’d either win big or lose a close game, at least on the scoreboard.

The power play has been Boston’s bread and butter. The Blues built confidence when they stymied the big three, especially early in the third when Jay Bouwmeester was charged with high-sticking.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The Bruins were thrown a lifeline, Regis Philbin style, but no one picked up the phone.

The Bruins had shown they could survive an early onslaught. They were down 2-0 in Game 1, for instance, before storming back to score four unanswered. But the Blues didn’t lift off the gas pedal in this one.

Not when Charlie Coyle scored his ninth of the postseason to tie the game later in the first period, erasing Ryan O'Reilly‘s first of two on the night just 43 seconds into the game.

St. Louis wasn’t broken, either, after some disorganization led to a shorthanded goal in the second from the Bruins to tie the game 2-2.

The Blues had Binnington rattled in Game 3, chasing him after he allowed five goals on 19 shots. Even if the goals didn’t come in the same way, they needed to pepper him to ruffle those demons up. They didn’t.

Losing Chara hurt.

The big man was felled by a puck that rode up the shaft of his stick and cracked him in the mouth in the second period. Chara was on the bench for the third, wearing a full face shield. The only time he saw the ice, however, was late in the third during a commercial break where he glided around his teammates, tapping them for encouragement.

Say what you will about Chara’s effectiveness at age 42, he’s still a presence on the ice and one the Bruins miss when he’s absent.

And playing with five d-men, as opposed to six, is a major detriment that we saw in Game 2 when Grzelcyk was sent to the hospital on a boarding play.

As good as Tuukka Rask has been, allowing 38 shots at him won’t always result in a goose egg. It could have been well over 50, too, if the Bruins didn’t block 15 shots in the game.

Rask is a proven stalwart in these playoffs, but the Bruins have done their best damage when they’re playing in the other zone and limiting Rask’s workload in a game. He’ll win you more than you lose, but that well will run dry sometimes.

This series has become a series of responses. That favors the Bruins over a seven-game series where they have home-ice advantage, something Boston will need to leverage in Game 5.

Boston simply needs more. More like Game 1, or Game 3, and less like Games 2 and 4. There’s a clear line drawn in the sand on what both look like and the Bruins need to be on the right side of it if they want to avoid being sent to the brink of elimination.

Game 5 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final airs on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday (stream here).


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

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