It’s come to this — a best-of-three showdown for the hockey’s holy grail. The Boston Bruins will be looking for payback after suffering a 4-2 defeat in Game 4 after a less than inspiring game from the B’s. Conversely, the St. Louis Blues will be looking to build off a game where they shut down Boston’s best, negated their punishing power play and pulled themselves back into the series. One team will be pushed to the brink of elimination tonight (8 p.m. ET; NBC).
Here are your keys to victory for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final:
• Kick them when they’re down
The Bruins may be without defenseman Zdeno Chara and Matt Grzelcyk. They may not. We’ll see how the day progresses. Boston has lost both games where they’ve had to go at it with five defenseman following an injury. The Blues have taken advantage of the depleted back end and use their fatigue to their advantage. If Grzelcyk and Chara play, then it’s a boost to the Bruins. But Chara has a broken jaw and Grzelcyk’s unknown ailment probably leaves both guys playing at less than 100 percent. That presents an opening for the Blues to really push the pace and take it to Boston’s rearguard early. The same can be said if Boston has to ice the replacements. The quicker and harder the forecheck the better.
• Adjust, again
The Bruins power play hasn’t been stymied much in these playoffs, but when it has — let’s say in Game 2 earlier in the Cup Final, they were able to make the changes necessary and posted four power-play goals on four power-play shots on four power plays, en route to a 7-2 win in Game 3. Boston didn’t play hard enough in Game 4 to warrant more than two power-play opportunities, so adding a couple more would increase the odds on a PP that run at 35 percent in these playoffs. But if St. Louis keeps its composure and limits the penalties it takes, then finding ways to increase their shots on the scraps they’re given will be Job No. 1. Jordan Binnington needs to see more than two shots on goal across two power plays.
• Rinse and repeat
The Blue scores for the sixth time this postseason in the opening two minutes. It’s a good omen for the team, who have won on all six of those occasions. For the first time in the series, and as mentioned above, they limited the Bruins to under four power-play opportunities after allowing five in the first two games and four in the third. Fixing their discipline issues was a key component heading into Game 4, and something they can build off tonight. St. Louis can lean on their excellent road record in these playoffs, too. They’re 8-3 in road games, including a win in Boston in Game 2. The Blues have also won each game in this series where they’ve put up north of 30 shots. The blueprint for a Game 5 win was drawn up in Game 4. If they can do it again, they’ll be one win away from hoisting Lord Stanley.