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Once the Boston Bruins rediscovered the feel specific to the postseason and went on to absolutely overwhelm the St. Louis Blues down the stretch in Game 1, it was obvious that the Western Conference champions weren’t short on things that needed to be improved upon.
Far more discipline, better care for the puck, saves that needed to be made by their goaltender. These were all areas that had to be shored up for the Blues to avoid falling behind too far in the Stanley Cup Final and see their return to the big stage after 49 years be classified again as a read-through.
Yet, while they failed to solve each of these problems in their entirety Wednesday, spotting leads with needless penalties and poor puck management inside their own end in the first — which led directly to goals rookie netminder Jordan Binnington would want back — by the end of the night the Blues had asserted themselves firmly in the series.
Building to the night’s decisive moment by steadily stacking up a greater and greater share of the shots, scoring chances and overall possession as the game wore on, St. Louis’s best stretch of hockey in the series culminated on the other side of the regulation horn.
And with Carl Gunnarsson scoring the overtime winner.
Gunnarsson’s blast, which was called in a bathroom before the bonus hockey began, was the fourth scoring chance and eighth shot attempt in under four completely assertive and thoroughly dominant minutes from the drop of the puck in overtime.
And as the meshed rippled behind Tuukka Rask, it marked the Blues’ first-ever Stanley Cup Final victory in their fourth appearance, and possibly the balance of power shifting in the NHL’s championship series.
They say there’s no momentum from night to night in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but there are plenty of things for the Blues to build on after securing home-ice advantage away from Boston with a 3-2 win — with one aspect emerging as particularly impressive.
Without control over the matchups, or even an obvious desire to stick a specific line or pairing on certain units, the Blues have through two games managed to completely shut down the line widely considered as the NHL’s best.
Combining for just an empty netter and a stray secondary assist with the man advantage through two games, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak gave up more ground than they have been able to take for themselves through two games in Boston.
All three have been on the ice for three of the five goals St. Louis has scored, while each have been unable to make their mark at even strength while Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko have posted sparkling underlying numbers thus far.
Being that it was Boston’s first loss in May, which in itself broke up an eight-game win streak beginning to approach the heights of other historically dominant runs in postseason history, it’s meant that we haven’t seen Boston’s top line have to bounce back in quite a while.
With the series now shifting to St. Louis, it seems imperative now that they do.
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