Bruins' fourth-line dominance should be particularly worrying for Blues

As it often is at TD Garden, it wasn’t immediate. But the St. Louis Blues did soon feel that suffocating, oppressing, demoralizing squeeze that the Boston Bruins can supply.

And as it was proven in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, it can be applied from a variety of sources.

Feeding the narrative that the long break between rounds would indeed have an adverse effect, the Bruins fell behind early on goals from Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko. Able to flip the switch down 2-0 in the second, however, Boston took complete control of the proceedings in a thoroughly dominant final two frames and racked up four unanswered goals to secure Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Four different scorers registered for Boston, but it was fourth-line centre Sean Kuraly that carried the day in the Bruins’ 4-2 victory.

Down two a few minutes into the second, Kuraly steamed through zones in transition before sending a cross-body feed to the back post for Connor Clifton to guide in with his skate. Then, once Charlie McAvoy had tied the game with a brilliant solo venture into the offensive zone, a tidy skate-to-stick effort on Kuraly’s opportunity to convert a little over five minutes into the third period provided the Bruins with their first lead.

And one that wasn’t really every threatened.

While Kuraly provided the meaningful offence in this game, his impact as the axis point for a dominant fourth line should be particularly concerning for the Blues, who certainly let an opportunity slip on Monday night.

While the numbers were slightly skewed by the five minor penalties St. Louis took, Kuraly and linemates Joakim Nordstrom and Noel Acciari led all Boston skaters in even-strength ice with over 12 minutes apiece. And while they didn’t dominate from a sheer shot-attempt perspective, they were able to generate a net positive in scoring chances — and, of course, goals — against any and all matchups they encountered.

While it’s unlikely that the fourth line has a bigger night in the series in terms of direct impact or deployment, continued success for Bruce Cassidy’s depth unit would open up the playbook for the Bruins coach. His surplus in this contest including arguably the best line in hockey and two working tandems between David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, and Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson, the tactical game favours Boston considerably when the fourth line is winning its matchup.

Sean Kuraly brought it. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
Sean Kuraly brought it. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

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