It’s safe to say game one of the Stanley Cup Finals did not disappoint.
The Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues kicked off game one of the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals with plenty of old-school hockey action. Boston came out of the gates absolutely buzzing, creating two potential scoring opportunities within the first three minutes. After that, it seemed to look like they lost their edge all the way through to the second period. The Blues would end up scoring two straight goals to open up the scoring, and both goals came off of defensive lapses and brutal turnovers by Boston. The first goal was simply a matter of needing to clear the puck out, as the Bruins had multiple opportunities to clear Tuukka’s rebounds. Ultimately they failed and left Brayden Schenn all alone at the point to rip one high-blocker on Rask.
The second goal, however, was simply unacceptable this late into the season. David Pastrnak tried a simple reverse behind his own net on a dump-in and assumed Chara was trailing behind. You shouldn’t be assuming things like that this late in the year, because Chara was actually stalling in front of the net, probably assuming himself that #88 was going to take it down the ice himself. Long story short, Pastrnak handed the puck to Schenn on a golden platter, who fed it to Tarasenko from behind the net, where he put it away on Rask to give the Blues a commanding 2-0 lead minutes into the second.
This year when St. Louis scored the first goal, they were 10-3, and 6-1 when leading after the first period. However, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from Boston playoff hockey, no lead is safe until you hear the final siren.
Just over a minute later, Sean Kuraly found Connor Clifton on a cross-ice pass into the crease, that #75 slipped in past Binnington to bring it back to a one-goal margin. The Bruins took this momentum from the goal and absolutely ran with it, seemingly not giving St. Louis a chance to rebound. The Blues seemed to be quite flustered, especially #6, Joel Edmundson. Edmundson played very dirty and unsportsmanlike hockey and really hurt his team with his ten-year-old like temper (you can probably tell I don’t like this man very much). In total, the Blues tallied 10 PIM, 2 of which helped Chuckie Bright Lights convert on the Bruins' third PP of the night to tie the game back up at two goals apiece. Boston had plenty more opportunities to take a lead in the second, but missed chances and good goal tending by Binnington prevented that for the time being. Something quite remarkable is that Boston held St. Louis to only THREE shots in the second period, compared to their EIGHTEEN. Absolute dominance in the second period by Boston.
Five minutes in to the third, a simple dump and chase was all Boston needed to get a shot on net and to convert that rebound in to the back of the net, as Sean Kuraly absolutely buried a Noel Acciari shot from the crease to give Boston their first lead of the series, and they never looked back.
The most iconic part of the night was easily Torey Krug’s monstrous hit on Blues rookie Robert Thomas. After being manhandled by David Perron in front of his own net and losing his helmet as a result, Krug ran full speed 150 feet down the ice and ran right through the Blues rookie, getting the crowd fired up and creating another Blues-Bruins Stanley Cup Final masterpiece photo.
Brad Marchand would ultimately send the Blues out with an empty-netter, to make the final score 4-2 in favor of Boston. It seemed that the Bruins abundance of experience really helped them persevere through the hard times they faced in the first period. The Bruins have over a combined 1200 minutes of Stanley Cup Final experience, whereas the Blues only have one player with Finals experience, and he only had 60 minutes, at that.
Rask looked a little shaky on the two goals, and even though they weren’t his fault, they were still shots he might’ve been able to save if he played more aggressively. Again, he didn’t let the noise get in his head and focused on playing his game and turned away the Blues' next 11 shots to seal the game. Rask deserves a lot of credit for being able to bounce back, but it seems TD Garden only needed to see one goal to get back in the game and get in St. Louis’ heads, as the Blues never got a chance to get back up.
It should also be noted that Jordan Binnington is looking quite human. He didn’t seem like he was some amazing goalie playing with MVP numbers as he has been. He quite honestly just seemed normal. As someone who is known for having such a strong mental game, it should be noted that he was caught slamming his stick on the ice after the third goal. It may not seem like a big deal to most, but it looks like the pressure is really getting to his head, so hopefully, the Bruins take note of that and get more shots low on him to keep him moving and to get more rebounds.
One thing the Bruins can definitely do better is controlling the puck in their offensive zone. It seemed like for a lot of the time, Boston was playing hot potato in St. Louis’ zone, forcing bad passes and not keeping the puck flat on the ice. This was especially noted on their PP, as it was quite poor last night compared to how it’s been in the previous series'. They were a wretched 1-5 on the night, where their only goal came for Charlie McAvoy’s unassisted rocket of a wrist shot. Whenever Boston tried to settle the puck, a Blues player was there to steal it back and clear it down the ice. Even with these simple mishaps on offense, Boston still managed to generate 38 SOG, almost double of what the Blues had, at 20.
The Bruins did all of this with their first line being non-existent. I didn’t see much of Patrice Bergeron the whole night, didn’t see Marchand until his empty-netter, and the only time I saw Pastrnak do something was when he gave St. Louis their second goal. The inconsistency of Boston’s top unit has been the story of this playoffs, as no one ever knows when they’re going to show up or not. Leaving game one and heading into game two, Bruins fans should rest assured knowing our chances are in good hands. If our first unit decides to score Wednesday, with the help of our defense and amazing goaltender, it doesn’t seem like St. Louis has much of a chance of defeating this squad.