The 2019 Stanley Cup Final started with St. Louis Blues first-line forwards Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko scoring the first two goals of the series against the Bruins quintet of Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.
The series unofficially ended in Game 7 when Schenn cashed in on a feed from Tarasenko 11:25 into the third period to give the Blues a 3-0 lead. St. Louis went on to win its first Stanley Cup championship with a 4-1 win at TD Garden on Wednesday.
The bookend terrible performances by the Bruins first line defined this series that the Bruins were close to winning, but probably wouldve won easily had any of their top five forwards performed up to expectations at even strength over the course of 17 days.
From Game 1 through Game 7, the Bruins top five and theyre a top five because general manager Don Sweeney never solved the mystery of the missing right wing for David Krejcis line had seven points. There was an empty-net goal by Marchand, a garbage-time assist by Krejci in Game 7 and a late goal by Jake DeBrusk mixed in there. Patrice Bergeron didnt have an even-strength point in the series (but he might be injured, so everyone tells me hes above critique).
Playing versus Schenn and O'ReillyBergeron 52 mins, 0 goals, 6 againstKrejci 52 min, 0 goals, 1 againstCoyle 54 mins, 2 goals, 3 against
Kuraly 55 min, 3 goals, 4 against
Bruins Stats (@bruins_stats) June 13, 2019
Game 7 wouldve been a perfect opportunity for the Bruins best forwards to redeem themselves. Theyd done it in past rounds, even coming alive earlier in the Eastern Conference final against Carolina to make sure that series ended in a sweep. And the way Game 7 started, it seemed they were going to break through.
Boston outshot St. Louis 12-4, including three shots during the games only power play, but couldnt get a puck past Blues goalie Jordan Binnington. When Marchand had half the net open, he shot the puck into Binningtons logo, his lone shot of the period. Pastrnak had no shots in the period because either he was seeing double or there was a hold in his stick blade he fanned so many times on one-timers.
And a stat that would foretell the work the Blues were willing to put in that the Bruins werent, St. Louis blocked nine shots in the first period on the way to 21 in the game.
Yeah we started well, had some opportunities, and we didnt capitalize. You know they got that first one, a couple bounces, and that was it, Marchand said.
That wasnt it. In past rounds when Marchands line, and/or Krejcis line, struggled at the offensive end, they were shutdown trios that kept top lines from Carolina and Columbus from scoring so that the secondary offense and Tuukka Rasks goaltending would pull the Bruins through. Bergerons line didnt light up the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round like it did last spring, but it made sure John Tavares line was equally unproductive.
Against the Blues, Bergerons line gave up those first two goals in Game 1 and forced coach Bruce Cassidy to switch the matchup. The coach didnt hard match as much the rest of the series, but maybe he shouldve done more to avoid the top line vs. top line matchup considering the way Schenns line exploited it to push the Bruins off the ledge in Game 7. To make matters worse, Marchand inexplicably went for a line change late in the first period, leaving Alex Pietrangelo alone to score St. Louis' second goal.
Yeah youre not going to control the game the entire way through in this league, especially in the Cup Final, Marchand said. We had a ton of opportunities. We had a lot of good chances, but we knew they were going to push back. Theyre a good team, obviously, but you know we knew they were going to be resilient, and they were going to get their opportunities. But they capitalized on theirs and we didnt.
You dont have to control the entire game, but how about a little of it? Or how about not getting pushed around physically the way the Bruins were for most of the series. Noel Acciari is the personification of Bruins toughness, but when he gets blown up going for a loose puck by Sammy Blais, you know the Bruins are no longer big and bad. To their credit the Acciari and his fourth-line mates did all they could to save the Bruins. Acciari, Sean Kuraly, Joakim Nordstrom combined for 11 points while bringing as much physicality as they could muster.
Unfortunately at this time of year, everyone has to contribute offensively and everyone has to contribute physically. The Bruins top five forwards were impotent with the puck and seemed incapable of initiating body contact before the Blues could pound them at every turn.
Just today it wasnt our night. Too bad it was the most important day of our lives, Krejci said.
It wasnt just one day, it was more than two weeks of nights that werent theirs. The Bruins top five has a lot of reflecting to do this offseason, and Sweeney has a lot of things to consider when building his top six for next season.
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