Carl Gunnarsson’s first playoff goal 3:51 into overtime gave the St. Louis Blues their first ever Stanley Cup Final win as they came back for a 3-2 overtime win in Boston in Game 2. With the series tied at 1-1, just like it was in their two previous series, the Blues will come home for their first Finals home game since May 5, 1970. Enterprise Center should be incredibly raucous, and the Blues energy should be high after they found the key to upending the Bruins. How did they do it in game two?
- The Bruins spent the time between games one and two talking about their ability to be chameleons, how they could play big if they needed to, or how they could run and gun if the circumstances called for that. But then the Blues outhit them 18-9 in the first period, and as the second and third periods and overtime wore on, the Blues continued hitting, and Boston looked slower. After wearing down a big defense in Winnipeg, a mobile defense in Dallas and a big, mobile defense in San Jose, the Blues returned to their forechecking ways in game two and pounded Boston into submission, outhitting them by the end of the game 50-31. The hits took their toll on the Bruins.
- We knew that the Blues needed production out of their defensemen, and lo and behold, they got two goals from their blueliners. Robert Bortuzzo scored their first goal and Gunnarsson their last. But it was more than that. The Blues defensemen had 22 shot opportunities and nine of the team’s 37 shots on goal. They also had fourteen hits and used their size and length to block ten Bruins shots. The overall performance by the defense was fantastic.
- The Blues took 67 shots at the Boston net, and the Bruins took 48 at the Blues net. That provides you some evidence that the Blues were able to maintain possession in the Bruins zone. Especially after the first period, the Blues played their game and kept the Bruins from getting to theirs. The Bruins barely got the puck out of their zone in the nearly four minutes of overtime, and they never really had a chance. Louis had by far the better of opportunities in the last 23:51 of the game, and at some point they were going to score the winner. Gunnarsson did at 3:51 of OT.
- Too many penalties again put the Blues behind the 8-ball. Just like in game one, the Blues committed five penalties and found themselves shorthanded five times. Boston scored on their first power play but didn’t convert after that. With that much shorthanded time, the Blues are playing with fire. Boston has the best power play in the entire playoffs. At some point, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak are going to get going. The Blues can’t afford to give them an unnecessary advantage by taking needless penalties. One call…the last one on Brayden Schenn…was questionable. The others were all bad decisions by the Blues.
- Jordan Binnington would probably like a mulligan on each of the two Boston goals, but he was brilliant again. As was mentioned, the Bruins had 48 shots at Binnington with 23 getting to him. They had some glorious opportunities and he was up to the task. Especially after the first period, when Binnington faced just fifteen shots in 45 minutes, he stayed sharp and kept the Bruins at bay.
- The Blues have been able to frustrate and neutralize opponents’ top lines, and so far the Bruins top two players, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, don’t have a point yet. Keeping them quiet in two games in Boston is remarkable. Give credit to Craig Berube and the Blues coaching staff, and to the Blues top line of Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn. It’s a pretty smart idea to keep Boston’s line playing defense, and that’s what the Blues have done so far. Now that he has the last change at home, Berube’s coaching advantage should be even more pronounced.
- As an aside, it’s always sad to see effective players lose their mojo, but the transformation of former Blues captain David Backes is particularly disturbing. The mercenary forward has always been about the money, and that’s what led him to rebuff St. Louis for the riches of the Bruins. Don’t forget that at one time as a young player, Backes was more than ready to take the money and run to Vancouver. What’s sad is that Backes had to go to Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy and offer to goon it up to stay in the lineup. I appreciate a guy wanting to help his team and contribute to success, but I never thought I’d see Backes become a poor man’s Sean Avery, which at this point is what he is.
Teams that tie the series with a game two victory take the series 74.7% of the time, so the Blues should feel good. This one sets up the way the San Jose series did. There has never been a hockey atmosphere in St. Louis like what we’ll see on Saturday night at Enterprise Center.