Tuesday, May 28, 2019

These Blues have proven nothing flusters them

Even after losing Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final, players believe 
they will be better moving forward, just like they have been in the past

BOSTON -- The Blues have been in the precarious position of being down in a series before and haven't wavered.

Why should the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins be any different?

This 1-0 series deficit might sting a little more all things considered, since the Blues led Game 1 on Monday night, 2-0, before succumbing in a 4-2 loss.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ryan O'Reilly (90) and the Blues have been down this road before and won't
feel pressure, will only play better as Stanley Cup Final against Bruins
moves forward. 

The Blues fell behind against the San Jose Sharks twice, 1-0 after losing 6-3 in Game 1, then fell behind 2-1 in the series after a 5-4 overtime loss following that controversial missed hand pass call. They also trailed the Dallas Stars 3-2 in that series before winning in seven games, and also conquering adversity when the Winnipeg Jets won Games 3 and 4 in St. Louis to turn that series into a best-of-3. The Blues would go on to win Games 5 and 6 and win the series.

So what do the Blues need to do to get Boston, winners of eight straight games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, to buckle, get them off their game?

"Making them play in their end and making them stop," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. "We need a lot more o-zone time in the game. We turned too many pucks over, couldn't get on the forecheck enough. Never made them play in their end enough.

"By getting pucks in deep and going to work, getting on the forecheck."

In order for the Blues to do that, they have to get cleaner defensive zone exits, and that may come in the form of Vince Dunn, who could be available to play in Game 2 after taking part in an optional skate on Tuesday; they have to make better puck decisions and not allow the Bruins into transition rush attacks. Simply put, putting pucks in the proper areas and doing better things with it will help alleviate a number of the issues from Game 1 and help in what they want to accomplish.

"I think it starts in the o-zone for us d-men, just kind of reading the play, how it’s coming out, what they have offensively coming out of the zone … if they have three guys pushing or things like that," Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. "But just getting a better read on the play and just starting tighter out of their (offensive) zone and just playing through the neutral zone obviously. The forwards have done a tremendous job of backchecking for us and when we have that, it allows us to be tighter. For us d-men, we’ve got to make sure that we continue to be tight because these forwards have been great and it allows us to do that. Just making sure we’re tight on them in their o-zone. It all starts from there and then obviously when we can match the speed coming out of there, it makes it a lot easier for us. So hopefully we can be tighter and get some turnovers in the neutral zone."

Not taking penalties (the Blues were called for, whether you liked them or not, five minors) would help also. The Blues came into the Cup final with the fewest penalty minutes per game in the playoffs and did a pretty decent job on Boston's power play, which came into Game 1 as the No. 1 power play in the postseason (a ridiculous 34 percent), holding Boston to 1-for-5. And the only goal was scored by Charlie McAvoy at the end of the Bruins' fourth power play, a shot that deflected off the stick of Alex Pietrangelo, in the second period.

"Yeah, they have a great power play so you don’t want to be giving them opportunities," Blues center Tyler Bozak said. "Just have the puck more, holding onto it. I think we were chasing it around a little too much in the second and obviously you're prone to taking more penalties in that scenario. Got to support each other a little better, get more on the inside and yeah, just try and stay out of the box. You can’t give their power play that many opportunities."

But the bottom line here is the Blues just don't get rattled easy. Ask goalie Jordan Binnington, who delivered the quote of the day when asked about Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, who just prior to staring him down delivered a big hit on rookie Robert Thomas after Krug and David Perron scuffled and wrestled in front of Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.

"It was more of a stare," Binnington said. "His pupils were pretty big. I don't know if he's on something, but he was pretty fired up. It was a big hit, big play and the rink was excited. It was loud. It’s a fun atmosphere to play in."

Does he sound nervous? No, and the Blues aren't nervous.

"I think we did a little too much feeling out and deviated from our game plan," Blues center Ryan O'Reilly said. "It's a wakeup call for us, whether it's coming off a high and not realizing the work you've got to put in, but we're not worried. We know we have to get back. It's not going to be easy, but we're confident in each other."

And when asked about the notion of when the Final format went to a best-of-7 format in 1939, the team that has won Game 1 has gone on to win the Stanley Cup 77.2 percent of the time (61 of 79 series), Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko, who has a seven-game point streak in these playoffs (four goals, five assists) after scoring in Game 1, defined just what the Blues' mood is.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues defenseman Colton Parayko (right) said he and his fellow defensemen
have to move pucks better and help pressure Boston forwards in Game 2.

"I think that's why you guys do the stats and we just play on the ice," Tarasenko said. "It don't really matter this part of the year. You never know what's going to happen. You have stats like this and it's happened before, like you said, Washington last year. They prove it can be different way. That's what we believe in.

"Again, this is on your side to have some cool stats and everything else, but it's not in our heads."

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