BOSTON -- The words were spoken Thursday and it's official: Robert Bortuzzo is in, and Joel Edmundson is out for a pivotal Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden (7 p.m.; NBC, KMOX 1120-AM).
Bortuzzo will be paired with Vince Dunn after being scratched in favor of Dunn for Game 4 that the Blues won 4-2 and evened the best-of-7 series 2-2.
"Very excited as anyone would be," Bortuzzo said. "This is the Stanley Cup finals Game 5, we’re playing in a storied building. Like I said, just happy to come in and hopefully contribute.
"... There’s been different circumstances for different things. You know at the end of the day everyone -- I don’t think it has to do with legs or what-not -- it’s just you’re going to get in there and you’re going to be excited to play. You’re going to be refreshed regardless of what’s going on. So, like I said, there’s been different instances for guys going in and out, but just excited for the opportunity."
Edmundson played just 7 minutes 24 seconds in Game 4. When Blues interim coach Craig Berube was asked about Bortuzzo's play and Edmundson perhaps needing to reset, he said, "Like I said the other day, we’ve got a lot of good depth back there and we like to use our guys quite a bit. We took 'Bortz' out and put 'Dunner' in. When we looked at that with 'Dunner', we weren’t sure him coming in first game, so we kept another lefty in there. But I thought he had a real good game, 'Dunner', and if we can have a righty-lefty combo, it’s nice so we’ll put 'Bortz' back in."
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The Bruins are naming defensemen Zdeno Chara (broken jaw) and Matt Grzelcyk (concussion protocol) as gametime decisions, coach Bruce Cassidy said Thursday morning.
Chara was injured in the second period of Game 4 when a Brayden Schenn struck him in the face as it caromed off his stick.
Chara skated as part of Boston's optional on Thursday, along with Grzelcyk, who practiced on Wednesday. Grzelcyk hasn't played since Game 2 when he was injured on a check by Oskar Sundqvist that cost Sundqvist one game.
"They’ll be game-time decisions," Cassidy said. "They’re on the ice now. That’s a good sign. We’ve always said, once they get out there, they’re that much closer."
Chara, unable to speak, answered two questions through the Pro Hockey Writer's Association in handwritten form.
When asked about the biggest challenge of skating with this type of injury, Chara wrote, "At this time of the playoffs, everyone has injuries and there are challenges that you have to overcome to play. I'm no different than any player on either team."
And when asked how he weighs the risk of further injury when deciding whether to play, Chara wrote, "You don't think about that. You think about playing. You don't go into a game thinking you might get hurt."
As for the Blues, once again, they have no concerns about who's in and who's out with the opponent, as it should be. They focus on themselves and focus that Boston will put its best lineup and players out there and adjust accordingly.
"Our focus isn't on if he's in or out," Blues forward Pat Maroon said of Chara. "He's obviously their leader, so he brings leadership to the locker room and that's really all I'm going to say about it. It really doesn't matter. Our focus is on our team right now.
"... We've just got to do what we're capable of doing. We can't really worry about the energy and the noise in Boston. We've just got to find ways to just get to our game right away, and when we get to our game, we're really effective and we're really good at it. When they get to their game, they're really effective. It's going to be a good, solid game tonight. I feel like both teams are going to be coming hard and there'll be a lot of pushback from both teams. Both teams have got to be ready right off the drop of the puck."
Added forward David Perron: "Good for them. We want to play their best team possible. He's one of their good players over there. We wouldn't be surprised if he played."
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The Blues are 6-1 in Games 5-7 and outscored their opponents 23-9, including allowing one goal or fewer in the past four games.
The Bruins are 4-1 and outscored their opponents 17-8, but the Blues feel their formula has been able to wear opponents down as each series has moved along. Ask Winnipeg. Ask Dallas. Ask San Jose.
"I think just realizing what's at stake," Maroon said. "I think realizing how close we are, how far we've come and what we need to do. I think once you start playing your game and realizing how good we are and how effective we are, I think it starts coming with confidence, a little swagger throughout the series. Players start to gain it more and more, so I think the players do a good job of responding to that."
In the past four games from 5-7, the Blues have outscored Dallas and San Jose 16-3 and are 4-0.
"It's great to see for sure," Perron said. "We want to keep that going. We have another opportunity tonight to prove that. It would put us off in a really good spot and I look forward to the game tonight.
"We're well-prepared by our coaches for sure. I think guys get to know some of the tendencies over there and we also know that our game works when we execute it. We've proven that in the two games that we've won. We want to do more of the same tonight."
"It's hard to pinpoint exactly, but I think when we see what works for us, maybe it takes a couple of games and then it sets in," Bortuzzo said. "We’ve been able to build in the right direction through all the series."
The Blues hope the trend continues.
"I guess it’s been a little pattern, but I think we kind of figure it out as we go and we stay with it and we stay composed and we get better as we go," Blues goalie Jordan Binnington said. "It's good.
"... Obviously the series is tied 2-2. It’s the best-of-3 now. And tonight’s a huge game and they’re going to come out hard in their own building. Just try to do our job and stay composed."
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Berube felt Zach Sanford deserved to move up in the lineup, and playing with Ryan O'Reilly and Perron sparked some magic again.
From Oct. 20-Nov. 3 spanning six games, that line accounted for 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists). They played together again on Dec. 7 and Jan. 8-15, six more games and collected 11 points (three goals, eight assists).
After O'Reilly's two-goal game and a Sanford assist in Game 4, that's 37 points (12 goals, 25 assists) in 13 games together.
"It's nice that we played with him before," Perron said of Sanford. "I thought he was extremely sharp, even in his first game quite honestly. I think he was really sharp with us. Good netfront presence, good on the forecheck, really gave us room to by going there, creating some space for us to work with the puck behind the net. We need him to be doing the same thing tonight and I know he will."
It was quite evident that Sanford's big body and presence down low with the puck created time and space for O'Reilly and Perron.
"For me, those two guys are really easy to play with," Sanford said. "They both do a great job hanging onto the puck. They make the right plays, they make the smart plays. They're willing to go to those dirty areas, like you saw Ryan get those two goals last game. You know, they've both been around a lot, they've seen a lot and played with a lot of different guys. So just listening to them and hearing what they have to say, for me, being able to take that in and use that to my advantage to help us out had been pretty good. We just have a good chemistry in that way."
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With Robert Thomas set to miss his fourth straight game (wrist) in this series, Maroon and Tyler Bozak have had to adjust to playing without what Maroon called the "bus" of their line.
Robby Fabbri and now Sammy Blais have been the linemates to take Thomas' spot.
"We're veteran players," Maroon said. "I think when our name gets called upon, we're going to jump over the boards and try to do our best. That stuff really doesn't matter. We're just going to try and play our game. Obviously without Robert, he's an elite player, he kind of drove the bus with his young legs with us old guys in the middle and left side. It'd good though. 'Fabbs' did a good job coming in and adding speed. I thought our line was effective and then Sammy same thing. He adds some speed, some different element, toughness, a guy that knows how to cycle the puck. Those guys have done a really good job. Whoever they put on our line, we're just happy. We'll try to communicate with them and get into our game right away. Our line's not a line that's going to score off the rush. We're just going to wear the 'D' down and getting to the net getting second and third opportunities and gain some energy for our team."
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How good have the Blues need 5-on-5 in this series? Well all you need to consider is that the top six Bruins forwards (Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and old friend David Backes) have exactly zero points in this series.
In fact, Marchand has the only goal (an empty-netter in Game 1) when the Blues had five or more skaters on the ice, and it was a 6-on-5 goal.
"I feel just as a team we're better off 5-on-5," Blues center Brayden Schenn said. "We play together as a group, we play tight out there. Our D-men are big, they can skate, they swarm. It's pretty typical. There's usually a lot more penalties at the beginning of a series. Towards the end, you have to dial it in. There's not many power plays throughout the game. And I think we're going to see that here in the last couple games.
"... We know what our game looks like 5-on-5," Blues forward Jaden Schwartz said. "When we get to it, it makes it tough on other teams as far as giving them time and space to make plays and create speed with the puck. That's something that we've kind of continued to build all year."
* This marks the 26th time the Cup Final has been tied 2-2 under the best-of-7 format (since 1939). The team that tied the series has gone on to win the Cup in 10 of the previous 25 instances, including three of the last five occasions (2015, 2013 and 2011).
* When a best-of-7 series is tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 holds an all-time series record of 210-58 (78.4%), including a 5-3 mark in the 2019 playoffs and 18-7 mark in the Stanley Cup Final (72.0%).
* The Blues are 8-1 when winning Game 5 all-time when a series is tied 2-2. Boston holds an all-time series record of 14-3 in a best-of-7.
The Blues will be playing their first Cup Final game in franchise history; Boston has been tied 2-2 in the Final on four previous occasions, losing Game 5 each time but winning the Cup once (2011 vs. Vancouver).
* Vladimir Tarasenko has 11 points Six goals, five assists) in the past 10 games, Schenn has six points (three goals, three assists) in the past six games, and O’Reilly has seven points (two goals, five assists) the past five games.
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Vladimir Tarasenko
Zach Sanford-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron
Sammy Blais-Tyler Bozak-Pat Maroon
Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist-Alexander Steen
Carl Gunnarsson-Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn-Robert Bortuzzo
Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Joel Edmundson, Robby Fabbri, Michael Del Zotto, Mackenzie MacEachern, Chris Thorburn, Chris Butler and Ville Husso. Robert Thomas (wrist) remains out.
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The Bruins' projected lineup (based off rushes on Wednesday):
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci-David Backes
Marcus Johansson-Charlie Coyle-Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom-Sean Kuraly-Noel Acciari
John Moore-Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug-Brandon Carlo
Steven Kampfer-Connor Clifton
Tuukka Rask will start in goal; Jaroslav Halak will be the backup.
The healthy scratch includes Karson Kuhlman. Matt Grzelcyk (upper body) is a gametime decision, as is Zdeno Chara (broken jaw). Chris Wagner (right arm) and Kevan Miller (lower body) are out.