Mazz: Forget the Xs and Os - Bruins need to push back

By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub

ST. LOUIS – The simple truth, in retrospect, is that the Bruins were not getting much resistance. They certainly did not get any from the Carolina Hurricanes, who succumbed in four games in the Eastern Conference finals. And they really didn’t get much from the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup.

But they’re getting it now.

And so here we are, on the morn of Game 3 in the Gateway to the West, and we are reminded of something we learned long ago in the Sports Hub of the universe: there is no easy path to a title. Championships are not given so much as they are earned, and the Bruins are going to have to fight for it, starting tonight at the Enterprise Center, where they will be reintroduced to a Blues team that punched them squarely in the nose in Game 2 on Wednesday, a 3-2 St. Louis victory that evened the Cup at a game apiece.

“This is probably not going to be the last see-saw effect in this series,” Bruins forward David Backes said in the immediate aftermath of Game 2. “Two resilient teams. They made an adjustment and pushed back, and now it’s our turn.”

Now it’s our turn. Those are a loaded few words, of course, because rest assured that the people in St. Louis are saying precisely the same thing. The Blues have never won a Stanley Cup, period, and their Game 2 victory marked their first-ever win of a hockey finals game. Meanwhile, Boston – as a city – is in its 18th championship round in 18 years, a streak so outrageous that it warrants antitrust legislation. The Bruins themselves are playing in their third Cup finals this decade, putting them in the conversation (and only in the conversation) with the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins as the most dominant hockey franchises in the NHL in recent years.

Our turn? The rest of America is scoffing at that.

By now, we all understand many of the story lines, the Xs and Os that mark these finals. The Bruins are certainly more experienced, probably faster and a little more skilled. The (Black and) Blues are bigger, stronger, maybe even meaner, and they have left bodies in their wake throughout these playoffs. Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk was only the latest, now in the concussion protocol after being plastered to the glass by Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist, who has been suspended for Game 3.

May 29, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (48) receives help from a trainer after a hit by St. Louis Blues center Oskar Sundqvist (70) during the first period in game two of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

How’s that for a twist?

For Boston to win its next championship, for the Bruins to win this Cup, they have to go through the Big Bad Blues.

Look, we all know how these things work. The Bruins need more from their top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, which is so obvious it shouldn’t qualify as analysis. The power play needs to be sharper. The Bruins defensemen need to do a far better job of retrieving the puck and moving it out of their own zone – or they’re going to get pounded – and Bruins forwards must get more pressure on St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington, who looks  and more like a good player, not a great one.

Will they? That remains to be seen. The fact that the Bruins won eight postseason games in a row beginning with Game 4 of the Columbus series was a wild aberration, because playoff hockey simply doesn’t work that way. It certainly is not going to work that way now. The old adage in hockey is that championships require three ingredients – skill, will and goaltending – and not necessarily in that order. Up until Game 2, for what seemed like an eternity, the Bruins only needed two of them.

The skill and the goaltending was enough against Carolina.

Now the Bruins must show the will.

As Backes said, it’s their turn to push back.

You can hear Tony Massarotti weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.