By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy speculated and suspected that the Black and Gold’s first line, which had been quiet and borderline disastrous at times in Game 2, would have their best game of the series in Saturday night’s Game 3.
It wasn’t your typical promise — it was actually pretty light as far as promises go, with Cassidy saving himself by those aforementioned ‘speculation’ and ‘suspected’ terms — but it wasn’t hard to decipher his comments. He needed a much better effort not just from Brad Marchand or David Pastrnak, but from Patrice Bergeron’s line as a whole.
Boston’s most talented trio provided exactly that in Game 3, too, as Pastrnak struck on the power play, Marchand came through with a helper, and Bergeron led the way for all B’s forwards with a goal and two assists in a 7-2 beatdown.
And in a road game, the fact that it was Bergeron that got things cooking for the Bruins really seemed to make a noticeable difference in this team’s energy level. It’s funny how these things work, too, as talk about Bergeron being limited by way of an injury seemed to hit a fever pitch following Game 2. It was tough to brush that talk off, especially as the Bruins struggled to find their footing out of the gate in Game 3. But once Bergeron got on the board with that power-play goal, it as if the weight was taken off his shoulders and the rumored injury left his body completely. From that point forward, Bergeron had the offensive-zone jump and two-way awareness that’s made him a perennial nightmare for the opposition.
Bergeron also got back to his winning ways at the faceoff dot, with victories on 11 of his 19 battles at the dot (and a 4-for-5 mark on the power play), including a 6-for-8 line in faceoffs against Blues center Ryan O’Reilly.
Marchand certainly had jump, too, and had perhaps his best skating game of the Cup Final. He wasn’t back to 2011 levels of annoying the opposition, but his routes to puck undoubtedly created some headaches for a slower St. Louis defense, and his decision-making was clear-as-day, and without the extra-second overthinking that appeared to limit him in Game 2.
Here are some other takeaways and notes from a 7-2 final in St. Louis…
Tuukka Rask seems sick of getting run over
I think it was sometime around the third time he got trucked in Boston’s Game 2 loss in Boston that Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask simply threw his hands up, as if to wonder what the hell was going on? It’s a slight continuation of what the Hurricanes tried doing to Rask in the third round, and what any team struggling to score goals tends to do this time of year.
But there was nothing inadvertent about David Perron’s drive towards Rask late in the second period of Saturday’s Game 3.
David Perron vs….Tuukka Rask? pic.twitter.com/bJVZ4o432a— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) June 2, 2019
The 32-year-old Rask did his part to brush it off, but did not have any interest in backing down from Perron when the agitating forward got in his face and accused him of ‘diving’ in an attempt to draw a call.
Rask didn’t need to embellish much in the third, though, as Perron once again tried getting under Rask’s skin, and was whistled for some post-whistle nonsense targeting Rask’s shoulders/head.
David Perron pushes Tuukka Rask across the crease and then hits him in the head a few times. Dirty pic.twitter.com/NciJUuPDt2— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) June 2, 2019
Rask made 27 saves in the winning effort.
This B’s team loves a good response game
The Bruins have absolutely nailed the much-needed ‘bounce-back’ performance when necessary. With Saturday’s 7-2 victory, the Bruins are now 5-1 following a loss this postseason, and have outscored their opponents 27-11 over that stretch. Those numbers aren’t exactly skewed by the 7-2 game, either, considering the first five games of this sample saw them outscore the opposition 20-9. The Bruins have special teams magic over that stretch, too, converting on 11 of their 20 power-play opportunities (55 percent success rate) and killing off 18 of their 21 trips to the box (85.7 percent success rate).
Take Redemption meets Take Shaming on Boston’s fourth line
As you probably know, there’s nothing like nailing a take. It’s basically the equivalent of the “I am the smartest man alive!” scene from Billy Madison. (Sidenote: My friend once told me that you will hear a Billy Madison reference almost every single day of your life. I’ve found this to be mostly true, especially if you’re anywhere near my age. Seriously, keep a note of this in your head and then report back to me in a few weeks. You will find that it’s correct and you’re gonna hate it.)
Now, I must admit that I’ve felt this all postseason with the play of Sean Kuraly, who scored Boston’s third goal of the evening to push his playoff run to four goals and nine points in 16 games (as a fourth-line center). I must’ve been on every single show on 98.5 airwaves at the start of the postseason telling you how important Kuraly is to this team and how they’d miss him dearly. And each and every time I said this, it was met with raised eyebrows and “he’s a fourth-line center” dismissal.
But you’re seeing it right now. He’s everything that line needs and more. And again I am right in my analysis.
…This brings us to Kuraly’s linemate, Joakim Nordstrom.
I was not a Nordstrom guy. I never understood why Nordstrom was a July 1 priority (and with term, no less), I repeatedly said that Nordstrom was your 13th forward if your team was 100 percent healthy, and I’d often use him as a whipping boy when talking about the Black and Gold’s pre-deadline offensive struggles. At one point, I even highlighted Nordstrom’s severe lack of offensive touch (perhaps unfairly) in an attempt to will tweener Peter Cehlarik into a full-time NHL gig.
Just how wrong can one person be? Well, I’m here to show my face and happily take the L here.
Nordstrom has been absolutely phenomenal this postseason. He’s chipped in with some big goals here and there, but it’s really been his defensive-zone play (he’s thrown himself a block party) and ability to consistently fly end-to-end with speed that’s made him a must-have piece of Boston’s fourth line.
What’s Swedish for “I’m sorry?”