By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
It's easy to spot the trend in Boston's losses in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. And it's beyond simply having to skate with five defensemen and doing that against a team more than willing to drive you through the boards.
When you look back at losses in Game 2 and then in Monday's Game 4, the Bruins have gotten minimal (if that) contributions from almost all of their top six forwards.
Yes, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron helped create the Brandon Carlo shorthanded goal that tied the game at 2-2 in the second period (which set the Bruins up for a potential third-period victory), but beyond that, what did the Bruins get out of their Perfection Line in Game 4? You don't need Jeopardy James to tell you the answer is a simple "not enough."
Together for almost 11 five-on-five minutes on Monday night, the Bergeron Line landed seven shots on goal, but really failed to make life hard on Blues netminder Jordan Binnington. The first-year NHLer has been shaky at best in this series, too, and it was almost expected that we were going to see the superhuman trio get the rookie spinning. The closest they came to doing that was when Marchand hooked the inside of Binnington's leg following a whistle.
Brad Marchand ▶️▶️▶️ Jordan Binnington #HfHits
The savagery. pic.twitter.com/rsOhZn7RNf
— hockeyfights (@hockeyfights) June 4, 2019
The line struggled to get their power-play game going as well, with just one power-play shot in two power-play tries.
And is the David Krejci line with Jake DeBrusk and David Backes on the wings even playing right now?
Through four games this series, the line has totaled two points. They're both power-play helpers Jake DeBrusk picked up on the Black and Gold's top unit, which of course means nothing for Boston's second line at five-on-five. The DeBrusk-Krejci-Backes trio has benefitted from an absurd 19 offensive-zone faceoffs through four games, but have done nothing with it, without a single goal on 13 shots (and zero high-danger chances among those 13 looks) in 29:10 of five-on-five play to date.
What's made this all incredible, however, is that the Bruins have largely been able to avoid getting doomed by their struggles thanks to their third and fourth line. But Boston's fourth line of Sean Kuraly, Joakim Nordstrom, and Noel Acciari lost their battle on Monday night (their possession metrics were a nightmare and they put just one shot on goal in over seven five-on-five minutes together), making the lack of production for the top six all the more painful.
So much so that this series has become a best of three.
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 4-2 Game 4 loss in St. Louis...
Publicly working the referees works for Berube's Blues
Blues coach Craig Berube publicly complained about his team being penalized in the first three games of the series, and lo and behold, the Blues put forth a straight-up demolition derby brand of hockey in Game 4 and were let off the hook. The Blues were also gifted two power-play opportunities on what were undeniable embellishments from Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz. Know this: Publicly complaining about the officiating works. Every. Single. Time. Leafs head coach Mike Babcock did this in the first round after Game 2, and it played out to a Game 3 victory sparked by two power-play goals.
You'd like to think that these referees were above taking the cheese, but here we are.
Vince Dunn makes immediate impact
What you saw on Monday night was a more mobile St. Louis blue line, and I can't help but think that a ton of that came back to the return of defenseman Vince Dunn, who missed the first three games of this series with a facial injury. And it took Dunn all of 45 seconds to make his first impact of the series, as he put the puck on net that allowed Ryan O'Reilly to take a successful wraparound behind the Boston net and through Tuukka Rask for the first Blues goal of the night.
Dunn was an offensive dynamo throughout the night, too, as he finished with a team-best 94.44 Corsi-For percentage in 9:19 of five-on-five action, with the Blues out-attempting the Bruins 17-1 (and outshooting them 9-1) with Dunn on the ice.
A potentially crazy idea for Game 5
Follow me here: I think it's entirely possible that the Bruins dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen for Thursday's Game 5.
Assuming Zdeno Chara (face, day-to-day) is not ready to go for Game 5, and assuming Matt Grzelcyk (concussion, day-to-day) is on the shelf for the third straight game, the next man up for the Bruins becomes Steven Kampfer. Now, the problem there is that Kampfer is a right-shot defenseman, giving the Bruins four rights and two lefts in a project six-man lineup. There's also the fact that the Bruins have lost a defenseman in both of their losses this round. So, how about sitting a forward (probably Backes) and dressing either Jeremy Lauzon or Urho Vaakanainen (both lefties) as your seventh defenseman?