By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Bruins’ top line has yet to gain traction in the Stanley Cup Final, but David Krejci and the second line haven’t pulled their weight either. Much of that is due to the emergence of Blues center Ryan O’Reilly as perhaps the most impactful skater on the ice for either team.
O’Reilly scored for the second straight game on Thursday night in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden, giving him three goals in the last two. Not coincidentally, the Blues won both games and they are now one win away from beating the Bruins into submission.
If you were to peg a single Blues forward who could hang with Patrice Bergeron entering the series, it would’ve been O’Reilly. He plays an excellent two-way game, he’s great at the faceoff dot, and while he’s not overly skilled offensively he is a smart player who knows how to get to a spot and finish. The performance of Brayden Schenn’s line against Bergeron’s has freed O’Reilly up to match against the Krejci line, and O’Reilly has begun to take over this series.
In Game 5, O’Reilly led the Blues with a 62.1 percent 5-on-5 Corsi rate when on the ice. St. Louis has dominated against the defensive pairing of Brandon Carlo and Torey Krug with O’Reilly on the ice, to the tune of 72.2 percent possession at 5-on-5 against Carlo and 63.2 percent against Krug.
O’Reilly’s most dominant performance in the last two games has come at the faceoff dot, particularly against Krejci. He’s 12-for-15 (80 percent) against No. 46 in all faceoffs over the last two games, and 29-for-48 (60.4 percent) in all faceoffs. He’s at a strong 53.6 percent (60-for-112) overall in the series.
But O’Reilly has truly taken control of the series when on the ice in the last two games. It’s no surprise that the Blues have won both and he’s bolstered his defensive and faceoff game with four points in the two wins. He’s officially a major problem for the Bruins as they hit the brink of elimination.
It’s hard to believe that the Bruins would have an answer for O’Reilly at this point. The Blues are at home with matchup advantages in the potential clincher in Game 6. Putting Bergeron against him might be akin to banging your head against the wall, and it may not help Krejci’s cause either.
The bottom line is that the Bruins’ top-six forwards have scored exactly one 5-on-5 point in the series – Jake DeBrusk’s too-little-too-late goal in the third period of Game 5. If they don’t want O’Reilly to finish them off and stake his claim as the best center in the series, then it’s time for them to wake up and play to their capabilities.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.