Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final will be played in St. Louis on Saturday. This will be the first game of the series in St. Louis, and the Blues will look to take advantage of the home ice after splitting the first two games in Boston.
The St. Louis Blues will want to match their energy from Game 2 during the rest of the series. After looking like the much weaker team in Game 1, the Blues were able to bounce back and take control. St. Louis’ lack of shots in Game 1 was what kept them from really ever having a chance. This was corrected in Game 2, when they were able to get 37 shots on Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, scoring two goals in regulation and the eventual winner in overtime.
Boston’s Game 2 was the polar opposite from their effort in Game 1. The Bruins dominated the final two periods of Game 1, to the point where it looked like they could run away with the series. They outhit, outshot and outscored the Blues in Game 1, but the Blues did not go away in the series quietly.
After the Bruins dominated Game 1, and Game 2 was domination by the Blues, who has the advantage going into St. Louis? The easy answer is the Blues, who will have the home-ice advantage. The reality is that we have seen this story before. The Blues were able to split Games 1 and 2 with the Sharks in the Western Conference Final but then gave up Game 3 at home.
Kill The Penalties
St. Louis has been very successful on the road this postseason, but now they will have to defend their ice at the Enterprise Center if they want to gain control of this series and take advantage of the game they stole in Boston.
Looking back at the first two games of the series, the game plan should be simple for the Blues. Move your feet and stay out of the penalty box. St. Louis won Game 2 by completely controlling the tempo of the game. It seemed like the puck was in Boston’s end the entire time. They did this by simply moving their feet. If you watch the loose pucks in the Bruins’ zone, you will see the Blues’ forecheck beating the Bruins players to almost every puck.
The loose pucks the Bruins did get to, they were much slower getting there than they should and had a Blues player blanketing them as soon as they tried to turn up ice. This kept the puck in the Bruins zone and led to the Blues outshooting the Bruins 37-23 and outhitting the Bruins 50-31.
The other key for the Blues is to stay out of the penalty box. The Bruins were able to swing momentum in the first game when the Blues were a man short. Not only do the Bruins have a very good power play this year, but any time you give a team a chance to play with an extra player and put your offense on pause two minutes at a time, it is almost impossible to get any rhythm going.
As I said before, the Bruins need to repeat what they did in Game 1. the difference between Game 1 and Game 2 for the Bruins was the energy and effort. In Game 1, the Bruins completely controlled the tempo of the game and were able to do whatever they wanted it seemed. In Game 2 however, the Bruins couldn’t seem to get anything going with the stout St. Louis defense.
The key for the Bruins moving forward is to get the energy back that they had in Game 1. This specifically needs to come from their top line that has been underperforming. This will be difficult to do playing on the road in St. Louis, but with guys like Patrice Bergeron and captain Zdeno Chara, Boston has the leadership and experience to get back on track.
After the first two games in the series, it is hard to predict what could happen next. So much depends on what team is going to show up on each side. With the experience of the Bruins, you would expect them to be able to bounce back and play to their full ability in Game 3.
On the other hand, the Blues have a ton of momentum after a huge emotional victory in Boston. Despite the Bruins coming in as the underdogs in St. Louis, I would take the Bruins getting the win in Game 3. Don’t let that keep you down Blues fans; this has the look of a full seven-game series.
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