ST. LOUIS — Gamesmanship has been one of the big storylines in the Stanley Cup Final. After Game 3, when the Boston Bruins routed the St. Louis Blues 7-2 to earn a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, St. Louis coach Craig Berube criticized the officials for calling the games too tightly.
Less than a week later, Boston coach Bruce Cassidy has pulled that card from the motivational deck in an attempt to save his team’s season. Down 3-2 in the series after 4-2 and 2-1 wins the past two games by the Blues, Cassidy said the series’ narrative changed after Berube’s comments.
The Bruins are facing elimination Sunday night in Game 6 at what should be a charged-up Enterprise Center. The cheapest ticket on the open market, according to StubHub, is going for more than $2,000. St. Louis can become the first team in four years to win the Cup on its ice, and can also win the Cup for the first time in its 52-year history.
And ironically, if the Bruins are looking for an example of how to handle adversity after a controversial no-call such as the trip on Noel Acciari in Game 5 that led to David Perron’s game-winning goal, they can look at the Blues’ bench.
On May 15, St. Louis lost 5-4 in overtime in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals against San Jose. The winning goal came moments after an unpenalized hand pass by Timo Meier. Rookie goalie Jordan Binnington and center Brayden Schenn each swung sticks off the glass in frustration.
Instead of ranting and raving as Cassidy did after Thursday night’s loss, Berube told his team to move on. There were still games to play, a series to win, a Cup to win. The Blues won the next three games and reached this point, something Cassidy noted on Friday.
“That one really went against them, and they pushed on,” he said of St. Louis. “High character in that locker room. We have the same high character. I suspect we’ll put it behind us. Our play should define us, not a call.”
To that end, Boston’s play the past two games hasn’t been good enough. The Blues’ physical style is bothering the Bruins, forcing key mistakes that wind up in the back of the net. Binnington has starred the past two games, coming up with 38 saves Thursday night.
Most importantly, St. Louis has been the better team in 5-on-5 play. And the Bruins’ potent power play is 0-for-5 in the past two games, a marked contrast to their 4-for-4 performance on 4 shots in Game 3.
Whether it was a different narrative or simply better play by the Blues, they stand on the cusp of history. They were the worst team in the NHL at mid-season. They now need just one more win to complete an improbable turnaround.
“We know what Sunday is,” said captain Alex Pietrangelo, “but the group is calm and we’ve done a really good job of refocusing after games.”
St. Louis will have to play without fourth-liner Ivan Barbashev, who drew a one-game suspension from the league for a check to the head of Marcus Johansson in Game 5. The play wasn’t penalized.
–By Bucky Dent, Field Level Media