Easier said than done after Kelly Sutherland kept his whistle in the pocket when Tyler Bozak tripped — or even slew footed — Noel Acciari leading directly to David Perron’s backbreaking tally in Game 5. The Boston Bruins, despite another head-scratching night from the men in stripes, had a chance despite not performing at a peak level after the first period.
Bruce Cassidy’s squad can’t do anything about it now. The Bruins face a 3-2 series deficit on the road for the second time this postseason. This time, they’re looking to postpone the Blues’ Stanley Cup celebrations at Enterprise Center and force another seventh and decisive game back in Boston for hockey’s ultimate prize.
“There’s a little bit of emotion that comes in after the game,” Cassidy said to reporters during Friday’s off day. “The emotion now is we’ve got to put it behind us and we got to win Game 6. That’s what’s in front of us. How do we prepare to win Game 6? That’s where my mindset is today.”
The preparations began at Saturday’s practice where the Bruins will look to somehow find 5-on-5 success against the Blues, who will have Robert Thomas back in the lineup after a four-game absence. Boston’s top-six was neutralized through the first five games against a physically talented St. Louis squad led by the likes of Brayden Schenn, Jayden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, Colton Parayko and Alex Pietrangelo (just to name a few).
They’ll have one less physical presence to worry about too, as Ivan Barbashev earned a one-game ban for his head hit on Marcus Johansson. And yes, the officials missed that call too while staring directly at the play.
Yet, Craig Berube persists with his talking point following Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. But this time he used this answer as a question to countering the Bruins’ physicality.
“I’ll bring it up again,” Berube said following Sunday’s optional skate, “we’ve been the least penalized team in the playoffs. We’re a physical team for sure, I’m not denying that, but we’re doing it in the boundaries of the game. We play a clean game, but we’re physical though, and so are the Bruins. They outhit us last game, and I expect the same [physicality] tonight. They play hard and our team respects that too. And we have to be ready for them.”
The Bruins need to be ready from the get-go. They overcame a 2-0 deficit in Game 1, but didn’t come back after allowing the first goal in Games 4 and 5.
But they’ve been in this position before, down three games to two with their season on the line in Toronto. They overcame Auston Matthews, John Tavares the Maple Leafs in Game 6 before burying them again for the second year at TD Garden for a second year in a row.
“I think we have a lot to learn from in that series,” Patrice Bergeron said about the first round matchup against their Original Six foes. “We just played our game, and we were ourselves and we came out on top.”
The cliche sounds simple, right? Just play to your identity and come out on top. Again, that’s easier said than done at this time of year.
But Bergeron knows it’s true. He’s one of five members of the 2011 Stanley Cup squad that remain on the team eight years later. Of course, those Bruins forced a Game 7 in Vancouver after chasing Roberto Luongo for the second time during that Cup Final matchup.
They were on the other side of that too, dropping a Game 6 at home against the Blackhawks two years later in a span of 17 seconds — a game where Bergeron played with a punctured lung and bruised ribs.
With puck drop quickly approaching, Bergeron had one message to share with his teammates that haven’t faced elimination in the Cup Final, specifically drawing back to that 2011 run.
“Just stay in the moment and just focus on the shift that’s in front of you. That’s all you can focus on and you need to give it everything you got,” said Bergeron, who notched just one point in the last two games. “We often say that those series are long series, and it’s definitely not over.”
It’s not over until the final whistle for sure. But the Bruins, with Karson Kuhlman returning to the lineup, have areas of improvement entering Game 6.
Establishing a strong, physical forecheck and getting off to a quick start are the two main priorities — especially 5-on-5. The Bruins peppered Jordan Binnington with 18 first period shots but went into with a big fat 0 on the scoreboard. They’ve had their chances, sure, especially with Binnington’s susceptible rebound control.
The opportunistic Blues buried their chances in the rare cough up from Tuukka Rask. The Bruins need to counter against a shaky netminder, just like they against Frederik Andersen and Toronto. Otherwise, the streets of St. Louis will be signing Gloria and celebrating their first Cup in franchise history.
The only thing the Bruins want to do after tonight: move on and host a Game 7.
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