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Special Teams Helping Swing Momentum For B's

Power play buoyed by 4-for-4 night while penalty kill continues to thwart the Blues

by Michael Tolvo @NHLBruins / BostonBruins.com

ST. LOUIS - Hockey is often a game of adjustments. In Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins came out on top, primarily due to a few tweaks made on special teams.

After going a combined 2-for-10 on the power play in the first two contests against the Blues, the Bruins break through with a perfect 4-for-4 night. Fueled by historic outings from Torey Krug and Patrice Bergeron, the Black & Gold needed only four shots to net their four power play goals.

"I think that every game is different," said forward Jake DeBrusk, a member of the Bruins top PP unit. "There are different sets and adjustments that both teams make, whether it's on the penalty kill or on the power play. We just wanted to get more pucks to the net and try to get some recoveries down low and keep plays alive. Obviously, you wouldn't think we would go four for four on four shots, I think that's somewhat to do with some plays and also some luck.

"We got some good looks and I think one went off one of their defensemen too. There's lots of talk every game. It's different sometimes. I think we've had five power plays in the first two games, both games respectively and one goal [each game]. We wanted to do more out there and understand that St. Louis is a physical team and sometimes that gives us a chance to maybe swing momentum our way and that's what we tried to do right now."

Video: DeBrusk addressed media on Sunday afternoon in STL

The momentum was certainly fueled by the power play, but the unheralded penalty kill was key in stifling the push back from the Blues.

"I think we take a lot of pride in our defense," said PK stalwart and captain Zdeno Chara. "Our coaching staff does a great job to prepare us for the other teams power plays. We take a lot of pride in that. We just have to continue to do that."

Video: Chara Addressed media on Sunday afternoon in STL

The Bruins have limited the Blues to a 1-for-10 mark thus far in the Stanley Cup Final.

"Typically the goalie is the best killer, so that's been the case for us," said head coach Bruce Cassidy. "Blocked shots have really been excellent. We're long so we have good sticks around the net. I think the timing of our penalty kills have been mostly pretty good in terms of not having to kill two or three in a row very often when we get exhausted. We do, like a lot of teams, use a lot of the same guys. I'd say those are the three biggest reasons. It's been pretty solid most of the year."

A strong penalty kill has an impact beyond just getting the game back to even-strength.

"The penalty kill, I think it's an opportunity to assert yourself with your work ethic and how you're going to bear down for each other," said forward David Backes. "A lot of times your best penalty killer is your goaltender. Tuukka has been dynamite for us. We've been giving up chances. On the other side of that, our guys that have been out there on the PK are relentless in their pursuit. They're blocking shots and sacrificing their bodies, winning loose pucks…

"It's been good and we need to continue it to be good and whatever facet and adjustments they make to be able to adjust on the fly, those guys have done that most of the year and all the year, all playoffs. They'll bounce between our power play that can make you pay and our penalty kill that can pick guys up if we do take penalties. It's been a great combination for us."

 Video: Backes addressed media on Sunday afternoon in STL

One of the unsung heroes for the Bruins has been Joakim Nordstrom, who regularly ranks among the team leaders in shorthanded TOI.

"We try to work on our PK on a daily basis and make the adjustments that's needed," said Nordstrom. "I think we've done a good job on not letting them get into their screen and chances and Tuukka has been making the saves and we've been helping out… It's not only about me, the key is to work as one unit out there and I think that's something we've done a really good job with."

Ready For The Response

After the Bruins powered their way to a Game 1 win, the Blues responded with an impressive Game 2 victory of their own. Now that the B's have claimed another series lead, the focus is on being prepared for the strong response from the Western Conference Champions.

"It started today," said Cassidy. "I think the video session was things we need to get better at. Things where we allowed them opportunities to get back in the game. Fortunate we got a save or they rung one off the cross bar and post. That was step one. About the magnitude of decision making. I don't doubt our players courage, compete, any of that. We're here for a reason. They have the same strengths in that area. It's just decision making with the puck. How do you allow teams - some of it is discipline, getting back on the, for them getting back on the power play. That's how teams get back in the game and usually it's mismanaging pucks, giving up odd man rushes.

"We talked about that all year. We talked about winning hockey. So, we talked about that at one o'clock today. Guys are on the ice preparing for tomorrow. Some of them will go on [Monday] morning. That's our approach. It hasn't changed much. Maybe after Game 1 we weren't' going into Game 2 determined enough with the players about how St. Louis would bounce back. Listen, a lot of teams have to live it on their own. We did, Game 2. Should be much better prepared for a response in Game 4, see how we react."

 Video: Cassidy addresses media on Sunday afternoon in STL

The Blues were down a number of times in their run through the Western Conference, and the Bruins are aware of their opponent's resiliency.

"Obviously, they're here for a reason," said forward David Krejci. "We know very well they always respond pretty good after a loss. We know they'll be better. But for us, we obviously always want to make adjustments after a loss or after a win. We had some good video session this morning, I'm sure we'll have a couple more tomorrow. That's our focus, just play our game. Keep trying to be better every game."

The experience of the Blues pushback in Game 2 will help prepare the Bruins for Game 4.

"We want to approach this game like the games we played before," said Nordstrom. They had a really good push back after Game 1. Came out and played really well in Game 2. That's what we're expecting tomorrow. I thought we did a good job in the game yesterday coming out and felt we were the team that initiated everything. That's how we want to keep playing."

 Video: Nordstrom & Clifton addressed media on Sunday

With the B's now an impressive 7-2 on the road this postseason, they feel like they are in good shape to come out strong in Game 4.

"I think we just don't change anything from home to away," said blueliner Charlie McAvoy. "We understand the way that we want to play and the way that we want to try to impose ourselves from the opening face-off. One of the things that Butchy [Bruce Cassidy] harps on a lot is on time starts. That doesn't matter whether you're at home or you're on the road. We want to try to start the game on-time and kind of put our foot down as fast as we can.

"I think we're able to do that for pockets last game. Obviously like he said, there's a lot of things that we can learn from. Anticipating learning some more tomorrow in a good video session. I think just on the road we get out here and perhaps distractions are removed a little bit and maybe even some pressure. We just come and we want to play and have fun and play the game."

 Video: Krejci & McAvoy Addressed Media on Sunday Afternoon

Boston Brotherhood

Ahead of Game 3, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick served as the Fan Banner Caption. It gave Cassidy and Belichick a chance to catch up and continue to forge a bond between the areas coaches.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens is a common conversation partner for Cassidy, given that the Celtics and Bruins share an arena. While Cassidy does not interact as much with Red Sox bench boss Alex Cora, the two chatted on the phone recently during the Bruins 11-day layoff ahead of the Stanley Cup Final.

"I've gotten to know them a lot more recently, "said Cassidy. "Brad [Stevens] a little different because we share a building. I've sat down and talked to him through the course of this year, last year when we've had some double header games where our paths cross. We share now a practice facility, across the street.

"The other coaches you don't talk to as much but there have been phone conversations. Bill was at the game the other night, was waving the flag. He said it was great to spend some time with him before the game. I believe it will get closer knit know that I've gotten to know these guys. But in general, I think it's always been real strong."

The four men have all shared the experience of trying to win a championship in the sports-crazed town of Boston.

"I think there is always a common goal and that is the pressure to win and the expectations in Boston," said Cassidy. "We all kind of feel the same thing, which is a good thing. You want those. It's bringing us closer together. Hopefully I can join them with a championship."

Moving On Up

With three points (1 goal, 2 assists) in Saturday's 7-2 Game 3 win, Patrice Bergeron tied Bruins legend Phil Esposito for 2nd place on the franchise's all-time playoff scoring record.

"That's news to me, to be honest with you," said the humble Bergeron. "But nothing but respect for Mr. Esposito and everything he accomplished in his career...it's an honor."

David Krejci sits right behind Bergeron and Mr. Esposito with 101 playoff points with the Bruins.

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