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Stanley Cup Final

Blues content with various matchups against Bruins' top line in Cup Final

Coach Berube says he'll adjust on fly with last change at home for Games 3, 4

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues probably couldn't ask for more in terms of how well they've contained the Boston Bruins' top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak through the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final.

Boston had the last change on home ice, but Marchand's empty-net goal in a 4-2 win in Game 1 is that line's only point so far in the best-of-7 series, which is tied 1-1 with Game 3 at St. Louis on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

In contrast, the Blues' top line of Jaden Schwartz (two assists), Brayden Schenn (one goal, one assist) and Vladimir Tarasenko (two goals) has combined for six points (three goals, three assists) while playing head-to-head against the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line, including Tarasenko's first-period goal in St. Louis' 3-2 overtime win in Game 2 on Wednesday.

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Blues Stanley Cup Final coverage]

 

Blues coach Craig Berube is more focused on getting the defense pair of Jay Bouwmeester and Colton Parayko on the ice against Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak, but with the next two games in St. Louis, he'll have the opportunity to pick which forward line he wants.

"I don't think I really tend to stick to one line against them," Berube said Thursday. "Depending on the situation and where the face-offs are and things like that, I don't mind using 2-3 different lines against them. Depending on the game and what's going on and how guys are looking, I go off a lot of that."

With Schwartz, Schenn and Tarasenko getting the better of Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak, Boston coach Bruce Cassidy switched away from that matchup later in each of the first two games, though it was the matchup Cassidy initially wanted. If Berube chooses, he can use Schenn's line more against Bergeron's line in Games 3 and 4.

Video: Blues show toughness and grit in Game 2 victory

Or he can use his second line with center Ryan O'Reilly, who, like Bergeron, is a finalist for the Selke Trophy as the top defensive forward in the NHL.

St. Louis' fourth line might have also been an option before center Oskar Sundqvist was suspended for one game Thursday for boarding Boston defenseman Matt Grzelcyk in Game 2.

"The lines that are out there against them, whoever it is, they're doing a good job of backchecking and tracking and being tight on them," Berube said. "It's a very good line. It's hard to handle them, for sure. They do a lot of things well. So far, it's been pretty good, but we've got to continue to do that. It's a tough line to defend."

The Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes can attest to that after struggling to contain Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak in the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Marchand is second in the playoffs with 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists), one behind San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture. Pastrnak is tied for fourth with 16 points (seven goals, nine assists), and Bergeron has 13 points (eight goals, five assists).

The Blues suffocated them for much of Game 2 before Bergeron (2:38 left in the third period), Marchand (51 seconds remaining) and Pastrnak (46 seconds left) each had an open scoring chance late that goalie Jordan Binnington saved.

"I think we just continue to play tight against them as a full five-man unit, and [Binnington] is making the stops when he needs to," Parayko said. "Us D-men, we are trying to play tight on them, not allowing them to kind of come into our zone and just generate opportunities, and that's the main thing.

Video: Blues improved play in neutral zone was key to Game 2

"And whenever it's in our zone, [our forwards] continue to chip pucks for us, we try to chip pucks for them."

Marchand expressed confidence after Game 2 that his line will play better, and the Blues know it's probably not realistic to expect to shut it down for the entire series.

"Obviously, they're a dynamic line," O'Reilly said. "They've got some great firepower, and we're just trying to make it as difficult as we can on these guys and not give them momentum. It's just being smart, being disciplined with the puck at the right times. We have a lot of work left, and we have to be ready for their adjustments."

Schenn said he, Schwartz and Tarasenko will be ready if they get the call to play against Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak in Game 3. They've had similar assignments in each of the first three rounds of the playoffs, going head-to-head at times with the Winnipeg Jets' top line with center Mark Scheifele, the Dallas Stars' first line with center Tyler Seguin and the Sharks' top line with Couture.

"I think as much as you want to score and create offense, you've got to do just as good on the other side of the puck," Schenn said. "You've got to defend them hard. All three of them, Pastrnak, Bergeron and Marchand, they're world-class players, so you've got to play them hard."

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