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Stanley Cup Final

Blues, Bruins not surprised Cup Final tied heading into Game 3

Similar style of play has each team seeking adjustments to gain advantage

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

ST. LOUIS -- The Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues is tied 1-1, and neither team is surprised.

"Nothing has really caught me off guard yet," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said.

"Two good teams going at it," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "We each have a recipe that works."

 

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The Bruins cooked theirs in Game 1 and won 4-2; the Blues did the same in Game 2 and won 3-2 in overtime.

The question now is what gives for Game 3 of the best-of-7 series at Enterprise Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS). Does either team have the edge other than the Blues' home-ice advantage?

It doesn't appear so if you analyze the numbers through the first 123:51 played in the Cup Final.

Each team has scored five goals in the two games, excluding Brad Marchand's empty-net goal in Game 1.

Boston has outshot St. Louis 61-57, but the Blues dominated in Game 2, outshooting the Bruins 37-23, including 27-15 after the first period and 4-0 in overtime.

Video: Blues heading home for Game 3 of Stanley Cup Final

The total shot attempts are even at 107 each. Boston has a 17-16 advantage in takeaways and is plus-5 in face-offs (59-54), but the teams were even in Game 2 (28-28).

As expected, the Blues have been more physical, outhitting the Bruins 83-63, but not surprisingly that has led to more penalties, 10 compared to the Bruins' five.

Just like they were in the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Bruins have been better on special teams than the Blues (2-for-10 on the power play, 5-for-5 on the penalty kill), but St. Louis killed Boston's last four power-play opportunities in Game 2, including one with 6:38 left in the third period, to keep the game tied.

Good starts and early leads haven't mattered. St. Louis had a 2-0 lead 1:00 into the second period of Game 1 and lost. Boston had leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the first period of Game 2 and lost.

Forechecks and puck management have been huge, deciding factors.

"Nothing has really shocked us," Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk said. "We understand what they're trying to do."

The Blues will try to do in Game 3 what they did in Game 2, when their physicality and forecheck and breakouts and puck management through the neutral zone and in the offensive zone were better than the Bruins.

But the Bruins are expecting that, so doing it again in Game 3 will be harder. It's no different than what the Blues expected after Game 1. They were ready for the Bruins to try to use their forecheck, speed, puck skills and east-west passes in the offensive zone like they did in Game 1.

Adjustments have mattered.

So what could make the difference in Game 3?

The Bruins' top line.

Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Marchand have been quieted by the Blues, particularly by the defense pair of Colton Parayko and Jay Bouwmeester. They have zero points at even strength and are minus-7. Even their work on the power play has been spotty.

"I wouldn't say that line has been dormant by any means, they just haven't finished anything," Cassidy said. "Yet, they typically do. … We're in the Final, there are good players they're playing against, so they've got to find an edge. I suspect they'll work hard to do that in Game 3."

If they can't, the Bruins could use some help from their second line of David Krejci, David Backes and DeBrusk. That is a line that has been dormant, with one point, DeBrusk's assist on center Charlie Coyle's power-play goal in Game 1, and eight shots on goal in the Final.

Video: STL@BOS, Gm2: Coyle opens scoring with PPG

The Bruins haven't gotten an even-strength goal out of that line in the past four games.

"Our team needs us now more than ever," DeBrusk said.

On the power play, the Blues are 0-for-5 with six shots on goal in the Cup Final after ending the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks 5-for-15 in Games 3-6.

"It's an area that has to be better," Blues center Ryan O'Reilly said. "It can be a spark."

The Bruins have killed 18 straight power plays and 28 of 29 in their past nine games.

"We have to get a little more dangerous with our shooting," O'Reilly said. "We're making the move, but it's getting that motion and maybe getting them a little spread out. I think they're a little compact and it's forcing us to shoot it into them."

Or the Bruins are just flat-out blocking the shots, like forward Joakim Nordstrom did twice on Parayko and once on forward Vladimir Tarasenko during a Blues power play in the second period of Game 2.

Video: STL@BOS, Gm2: Nordstrom blocks three shots in 2nd

"We have to make sure we move the puck around quick," Parayko said.

The Cup Final is two games old and already expectations have been met, making it hard to predict what to expect in Game 3 except for the obvious.

"You'd like to go out, get a nice little margin and be able to sit on a lead, but where we are right now I don't think these games are going to be like that," Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy said. "It's going to come down to the little things."

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