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Stanley Cup Final

Bruins' top line out of sync again in Game 2 of Stanley Cup Final

Lack of offense, defensive mistakes help Blues even series

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Brad Marchand was clear-eyed and honest in the minutes after the Boston Bruins lost to the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in overtime in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. He saw his play and his line's play for what it was, and he found it wanting.

"We need to be better," Marchand said. "Personally, I wasn't good the last two games. We can't be playing like that."

For Marchand, and for the top line, this has been an up-and-down Stanley Cup Playoffs. The numbers are certainly more than respectable -- Marchand is tied with the Blues' Jaden Schwartz (19 points) as the second-leading scorer in the postseason -- but they haven't been the consistent, dominating force that they have been in previous years, that they were in the regular season.

 

[RELATED: Complete Stanley Cup Final coverageGrzelcyk injury leaves Bruins defense thin]

 

The team, instead, has been bolstered by its depth, by Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson, by Sean Kuraly and Joakim Nordstrom and the fourth line, by the goaltending of Tuukka Rask. It has gotten enough, but not more, from Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.

To win the Stanley Cup, the Bruins need that more.

The Bruins need the offense the Bergeron line has always provided consistently, and they need fewer mistakes, with Marchand and Pastrnak making uncharacteristic miscues in Game 2 when the Blues tied the best-of-7 series. Game 3 is at St. Louis on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

It starts, as Marchand said, "with taking care of little details. That's the biggest thing. It'll come. That's how it is."

Not that that was the only issue for the Bruins.

"[The Blues] seemed to play with more urgency tonight than they did in Game 1," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "We played with less."

Marchand, who had four giveaways Wednesday, refused to blame their issues on things the Blues were doing. Instead, he said it was them. They were the line's errors and, thus, correctable.

"I think we can control the mistakes that are being made," Marchand said. "But that's hockey. Things happen."

Video: STL@BOS, Gm2: Cassidy on Blues' urgency, losing in OT

This is not something new for this line. In Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Cassidy split up his top line -- after avowing that he was keeping them together -- by putting Danton Heinen in Pastrnak's spot and dropping Pastrnak to David Krejci's line. He believed, through three games of the playoffs, that his top line wasn't giving him enough, and they responded with two goals from Pastrnak and one from Marchand.

It's possible that Cassidy, who is ever-tinkering, could opt to mix up his lines again.

Not that Marchand is overly concerned.

"We're not worried about it," he said. "We'll get back to work and worry about the next one."

Ultimately, the Bruins are at their best when the top line -- arguably the most potent in the NHL -- is performing at its best, and that wasn't the case Wednesday. Not only did they produce a single point between them -- a secondary assist from Pastrnak on Coyle's power-play goal at 4:44 of the first period -- there were defensive mistakes that cost them.

That was most notable on Vladimir Tarasenko's game-tying goal at 14:55 of the first period, when Marchand left his defensive responsibilities on Schwartz, leaving the Blues with a 2-on-1.

Video: STL@BOS, Gm2: Tarasenko puts home second opportunity

And that was the primary issue Wednesday. It was that they weren't sharp and responsible, the defensively-smart offensive line that they normally are.

"I wouldn't say we're not finding anything," Marchand said of a lack of offensive chances. "We've had some opportunities. It's just maybe a little cleaner on some details, and we'll be back to normal."

The question is whether they might need some help or whether they can sort it out on their own.

During Game 1, Cassidy took the Bergeron line off what would have been their normal defensive assignment, swapping them for the fourth line on Brayden Schenn's line. It ended up working out, with Kuraly's line controlling the defensive assignment and scoring the game-winner.

Cassidy went back to the original plan in Game 2. It didn't work.

Meanwhile, the Blues were able to control the Bergeron line.

"They're going to get opportunities," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "That's a great line. We all know that. I think [Jay] Bouwmeester and [Colton] Parayko were out there 90 percent of the time against them. They've done a great job. … I think everybody's just aware of when they're out there. You've got to be on the right side of things and do a good job. That's a dangerous line."

Video: STL@BOS, Gm2: Berube speaks about overtime win

It normally is. But so far in the Final it hasn't been. Or not what it can be.

Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak could easily put it together in Game 3. A line with that much talent and that much history and that ability to communicate can fix things fast.

"There's a lot of time here between [now and] the next game," Marchand said. "We're 1-1. There's five games left. That's what makes the Stanley Cup Final fun. It's exciting. It's competitive, so we'll just prepare for the next one."

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