The Coaches Room is a regular feature throughout the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs by one of four former NHL coaches and assistants who will turn their critical gaze to the game and explain it through the lens of a teacher. David Marcoux, Paul MacLean, Don Nachbaur and Gord Murphy will take turns providing insight.
In this Stanley Cup Final edition, Marcoux, former goalie coach for the Carolina Hurricanes and the Calgary Flames, discusses where the focus will go for Game 5 after the St. Louis Blues defeated the Boston Bruins 4-2 in Game 4 on Monday.
We've seen the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues each figure some things out in this Stanley Cup Final. And now with the series tied and Game 5 at TD Garden in Boston on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVAS, SN), we're to the point details and execution are more of a priority than ever.
The Bruins have home-ice advantage, two potential home games remaining versus one for the Blues, but more is familiar at this stage. The Blues are going on the road for Game 5 but they've already been to Boston in the series, and they know what to expect out of the environment in the city and the TD Garden.
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There will be no more surprises.
Each of the first four games has been a little different.
We've seen tight games and one blowout, Boston's 7-2 win in Game 3. We've heard postgame comments from both coaches about the officiating.
Game 4 showed us the value of being disciplined, and that will be important for each team going forward. Water-skiing behind an opponent, retaliating or being too engaged after a whistle will not be smart plays now. In terms of physical play, it's better to initiate and show emotional control.
Each team is trying to get its forechecking going.
The Blues have to be very focused on getting pucks behind Boston's defense and making it tough for goalie Tuukka Rask to play the puck, as he likes to do. Their identity is a simple north game of pressure forecheck on the Bruins defensemen that will lead to turnovers.
Video: Adjustment suggestions for Bruins ahead of Game 5
The Bruins have shown consistently how important their secondary forwards are. When Patrice Bergeron's line has run into tight checking, players like Sean Kuraly, Noel Acciari, Charlie Coyle and Joakim Nordstrom have been giving them critical contributions. Their impact on each game has been instrumental in the team's success.
Boston's identity of having waves of pressure in all three zones needs to continue in Game 5. Obviously, their strong power play will help as well.
It's unclear at this point if the Bruins will be affected by more injuries for Game 5.
Most players have something nagging them at this point but it seems that captain Zdeno Chara won't be playing at 100 percent after taking a puck to the face in Game 4. I wonder if they'd still want him dressed for Game 5 because he's their inspirational leader and his presence would surely be inspiring for the younger guys.
In that case, Bruce Cassidy could opt to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen to add depth on the back end along with Chara's leadership. We will see.
I'm also eager to see how Blues goalie Jordan Binnington will respond in Boston. After being pulled in Game 3, he looked solid in Game 4 but had goal support to help him get the win. He'll need to continue to get better, keep playing with that chip on his shoulder and continue to park negative thoughts, something I think he's been quite good at.
Video: Binnington resumes his stellar play in a Game 4 win
In terms of the details of the games and the matchup, I noticed something very key in Game 4. Each team has simplified its offensive game by sending pucks and bodies to the net on a more consistent basis.
Coaches call it shooting for opportunities.
I think it was a more important development for the Blues because it showed progress in them figuring out Rask.
They got two goals in Game 4 with defenseman Alex Pietrangelo simply shooting to create rebounds. If they want to score goals against Rask and win the Cup, they'll have to keep it up.
Like many great Finnish goaltenders, Rask has such a good glove hand. He gobbles things up and no rebounds are usually available.
I have noticed a pattern of the Blues, and Pietrangelo in particular in Game 4, going to the blocker side with their shots. It might go in, but if not, at least it can generate a weak-side rebound. Rask can't catch it, keep it and then have Boston's centers win the face-off, which kills any Blues momentum.
In the third period of Game 4, Pietrangelo went blocker side on him and Ryan O'Reilly was in the right spot to put in the rebound that was available.
Boston is so good at defending the slot, it's essential to put the puck on net in such a way that rebounds might just be there.
It even applies to bad angles, how the Bruins got their first goal in Game 4 from Coyle, when Chara's rebound was there for him.
Video: The Blues forecheck was a key factor in Game 4
A bad-angle shot, if it's right in the glove, just stays a bad shot, but a bad-angle shot well-positioned or placed on the far pad or blocker at least leaves a good chance for a rebound.
Another point here -- it's really important for the shooter to protect the drivers.
On O'Reilly's game-winner, Pietrangelo did just that by getting the puck on the net. If he doesn't, he fails to protect those players headed "north" and driving the net, and pretty quickly the puck's going south and you've got a problem defending it.
Bergeron did the same in the second period with his short-handed rush, leading to Brandon Carlo's rebound goal.
Pucks and bodies going to the net, it's how the goals are scored these days. With the types of goalies we have in the NHL today, you won't find many bad goals where the goalie has a clear view of a single shot.
It's not rocket science, it's simplicity but it works. And it's a pretty good recipe to get some goals.
Watch for this the rest of the series. It will probably be a big factor in the result.
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