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Coaches Room

Blues, Bruins focus on adjustments for Game 3 of Cup Final

Nachbaur says St. Louis must duplicate success from Game 2; Boston needs more from top line

by Don Nachbaur / Special to NHL.com

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 edition, Nachbaur, a former assistant with the Los Angeles Kings, looks at adjustments the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues might make heading into Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

The St. Louis Blues made some adjustments that allowed them to rebound for a 3-2 overtime win against the Boston Bruins in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday. With the best-of-7 series tied heading into Game 3 in St. Louis on Saturday, it's the Bruins' turn to respond.

We can dissect the adjustments St. Louis made in terms of X's and O's or line matchups, but the biggest change was in attitude. The Blues executed a more passionate game plan with superior discipline to Game 1, a 4-2 loss. Regardless of the score, their passion in every situation showed in their desperation and commitment to not get sidetracked.

 

[RELATED: Complete Stanley Cup Final coverage]

 

For Boston, as much as we can analyze the details of its structure, it boils down to the top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak contributing more.

The Bruins have received solid production from their depth players throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including goals from their third line (Charlie Coyle) and fourth line (Joakim Nordstrom) in Game 2. But while the depth players have contributed, Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak have yet to find their dominant game.

This also happened early in the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes, when their impact was limited at 5-on-5, but they found their stride and were a force later in the series.

Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak have been on the ice for three goals against in the first two games and their production has been limited to an empty-net goal (Marchand) in Game 1 and an assist (Pastrnak) in Game 2. Expect that line to make significant adjustments and lead the way for Boston in Game 3.

Two players specifically who are looking to rebound for Boston are Marchand and defenseman Brandon Carlo. Normally an extremely reliable player, Marchand had an off night in Game 2. He turned the puck over on four occasions while choosing to pass instead of carrying or shooting.

In overtime, Carlo twice failed to clear the defensive zone with the puck on his tape, which eventually led to Carl Gunnarsson's game-winning goal at 3:51. In his case, the physicality the Blues administered might have taken a toll with the Bruins down to five defensemen after Matt Grzelcyk was injured on a hit from Oskar Sundqvist in the first period.

Video: STL@BOS, Gm2: Gunnarsson wins it for Blues in OT

In one of the most physical games of the playoffs, heavy play and a constant commitment to numbers around the puck led to condensed space. 

At times, the Bruins forced plays on zone exits and entries and the Blues preyed on those mistakes. St. Louis should be on a high returning home for Game 3 and will attempt to duplicate its Game 2 performance, but the Blues cannot forget the process that brought them success. 

It started with quicker defensive-zone exits and speed through the neutral zone. This helped lead to an improved forecheck with a physical presence.  

The constant pursuit by the Blues left the Bruins defensemen with limited time, creating disorganized breakouts and defensive-zone coverage. Boston will need to focus on having better puck management with fewer turnovers in Game 3. 

Additionally, the physicality of Game 2 might have repercussions later in the series. 

The Blues outhit the Bruins 50-31 but absorbed equal punishment. Both sides had players staggering back to their feet after laying prone on their back.  

That heavy hitting can bring on delayed injuries to the upper body similar to shots blocked off the foot, ankle or knee. Losing Grzelcyk affected the Bruins in Game 2, and it remains to be seen how will impact them the rest of the series.

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