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Coaches Room

Blues, Bruins focus on adjustments for Game 2 of Stanley Cup Final

Marcoux says St. Louis must play smarter, avoid penalties; Boston can't be satisfied after win in opener

by David Marcoux / 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 Stanley Cup Final edition, Marcoux, former goalie coach for the Carolina Hurricanes and the Calgary Flames, discusses where the focus will go for Game 2 after the Boston Bruins defeated the St. Louis Blues 4-2 in Game 1 on Monday.

Boston's win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final has given the Bruins and St. Louis Blues a base on which to start the adjustments that are part of every playoff series.

 

[RELATED: Complete Stanley Cup Final coverage]

 

Game 2 is at TD Garden on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, SN).

Once the Bruins were able to knock off some of the rust from their 10 days between games and get to a quicker, more forceful game, the Blues looked a little bit like the proverbial deer in the headlights for most of the final two periods.

There's plenty of time before Game 2 to examine what happened, and I think this will lead everyone to be better for the Blues.

The Blues are fine. Your goal as the road team to start a playoff series is to get one of first two games. St. Louis won Games 1 and 2 at the Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference First Round and won Game 2 at the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final after losing Game 1.

In more specific areas, it appeared Blues goalie Jordan Binnington thought he should have stopped Charlie McAvoy's second-period goal that tied the game at 2-2. I'm sure Binnington would want that one back, but it's important to note that there were sticks involved in that shot, in particular from Blues defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko reaching in. The puck may have dipped a little, having deflected off one of those sticks as McAvoy shot it, and that makes it a tough puck to track.

Binnington's resilience has been a strength for St. Louis, and there's no reason it shouldn't continue.

Video: Evaluating Binnington's performance in Game 1 loss

Another area the Blues will likely examine is how to get their dump-ins to better places against Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. Trying to keep Rask off guard, perhaps by changing things up during the game a few times as to which side the puck goes to, could help the Blues forecheckers.

This is a constant cat-and-mouse game, especially within a series. Each team will be watching video and trying to determine which side the opposing goalie prefers for his passes if he stops the dump-in. Everything's on video these days. The key is to change things around, never be predictable; that can keep the other team on its toes and perhaps catch opposing players off guard once in a while.

That's an important thing for the Blues to pay attention to, since Rask is a smart veteran and he understands all the minute details of switching things around.

Another focus for the Blues will be penalties. They'll certainly have to be more disciplined, since the Bruins have a very good power play. This was an area of momentum in Game 1, and it went Boston's way.

I think the Blues, who took five penalties in Game 1, are hoping more calls go their way in Game 2 and future games, but a team can't pin all of its planning on that. What St. Louis will need is better puck management, some better decisions and more quality tape-to-tape passes. The Blues didn't have much of that once they took a 2-0 lead one minute into the second period.

My belief has always been that you win or you learn. The Blues will learn to stay out of the penalty box, do a better job of getting the puck deep and getting on the forecheck.

The Bruins will be emphasizing how the rust is now off and how they played in the final two periods on Monday.

Video: Bruins 4th line have a strong impact in Game 1

They'll be expecting a tougher game from the Blues, and probably will expect to get fewer calls and power plays than they did in Game 1, citing the tendency for things to even out.

In that case, Boston's penalty-killers must be prepared and focused for what may come. The Bruins should also be thinking about weathering a storm or two, since very few series ever move in a straight line. There are always twists and turns of momentum, and plot and strategy complications with every game.

The Bruins will not want to change their mindset, though, and that's to stay aggressive.

I see the Bruins as very consistent and battle-tested. They've been a top team all season long, unlike the Blues, who were last in the NHL on Jan. 3. Boston has experience and leadership in players like Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and Rask; that's a big plus, and it matters a lot at this time of the season.

They are the team ahead in the series, but the coaching staff has a big job ahead.

Even after a win, I think it's important for coach Bruce Cassidy and his staff to remain critical. I always preferred the sandwich method, which is to show positive clips at the start of video meetings, then sprinkle in some critical stuff -- things that you can improve upon -- then finish with more positive stuff. This leaves the players knowing it wasn't a complete or perfect game and focuses them on being hungry to do even better.

Boston's coaches and leaders have enough experience and depth to be able to keep everyone sharp and accountable. And at this stage of the playoffs, even with a win in Game 1, you know nobody will be overconfident.

The Bruins will be preparing for a tougher game ahead, enjoying the ride and knowing that this is likely to be a long series.

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