Mike McKenna has been a professional goalie for the past 14 seasons and has played for seven NHL teams and 13 minor-league teams. Most recently he played in the Philadelphia Flyers organization, playing one NHL game with them this season. He also played 10 games with the Ottawa Senators in 2018-19.
He knows about the most important position in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and a lot about the men who play it and those trying to score goals against them. So NHL.com asked him to share his insights during the postseason.
In his most recent column, McKenna talks about what he saw in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, a 3-2 overtime win for the St. Louis Blues against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Wednesday. The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1.
The St. Louis Blues showed the resiliency that is their trademark, twice coming back after trailing by one goal in the first period and winning in overtime on a goal by defenseman Carl Gunnarsson.
It's always a surprise when a Stanley Cup Final game comes out of the gate with four goals in the first period. The expectation is for defense to rule the day.
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Though there was not another goal scored in the second or third period, scoring chances were prevalent for each team. Unlike Game 1, a 4-2 victory by the Bruins, the Blues looked more determined and were more effective Wednesday, outshooting the Bruins 37-23.
After facing 37 shots in Game 1, Blues goalie Jordan Binnington wasn't as busy this time. He was called upon to make several key saves down the stretch, however.
Typical to his game, Binnington forced the hand of several shooters by playing at the top of his crease, shifting into saves and controlling as many pucks as possible.
Video: STL@BOS, Gm2: Binnington denies Marchand late
It does appear the Bruins are starting to hone in on some of Binnington's tendencies. On each goal allowed, the Blues goalie was caught moving laterally and beaten through the five hole. These are isolated incidents, but when each shot looks intentional, the possibility that the Bruins pre-scout is telling their players what might work against their former American Hockey League teammate in Providence has to be a consideration.
Binnington prefers a vertically positioned glove hand, which at times causes him to defer to a half-butterfly save selection where his left knee remains off the ice.
To his credit, Binnington recovered and ended up doing what was necessary to win in Game 2. One of the keys to his game, puck tracking, never wavered. He fought to find pucks through traffic, shifted into shots when possible, and tidied up his rebounds.
Binnington will never be accused of being a blocker. Though some goalies will instinctively lock up and go for coverage over control, Binnington usually elects to keep his hands alive while using his natural flexibility to drive into shots. It's one of the reasons why he's been so successful in his limited NHL run; his strengths cater to the speed and dynamism of today's game.
What you saw at the other end of the ice in Game 2 was a little bit of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.
At times, Rask looked passive, casually sliding on his knees in no rush to recover for the next shot, which ended up biting him on the first goal by the Blues. Granted, the puck deflected upward off his defenseman, but Rask was deep in the crease sitting in his butterfly before defenseman Robert Bortuzzo shot the puck. Had Rask regained his edges, he would have been able to telescope out into an overlap save in front of his post. Though it doesn't guarantee he would have stopped the deflection, he certainly would have had a better chance.
The game-winning goal was similar. Once again Rask was deep in his crease. Would he have made the save if he played the shot closer to the top of the paint? Maybe. We'll never know. But it is noticeable that, at times, Rask seems to be playing deeper than he has in the 2019 playoffs. It's something to keep an eye on as the series progresses.
Video: STL@BOS, Gm2: Rask fends off Maroon's late chance
The flip side to Rask's game is how explosive he can be when necessary. Two examples come to mind: a sliding save off his blocker arm on Pat Maroon in the second period, and the series of movements leading up to the second Blues goal where he made an initial save on Jaden Schwartz and then scrambled into position to make a save on a Vladimir Tarasenko shot that was blocked by Zdeno Chara before Tarasenko recovered to slam home the loose puck. In each instance, Rask's skating was aggressive and precise, his edge control superb.
Like Binnington, Rask plays a very free game, meaning he isn't blocking very often or locked into systematic constraints.
At one point he even tossed a two-pad stack, which is rarely seen in today's game. Rask has the ability and creativeness to think outside the box and dominate hockey games, just like he has done throughout the 2019 playoffs.
For the Blues, coming home to St. Louis with the split is huge, especially after winning the second game and boarding the flight home feeling good. Every team views home ice as a chance to run the table. If they do that the Blues would return to Boston up 3-1 in the series, a major coup for a team that looked to be dreadfully overmatched in Game 1.
But we all know what the Bruins are capable of. They won eight straight games before losing in overtime in Game 2, so a loss seemed bound to happen at some point against the best team remaining in the playoffs. What has made Boston so good, dating back to the start of the season, is its resilience. This is a team that knows how to win.
As the series heads back to St. Louis, I'd like to give a shout out to my old Peoria Rivermen goalie partner Jake Allen, the backup for the Blues. He has made two massive glove saves on the bench during the playoffs. For each puck the backup goalie snares, twice as many trainers or coaches have been saved from potential injury. Safety is a legitimate concern on the bench, and wearing the big trapper gives a safety net to the backup and those close by. Plus, when you snag one, you get to toss it over the glass to a young fan, just like Jake did.
Those moments are priceless. Good on you, Jake.
Onward to Game 3.
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