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Coaches Room

Blues need to stay composed, out of box in Game 4 of Final vs. Bruins

MacLean says Boston leads series thanks to experience, power play

by Paul MacLean / 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. Gord Murphy, David Marcoux, Paul MacLean and Don Nachbaur will take turns providing insight.

In this edition, Paul MacLean, former coach of the Ottawa Senators, breaks down what went wrong for the St. Louis Blues and right for the Boston Bruins in Boston's 7-2 win in Game 3 of the Final, and what the Blues need to do in Game 4.

In my Stanley Cup Final preview, I pointed out that the Bruins had an advantage over the St. Louis Blues when it comes to experience.

We're seeing that right now.

Experience means composure. For the most part the Bruins have had it through the first three games of this best-of-7 series. For the most part, the Blues haven't.

 

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If the Blues want to even this series in Game 4 at Enterprise Center Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS), they'll have to find a way to keep their cool and stay out of the penalty box.

It was an emotional night in St. Louis for Game 3 Saturday. It was the first Stanley Cup Final game played in that city in 49 years. The city was electric.

Inexperienced teams in these types of situations often can't help but get a collective adrenalin surge and start doing things that they normally wouldn't do. You start seeing players trying to make extra hits, often with too much zeal. You start seeing things like too much aggression on the forecheck, sticks in wrong positions resulting in trips or hooks, things like that.

This results more often than not in penalties.

That's what happened to the Blues in Game 3. 

Let's be realistic. You are going to take penalties in hockey games, there is no question about that. But they have to be good penalties, penalties in the defensive zone that thwart scoring opportunities by the opposition. Instead, the Blues have taken penalties 200 feet away from their own net.

Video: Barry Melrose reacts to the Bruins' huge Game 3 win

That can't happen.

The Bruins power play is far too lethal. The fact they scored four power-play goals on four shots in Game 4 is evidence of that. Their power play is an important weapon for them, and we all were reminded yet again how much of one it is.

Along with cleaning some of those things up, the Blues must stop being extra aggressive after the whistle. I think right now it only takes one of those penalties to create a difference in the game. One opportunity is all that it takes to get the momentum going the other way. 

Look at the early stages of Game 3. The building was electric, and the Blues came out flying. When forward Sammy Blais knocked former Blues center David Backes on his butt, the place exploded.

Then Blues forward David Perron took an ill-advised interference minor. Boston center Patrice Bergeron scored on the ensuing power play and, suddenly, the pendulum of momentum was swinging in the Bruins favor.

Earlier this spring when the Bruins were having some struggles on the power play, they were overpassing the puck. They were always looking for that one pass through the seam for forward David Pastrnak to unleash a one-timer or through to his linemate Brad Marchand for the one-timer or through to Bergeron in the middle. 

It was different in Game 3. The Bruins' main goal seemed to be just getting pucks to the net and it worked. They had people at the net and it left guys open, a perfect example was Pastrnak on his goal at 0:41 of the second period to give the Bruins a 4-0 lead.

Video: Bruins exploit, chase Binnington for first time

That was a designed play by Boston. So was the Bruins' first goal, a face-off win that subsequently resulted in a nice tip-in by Bergeron.

All of this circles back to the point of experience. Boston knows it can goad the Blues into penalties while themselves understanding there are certain things they have to tolerate without pushing back. It's part of being in the Final.

For the Blues to have success in Game 4, they have to treat it like a road game. Simple plays. Keep the fancy stuff out of the game plan. And don't let the emotions get to the point that guys are starting to try to do things that are out of character for them.

I do expect the Blues to come out and have their absolute best game. They've responded to any and all adversity that they've had in these playoffs to this point by adopting a workmanlike attitude and only concentrating on the game in hand. 

They'll be very focused on shift to shift. Because if they aren't and lose this game, they'll be down 3-1 and it doesn't look good. If they win, it'll be 2-2.

It might not be a do-or-die game for the Blues. But it certainly will be close to one. 

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