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Stanley Cup Final

Blues know special teams, composure key against Bruins in Cup Final

Want to play 5-on-5, not face Boston's sizzling power play, strong penalty kill

by Louie Korac / NHL.com Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues feel they'll be seeing a mirror image of themselves when they take on the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final.

Game 1 of the best-of-7 series is at Boston on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

The Blues, who defeated the San Jose Sharks in six games in the Western Conference Final to reach the Cup Final for the first time since 1970, like to utilize all four lines and six defensemen, much like the Bruins do. Each team skates well, forechecks aggressively, clogs the neutral zone, is responsible defensively, and is getting solid goaltending.

 

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"Boston's a deep team. They're quick, they're fast. They have a lot of skill, good-skating hockey team," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "They've got three defensemen back there that can really move the puck and get up the ice. Obviously [Zdeno] Chara, he's still a good player, he's a force out there, big guy. He's difficult to play against, but overall, their team's a skilled, fast team and their goalie's played extremely well so far in the playoffs."

The Blues like their chances 5-on-5 but are aware that the Bruins have the edge in special teams during the playoffs. Where the Blues' power play is converting at 19.4 percent and their penalty kill sits 11th among the 16 playoff teams at 78.0 percent, the Bruins are fourth on the penalty kill at 86.3 percent and perhaps more importantly lead the League with a power play that has converted at 34.0 percent in the postseason.

"They get a lot of momentum from their power play," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "Got to make sure we keep that 5-on-5 and that top line obviously is a big key to their team [David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand]. We've played these top lines pretty well so far in these first three series, whether it's Winnipeg [Jets], Dallas [Stars] and obviously last series. We continue to shut down that top line and use our depth the best we can and make life hard on [goalie Tuukka] Rask."

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One area that stands out for both the Blues and Bruins is they each utilize their respective fourth lines against the opposition's top line. St. Louis has often started the line of Alexander Steen, Oskar Sundqvist and Ivan Barbashev to provide energy and momentum knowing it will likely go up against a top line. 

Boston employs Sean Kuraly, Noel Acciari, Joakim Nordstrom and Chris Wagner, when healthy, in the same way.

"They use everybody on their team," Berube said of the Bruins. "They use their fourth line a lot, if that's what you want to call them, against different people. It doesn't really matter who they're out there against. 

The Blues will have to key on Bergeron's line, which has combined for 46 points (22 goals, 24 assists) in 17 games, but Boston goes beyond that, and that's where the importance of Ryan O'Reilly and Brayden Schenn will come into play to try and offset Boston's top two centers, Bergeron and David Krejci (four goals, 10 assists).

"We've got to do a good job against Bergeron and Krejci," Berube said. "They're two skilled centermen that have been there for quite some time and are real good players. A lot of their offense goes through those two guys. We're going to have to do a good job of trying to shut them down."

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The Blues have been able to impose their will with physical play and an effective forecheck against the Jets, Stars and most recently, the Sharks, without taking bad penalties despite the physical nature of the games. Blues forward Pat Maroon said the Blues have done a good job of keeping their composure and not crossing any lines.

Marchand, who leads Boston with 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 17 playoff games, will challenge St. Louis' composure, though.

"I think Brad's a guy you've got to leave alone," Maroon said. "You line up to face him, don't even look at him because I think as a player, like me, when guys are engaged to me, I'm more engaged and if guys are talking and trying to get under my skin, I think I'm more effective in that sense just because you feel like you're doing your job. So, I think a guy like Brad plays better when guys are engaged to him and guys are trying to get underneath his skin. I think he's more effective that way. 

"For us, we talked to just leave him alone, let him be, let him be Marchand and let him do what he's ... I don't know, I feel like he's a player that, he's unbelievable. He's the leader of that group and you've just got to leave him alone. But I think guys in this room have done a good job each series of kind of leaving that stuff out. Winnipeg, they were running around hitting us and we stayed composed and we didn't let it bother us. Dallas same way and San Jose the same way. We've got to continue to do that."

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