What can we expect from the second showdown in Beantown? Let’s attack it as a Q&A primer in today’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Daily:
In the sense that he laid out an opponent with a hit that instantly sparked joy on his bench, anger in his opponents and controversy among the fans? Krug’s rink-length rush to wallop Robert Thomas of the Blues in Game 1, sans helmet, was still the talk of the Bruins dressing room on the eve of Game 2. “Yeah, it was just a perfect moment. A lot of things lined up for me. I have a few hits here and there. If you don’t watch our team much, you probably don’t realize that because of my stature. But you can go through the archives. There’s a few,” he explained.
Is Torey Krug a smaller Brad Marchand?
Marchand referred to Krug as “the Little Bad Bruin” on Tuesday, and told the media that Krug has been inspired to be more of a pest because he is “rocking my shirt under his jersey” and that “it’s a little big for him, but he fits in” the No. 63 shirt. “I couldn’t find it one day and I saw him wearing it. He stole it from me,” said Marchand. He also claimed that Krug skated the full rink for the hit for cosmetic reasons. “He’s got some sexy flow and it waves in the wind and everything. I’m sure that’s why he took that run up the ice, because he knew there would be some good pictures of it,” he said.
Is Torey Krug on something?
Krug and Blues goalie Jordan Binnington glared at each other during Game 1. “It was more of a stare. His pupils were pretty big — I don’t know if he’s on something — but he was pretty fired up,” said Binnington. OK, doctor, whatever you say.
Torey Krug reflects on his huge hit against Robert Thomas in the third period of Game 1, saying he was trying to change the momentum on the play.
The St. Louis Blues dominated the first 21 minutes of Game 1. Then the Bruins rallied from a two-goal deficit and absolutely rolled them, from shot attempts to the scoreboard. How do they prevent that from happening again?
These are two teams that try to exert their will on the other via their forecheck. The Blues especially thrive on that pressure in the attacking zone. They aren’t a team that can generate much offense off the rush. They earn their chances from winning battles below the goal line and creating outward — look no further than Vladimir Tarasenko‘s goal in Game 1.
But that forecheck went the way of Blockbuster Video and the California Golden Seals in the second and third periods, and coach Craig Berube believes it all comes back to how the Blues handled the puck and supported each other. “We need a lot more O-zone time in the game. We turned too many pucks over, couldn’t get on the forecheck enough. Never made them play in their end enough,” he said. “They’re a good forecheck team. They pressure, they’ve got good speed, they’re a well-structured hockey team. Our puck support wasn’t very good in the second and third period and puck play in general. Just too many turnovers. We need better support, better puck play.”
What about their other big failing in Game 1, those five trips to the penalty box?
The Bruins are 4-0 this postseason when they get at least five power play chances, and 6-1 when they get at least four such chances. So, um, the Blues need to fix that.
Right, so what’s the solution?
That’s the other benefit of an effective forecheck — you’re putting yourself in a better position to earn penalties and preventing situations where you need to take ones. But overall, the least penalized team (on average) in the playoffs was shorthanded for 9:37 of Game 1. The silver lining is that they dropped the Bruins’ power play success rate from 34 percent down to 32.7 percent by killing four out of the five penalties. The bad news is that the one goal they allowed by Charlie McAvoy was a critical, game-tying goal in the second period.
“Obviously I think the first thing, just using our feet to check and your heads to check is the biggest thing. Just playing our game, getting to our game early on and just playing a full 60 that way. Moving our feet is going to be the biggest thing, checking that way,” said defenseman Colton Parayko.
The Blues have prided themselves on a strong forecheck, winning physical battles and staying disciplined. So we’re not sure who that team was wearing the Blue Note for the last 39 minutes of Game 1, because it didn’t look like them.
Should the Blues be worried about Binnington?
No. The goalie that famous responded to a question about his nerves with “do I look nervous?” wasn’t at his best in his first Stanley Cup Final game, especially on Sean Kuraly‘s game-winning goal. “I’ve got to be better. That’s my puck there. It happens and unfortunately we couldn’t get back tied up. It is what it is and we move on,” he said. But if there’s one common trait for Binnington since he took the crease for the Blues, it’s his ability to following less than stellar games with strong ones. Expect that trend to continue in Game 2.
Could St. Louis defenseman Vince Dunn return for Game 2?
Berube said “there’s a chance” his smooth puck-moving defenseman could return after being struck with a puck in Game 3 against San Jose. “Dunner’s a good puck mover for sure, can skate and get up the ice, he does a lot of good things with the puck. We love him in there. He’s not available right now, maybe we’ll see after today,” said Berube on Tuesday.
Does it even matter anymore for St. Louis? The Bruins won Game 1. That’s the series, right?
Historically, yes. Since the Final went to the best-of-seven format in 1939, the team that has won Game 1 has gone on to capture the Stanley Cup 77.2% of the time, or in 61 of 79 series.
“I was actually thinking about how long it was going to take until somebody brought up a fact like that,” said Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask when asked about that stat. “Whatever. We go out there every night and we try to win. We’re not going to get caught up in those kinds of stats.”
Besides, there are exceptions to that rule. Look no further than last season when the Washington Capitals lost Game 1 and roared back with four straight wins. And if there ever was a postseason where trends are bucked and the unexpected is expected, it’s this one. I mean, Torey Krug just had the hit of the playoffs. It’s been that kind of spring.