The St. Louis Blues are breathing easier after winning the first Stanley Cup Final game in their history, and now they have a chance to build on that Game 2 victory when they play on home ice Saturday night against the Boston Bruins.
The two teams are tied in the NHL's championship series after the Blues pulled out a 3-2 overtime win Wednesday night in Boston.
The Bruins saw their eight-game winning streak and perfect May come to an end when Carl Gunnarsson blasted home the winning goal in the extra session.
Game 3 Information
Stanley Cup Final: Boston Bruins at St. Louis Blues
Series Standings: 1-1
Date: Saturday, June 1
Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Network
Bruins' top line issues
The Bruins will have to win at least one game in St. Louis if they are going to claim their seventh Stanley Cup, and one of the key aspects of earning that victory will be a return to form of their top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.
As a group, the Bruins' top line is minus-seven for the first two games of the series, with Pastrnak at minus-three.
There have been times throughout the playoffs when Pastrnak and Marchand have tried to make extra passes instead of taking the available shots, and the Bruins have missed out on scoring opportunities. They have responded in their previous series with improved scoring and production after inconsistency at the start of matchups with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes.
"Yeah, we need to be better," Marchand said, per Christopher L. Gasper of the Boston Globe. "Personally, I wasn't good the last two games. We can't be playing like that."
The rest of the team has confidence in a trio that many around the league have labeled as The Perfection Line.
"It's like you give them enough time and enough reps against a certain matchup, they're smart enough hockey players," defenseman Torey Krug said, per Gasper. "They know what's going to be open. They're going to find a way to break through."
The Blues are going to challenge that trio at every turn. The key to matching up with the Bruins stars has been the play of St. Louis defensemen Colton Parayko and Jay Bouwmeester. Both are big, powerful men who are making Marchand and Pastrnak pay for every inch of ice they try to claim in the offensive zone.
Additionally, head coach Craig Berube can use either the Brayden Schenn or Ryan O'Reilly line when the Bergeron line is on the ice for the Bruins.
Both groups of St. Louis forwards are solid defensively, but it's the two defensemen who may determine the success or failure in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
"I think we just continue to play tight against them as a full five-man unit, and [goalie Jordan Binnington] is making the stops when he needs to," Parayko said, per Tom Gulitti of NHL.com. "Us D-men, we are trying to play tight on them, not allowing them to kind of come into our zone and just generate opportunities, and that's the main thing."
Grzelcyk injury plays key role
The Bruins lost Matt Grzelcyk early in Game 2 when he took a high hit from Oskar Sundqvist as he was trying to dig a puck out from behind the goal line. The defenseman is in the concussion protocol and did not travel to St. Louis Thursday.
His absence in Game 2 meant the Bruins were forced to play the rest of the game with five defensemen, and that had an impact throughout the rest of the game.
While they presumably won't have Grzelcyk in Games 3 or 4, they are most likely to play John Moore in his absence. Head coach Bruce Cassidy was focusing on Moore and Steven Kampfer, and he said Friday he is leaning toward the former.
"He's a left stick, keeps everything simple in terms of pairs and [everyone] on their strong sides," Cassidy said, per Tracey Myers of NHL.com.
Moore, a left-handed shot like Grzelcyk, is a faster skater than the injured defenseman. However, he has not been as effective and is going to have to pick up his play against the hard-hitting Blues.
Sundqvist was suspended by the NHL Department of Player Safety Thursday night, and he will not be able to play in Game 3. The Blues will try to overcome his absence with their depth.
"We have so many guys who can step in and do the job and, obviously, it's tough losing key players like that, but we're confident," O'Reilly said, per Gulitti. "We have a great group here and so many guys who are able to step in and make an impact."