Once again the St. Louis Blues must prove their resilience. Once again they must dig deeper to find another performance level.
Saturday night couldn’t have gone much worse for them and their long-suffering fans. First severe weather scattered the street party outside Enterprise Center. Then the Bruins stormed the Blues in the first period, racing to a 3-0 lead that propelled them to 7-2 victory in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Talk about a buzzkill ...
So now the Blues must reset again. They know all about bouncing back. That process started back in January, when the they started their long ascent from the NHL cellar into the playoff bracket.
The process continued in postseason play. They had to rebound from bad losses to Winnipeg, Dallas and San Jose to win the Western Conference.
After losing Game 1 of the Cup Final going away, they rallied twice to win Game 2 in overtime.
But this will be the toughest challenge yet. The Bruins got back into the domination mode that carried them to eight consecutive playoff victories before Game 2.
They flexed their considerable special teams muscle to regain the edge in the Cup Final. Their 2-1 margin in this best-of-seven series seems larger.
The Blues backed off the Bruins with an early push, which included Sammy Blais crushing former Blues captain David Backes with a monstrous body check.
The Blues also got an early power play and they actually got organized with the man advantage to generate a few scoring chances.
After that, though, the Bruins tilted the ice against the Blues and things got out of hand.
What happens when you don’t keep the puck deep? The Bruins counter with their rush and put their skill to work.
One rush led to David Perron’s interference penalty and Patrice Bergeron’s power-play goal, on a deft redirection of Torey Krug’s point shot.
Another rush led to Charlie Coyle’s snipe from the right wing, nicely set up by Marcus Johansson’s fake shot and pass.
A weird goal by Sean Kuraly (from long range, through Alex Pietrangelo) essentially buried the Blues. Coach Craig Berube rolled the dice with an offside challenge that he lost — and the ensuing penalty allowed the Bruins to extend the lead to 4-0 early in the second period with David Pastrnak’s one-on-one move on goaltender Jordan Binnington.
Here are some other thoughts:
• Blues forward Zach Sanford, a former Pinkerton Academy star, made the most of fill-in start for the suspended Oskar Sundqvist. He banged around on the forecheck, created several scoring chances and set up Ivan Barbashev’s second-period goal. Sanford may have earned himself another start.
• Binnington will be under the media microscope after allowing five goals. Most of them were just good goals by the Bruins, but the hockey world is curious to see how he responds. Like his teammates, he has been resilient this season — but this will be his biggest test yet.
— As you would expect given the stakes, play got chippy once the Bruins got well ahead. Some of the stickwork bordered on medieval. Blues winger David Perron was definitely not on his best behavior.
— The Blues deserved a little better offensively, since Pat Maroon and Ryan O’Reilly hit posts. That said, the Bruins took control of this game early and didn’t yield it.