Stanley Cup Game 1: Don’t Poke the Bear

  • The Bruins came out rusty until Sean Kuraly and the fourth line stopped the bleeding. The fourth-line was the best on the ice.
  • The Bruins were a handful for the first three rounds. But everyone said they’d be water bugs compared to the big, heavy Blues. It sure didn’t look that way. The Blues had almost no O-zone time and their cycle game didn’t exist. #DontPokeTheBear

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Western Conference Finals Preview: Sharks vs. Blues

 

How the Blues got here:

By being resilient, that’s how. And it’s still strange to say.

 

After a crushing defeat at the Madhouse in Game 6 against Chicago, it all felt much too familiar. The Blues were going to be outed again in the first round, perpetually unable to get past the hump and each first-round exit more painful than the last. Except the Blues won, and carried that momentum forward against Dallas.

 

By the time the Stars had pushed the series to seven games, the Blues had already lost any reason to panic. They polished off the reigning Cup champions in seven games, so there was no reason they couldn’t do the same to the Central Division winner, a Dallas team that still had many holes on defense and question marks in net. The Stars defense just didn’t have an answer to their size and versatility – young John Klingberg still has plenty of growing to do and Kris Russell barely moved the meter, which left 6-foot-3 Stephen Johns, who had 14 career NHL games prior to the playoffs, as the only player big enough to the handle the Blues’ size. And, as expected, neither Kari Lehtonen nor Antti Niemi were particularly sharp, showing flashes of ability but not consistent enough for Lindy Ruff to trust either one.

 

Those two weaknesses were exploited by the Blues’ depth, because if Vladimir Tarasenko wasn’t doing the scoring, it was Troy Brouwer and Robby Fabbri. Even David Backes, who posted his lowest point total in seven seasons, has six goals in the playoffs this year, after scoring just five in his previous 31 playoff games. Backes has been so good that the Blues may think twice before moving on from their long-time captain. The Stars did all they could with a young lineup that was missing key bodies, and simply just ran into a better, more experienced team.

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