Improving Play of Depth Play Key for Blues Moving Forward

Improving Play of Depth Play Key for Blues Moving Forward

On Monday night, the big pieces for the Blues played well enough to win. The line of Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, and Vladimir Tarasenko were +2 against Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand five on five, and the Bruins top two lines were kept of the score sheet. But the depth of the Bruins killed the depth of the Blues and that was the difference in Game One. The third and fourth line for Boston out-shot those units for St. Louis 11-3 with both Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari equaling St. Louis’ shot total by themselves, putting three pucks on net each. Kuraly had a goal and an assist, including the game winner. He has 7 points in 14 games, which is a solid mark for a fourth line center. Kuraly’s primary matchup, Blues’ center Oskar Sundqvist, struggled losing 64.6% of faceoffs and took an untimely cross-checking penalty in the 2nd, which led to the Bruins tying goal. Sundqvist is the only member of the Blues lineup who has experience in the Stanley Cup Finals, playing on the 2016 champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

Of the 18 games the Bruins have played, they have gotten goal production from a bottom sixer or defensemen in 13 of them. If Game One was any indication, this is unlikely to change and with each member of the Bruins scoring this playoffs, St. Louis won’t be able to focus on stopping just one depth player. Not only does this put pressure on the Blues forward group to match their counterparts, it puts a burden on the second and third defensive pairs. Alex Pietrangelo has been a force offensively with 11 assists and solid defensively, but his D partner Joel Edmundson had a lackluster Game One. On a few occasions, he allowed a Bruins player to get by him and get a solid rush to the net. Jake DeBrusk nearly buried a snapshot past Jordan Binnington a little over two minutes into the first period and Marcus Johansson had success all night thanks to his speed. Edmundson took a bad penalty in the third period when he high-sticked David Backes in the face and appeared to retaliate with a jab at Backes when Backes fell to the ice. Edmundson and third pairing Robert Bortuzzo and Carl Gunnarsson each finished with a minus rating. Gunnarsson was a -2. Edmundson may have lost the trust of his coach Craig Berube during Game One as he only played a little over 14 minutes when Pietrangelo played over 25. The Blues could get some relief when Vince Dunn returns which will likely push Gunnarsson out of the lineup. But even when Dunn was playing, he skated on the third pair and Edmundson was on the second with Pietrangelo. The Blues will need Edmundson along with their bottom pair to be a lot better moving forward. If the Bruins’ depth forwards outscore the Blues’ by any type of margin, it will be difficult for St. Louis to win the series. As good as Colton Parayko and Jay Bouwmeester have been since the San Jose series, its hard to imagine any defensive pair being able to keep the Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak line off the scoresheet for an entire series.  

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