ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Perhaps we should have listened a little more intently when Brad Marchand said every NHL arena holds roughly the same amount of people.
For what was a massive civic celebration here in St. Louis — a game 17,924 days in the making — looked like nothing more than another day at the office for the buzzsaws from Boston.
It was Marchand and his mates from the “Perfection Line” that let out the largest roar on a sweaty Saturday where a city gathered to bury 49 years of Stanley Cup Final frustration. The Bruins steamrolled St. Louis, 7-2. They were oblivious to everything that made this moment so special in the Gateway to the West.
“There’s a lot of energy in every single building in the NHL, Stanley Cup Finals,” said Marchand. “It’s expected, it’s been that way the entire playoffs. Vegas has more energy in warmups than any team in the entire league. Yeah, it’s loud in here, it’s fun. It’s loud in every building in playoffs.
“Again, when you get on the ice, [the fans] mean nothing. It means nothing. You play the game on the ice, they’re not out there stopping plays or scoring goals. It’s what’s played on the ice. That’s what we’re worried about.”
This is where the narrative about the Bruins past experience on this large stage comes to life. They sputtered late in Game 2, spent two off-days hearing about what went wrong, and then put the pedal down behind a goal and three assists from Torey Krug and a goal and two helpers from Patrice Bergeron.
Those were all compiled on the NHL’s most dangerous power play, which went 4-for-4 on the night and has now pumped home 23 goals with the man advantage in these playoffs. That’s tied for third most since 2005.
“I think we were taking what’s there,” said Bergeron. “I think maybe earlier we were forcing plays a little too much and tonight we put the puck on net and when you do that good things happen. It’s four different ways we scored, so I think we’re trying to take what’s in front of us.”
David Pastrnak also added a goal while Marchand chipped in an assist, which should lessen some of the heat Boston’s vaunted 63-37-88 trio has found itself under early in this championship series. Not that there was any evidence that bothered them, either.
“We’re not concerned, regardless of how much you guys want to talk about it,” Marchand said Friday.
They delivered a massive blow before the 11-minute mark when Bergeron tipped home Krug’s shot 19 seconds into a power play.
It wasn’t just the first goal of the game. It came after St. Louis came roaring out of the gates, built a quick 5-0 shot advantage, and failed to connect on their own man advantage in the opening minutes of the game.
All of the energy and emotion of the moment dissipated as a result. This was the first Stanley Cup Final game in St. Louis since May 5, 1970 and fans unable to score a ticket to get inside Enterprise Center packed a viewing area on Market Street — where the parade will be held if the Blues manage to come back and win this series.
They even managed to overshadow the Cubs-Cardinals game being played a couple blocks away at Busch Stadium.
“I was just down at the Westin and there were a lot more people walking this way than were walking that way [to the baseball stadium], and I think that’s probably the first time in the history of the city that that’s happened,” said actor Jon Hamm, a native St. Louisian who was among several celebrities in attendance.
“It’s a big deal. I mean, it’s a really big deal.”
This was also a big deal for the Bruins, who decorated the visitor’s dressing room with pictures from their 2011 Cup celebration as a reminder of what’s at stake.
They basically won the game during a four-minute stretch covering the end of the first period and start of the second. Charlie Coyle and Sean Kuraly scored before the intermission — with Boston earning a power play on a failed offside challenge for the Kuraly goal — and Pastrnak made it 4-0 at 41 seconds after getting left alone in front to float home a backhander.
Only one NHL team came back to win a game where it trailed by four goals this entire season.
There was more unfavourable history for the Blues when Jordan Binnington was pulled after Krug made it 5-1, the first time the 25-year-old rookie has been pulled during his NHL career. That will be something new for him to deal with while trying to maintain his knack for bouncing back strong.
As much as Boston didn’t like aspects of how it managed the large lead — Marchand promised that the Bruins would be better — they delivered a strong statement of intent. There was real belief building in St. Louis before they were handed their most lopsided loss of 2019.
Hamm said his Blues fandom goes back to “being a little kid and being around for a lot of heartbreak and a lot of expectations that we didn’t quite live up to, but a lot of fun.”
“I’ve known versions of this team for some time now, and it’s funny, when you start to see it click together, it’s a pretty great thing to watch,” he said. “I think these guys are locked in and they certainly look like it.”
Game 4 goes Monday night. We’ll see if he’s right.