ST. LOUIS – The Boston Bruins are refusing to use Tyler Bozak’s uncalled trip in Game 5 as a rallying point the way the St. Louis Blues leaned on the missed hand pass to deepen their resolve in the Western Conference final.
Sunday night’s stakes are enough to ramp them up. The Stanley Cup is in the building.
"I think when everything’s on the line, it’s pretty easy to be motivated," Patrice Bergeron said.
When any best-of-seven series is tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 holds an all-time series record of 210-58 (78.4 per cent).
But Boston bucked those odds when it stole Game 6 of its opening-round series in Toronto, then rolled the Maple Leafs in Game 7 at home.
"There’s pressure on both sides," Torey Krug argues. "If they don’t win tonight, then they have to come into a Game 7 in our building — and that’s pressure for them, I’m sure. For us, our season could end, but we’re coming into it with the right mentality that we’re going to force a Game 7. Ultimately, it comes down to will and who wants it more.
"Screw it. Let’s just go out and play hockey."
— John Krasinski (@johnkrasinski) June 8, 2019
Witnessing history doesn’t come cheap
The cheapest ticket on StubHub to get into Enterprise Center Sunday night: $1,545 U.S. Or a mellow $2,052.92 Canadian. Plus fees, of course.
"That’s insane," said Boston’s John Moore.
One could have a lot of fun at a sports bar with that money.
Backes stuck waving pom-poms, again
Serious question: If the Bruins aren’t comfortable dressing David Backes in the biggest game of their season, will they buy him out when it’s all over?
Backes, 35, still has two more seasons remaining on a contract carrying a $6 million cap hit, and he should be one of the most motivated skaters in a physical series against the squad he used to captain.
Yet coach Bruce Cassidy believes Karson Kuhlman, who’s played just six games this post-season, gives Boston the best chance in Game 6. It’s a curious curveball that can’t sit well with Backes.
"We’re here to win," Backes said. "If my part’s grabbing the pom-poms again, I’ll shake those things till all the frills fall out of them.”
Kuhlman replaces defenceman Steven Kampfer, as Cassidy ends his seven-defenceman experiment, which didn’t work in Game 5. (Matt Grzelcyk remains in concussion protocol and isn’t an option.)
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) June 9, 2019
Thomas returns to the fray at perfect time
When last we saw Robert Thomas, he was getting steamrolled by Torey Krug in Game 1. That was 11 days ago. Tonight the 19-year-old finally draws back into the Blues’ lineup for the biggest game of his and this franchise’s life.
"It’s more nerve-wracking from upstairs, that’s for sure. You’re sweating the whole game up there," said Thomas, whose injury is undisclosed. "Your gut’s just turning. I’m happy to be back out there."
The timing is perfect. Thomas is a fantastic replacement of the suspended Ivan Barbashev, who clipped Marcus Johansson with a headshot in Game 5.
"He’s a gamer. Tough kid, so he was always willing to play," coach Craig Berube said. "But I think the time off has helped him, and he’s more prepared now."
Grandma O’Reilly also has her pom-poms out
Throughout the Blues’ playoff run, Ryan O’Reilly has been opening his inbox to see congratulatory emails from his 99-year-old grandma, who lives in Seaforth, Ont., with a giant cardboard cutout of her grandson.
Granny OReilly 99 years cheering on your Grandson GO SNOOK GO! COME ON BLUES! pic.twitter.com/5WH4RPpGCV
— Brian O'Reilly (@coachbri1) June 8, 2019
Bruins tweak power play
Despite all the well-earned praise heaped upon the Bruins’ lethal power-play, St. Louis — the better 5-on-5 team here — has adjusted its PK nicely, snuffing out the last five Bruins’ PP chances.
Cassidy is removing Jake DeBrusk off the top unit, replacing him with Marcus Johansson, who’s better at gaining the zone.
"He’s a little more of a distributor than Jake. Jake’s more of a net-front presence. They both recover pucks well. Marcus is good on entries. He’s used to having it through the neutral zone," Cassidy explained.
"We had a few issues there the other day, so hopefully he gives us another option. We’ve used Marshy and Pasta, they’re usually the ones carrying it a lot. Krug sometimes. But this will give us a different look."
Toronto Raptors ‘a nice distraction’ for O’Reilly
The Blues, who slept in a hotel last night, are doing whatever they can to resist getting caught up in the Game 6 hype that is enrapturing this city. Some guys have shut off their phones.
"Mine’s on. I just don’t respond," Patrick Maroon said.
For the Ontario-born O’Reilly, he’s been glued to the NBA Finals on off-nights.
"I think it’s a nice distraction. I think just to kind of get away, and obviously it’s a very exciting time as well," O’Reilly said. "It’s awesome. I’m really excited. They’re playing unbelievable, and I hope they can close it out as well.
"We actually went to a game this year, I went to Raps versus Celtics in Boston this year, and we got a chance to see that. The Raps lost, but still, it was an exciting game to see. I’m pulling for them. Hopefully they do it.
One more empty spot
The puck wall hanging in the Blues’ dressing room puck wall now holds 60 game pucks, one for each victory in 2018-19. It appears to be full.
"There’s one more spot," says Alex Pietrangelo. "Just look closer."
— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) June 9, 2019