(Photo: Krista Patronik)
When the buzzer signaled the end of Tuesday’s game in Boston, St. Louis found themselves singing the shutout blues in the key of G, as Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask kept singing his own refrain of “No goal for you,” by making some absolutely tremendous saves.
Coming into the evening the St. Louis Blues were 9-1 in their last ten games and were certainly a team on a streak—in fact they had a three-game winning streak. And as the game got underway it seemed that the Blues intended to make this game another win, though the pace of the game was much slower than perhaps they were expecting from the Bruins.
The Boston Bruins are often looked at as a team that doesn’t have speed, but they usually have lengthy periods between whistles, which was certainly not the case in the first period. That period alone saw eight icing calls and five calls on the teams being offsides, which didn’t include stops as a result of the puck being in the netting or goaltenders stopping the puck. The first icing came just eighteen seconds into the game. The incessant whistles made for a slow first period and may have worked to the benefit of the Bruins whose neutral zone play also contributed to slowing things down and perhaps threw off the Blues timing some.
After the game The Pink Puck asked Blues Kevin Shattenkirk if perhaps that slow start may have contributed to the lack of production from St. Louis.
“Yah, I think that’s mostly due to their neutral zone forecheck. They really sit back and wait for you to try and force a pass, and then attack off of that. I think that’s what makes the game a little bit slower,” Shattenkirk told The Pink Puck. “So I think that’s where we have to be able to just kind of turn it right back around on them, like we did in the third period there. We were able to just get pucks, turn it back, get it in their zone, and go to work.”
And go to work the Blues did—throughout the game—having almost twice as many shots on goal in the game with 33 to the Bruins with just 17. And yet despite the constant barrage of shots, most of them were kept to the outside and Rask was clearly in his zone because with just a couple of exceptions he was square to the puck and ready to stop it regardless of where St. Louis shot. Those couple of shots that Rask wasn’t immediately on top of, somehow stayed out or he made one of those “miracle saves” that leave people gawking at the net.
In response to being kept to the outside, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock acknowledged that but also pointed out that perhaps his team was looking for the pretty goal.
“Well, I just think they kept us on the perimeter all night. I know we had a lot of shots on goal, but we weren’t really a threat,” Hitchcock told reporters. “We were trying to make the extra play all night, rather than pound it in and look for the grease goal.”
The game probably looked different to those watching it than to those who were playing it, especially in regard to how well St. Louis was playing.
“[The Bruins] allowed us to enter the zone, kept us on the perimeter, and we stayed on the perimeter all night, did the same thing on the power play,” Hitchcock continued. “I think in style points, it looked probably like we were playing good, but there was no detail in doing the hard things that you have to on the road to score. We just allowed ourselves to stay on the perimeter.”
Of course, it wasn’t all perfect passes for the Blues. even as they were kept to the outside. One errant give away would prove costly. Just 5:45 into the first period, after having won an offensive zone faceoff, the play ended up back in St. Louis’ end of the ice and goalie Brian Elliott went behind the net to play the puck to Ian Cole. And Cole, who saw Matt Fraser coming at him, passed the puck around the net, only to discover Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins there to receive that pass. Elliott hadn’t made it all the way back into his net, making this an easy goal for Bergeron and one that he happily took, putting his team on the board first.
When asked about this gift of a goal after the game, Bergeron couldn’t help the devilish little grin from appearing as he responded.
“Yeah, sure, especially when the goalie was caught behind the net,” Bergeron said. “It was definitely one of those that you take for sure.”
Of course the lack of push by the St. Louis Blues is not intended to take away from the effort by the Bruins. Fraser, who had been put on the line with Bergeron with the scratch of Brad Marchand due to injury, was forechecking and using his speed to force the Blues to make costly plays, such as the one that gave Bergeron the goal, even though Fraser appears nowhere on the statistics sheet with an assist.
And for those who have been clamoring for Rask’s head on a stake for his slow start to the season, his play in Tuesday’s game was truly critical to the Bruins putting that game in the win column.
“He was tremendous tonight. Definitely gave us a chance to win on every play,” Bergeron said of his goaltender. “He was battling, playing the puck, finding it too through traffic. It wasn’t easy saves all the time, but it was definitely some tough ones and he made some huge plays for us.”
Boston now has a two-game winning streak, and head to Columbus to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night before returning Saturday for their next tilt with their bitter rival the Montreal Canadiens, followed by seeing the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday. It will be interesting to see what they take from their wins against the Carolina Hurricanes and the Blues to apply to the upcoming games.