By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
After showing every bit of the rust that was predicted to be covering their game for the first 21 minutes of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on Monday night, the Bruins not only bounced back, they bounced the St. Louis Blues around the barn on Causeway Street for the final 39 minutes of the opening tilt that took place in the raucous arena.
Resembling a pickup schoolyard basketball games between two brothers, the less experienced of the two took a quick lead, only to be beaten into submission by his stronger foe.
Following David Pastrnak’s braindead drop pass to nobody behind the Bruins net to inauspiciously start the second – which led so obviously to Vladimir Tarasenko’s goal that made it 2-0 for the Blues, he should have been credited with an assist – the B’s depth responded just over a minute later when When rookie defenseman Conner Clifton deflected a pass from Sean Kuraly past rookie sensation Jordan Binnington into the St. Louis net, it gave the Garden crowd the reason they were looking for to explode.
Explode they did, and so did the Bruins.
From that point forward, the Blues looked like the team they were before the 25-year-old netminder’s play helped pull them out of a race for last place in the NHL, and subsequently resulted in their outlandishly unexpected trip to the Finals when he took over the cage in the first week of January.
And for as good he was, the Black and Gold were simply better.
The Bruins speed and depth of skill were on display as the Blues couldn’t find a way to get pucks out of their own end, never mind get any rubber on Tuukka Rask. In short, big brother laid a beatdown on his smaller sibling, who looked like the stage had suddenly become too much for him to handle, yet again.
While the Blues turnaround in the second half of the regular season is a remarkable story, it simply doesn’t carry the weight of what the Bruins have been doing since Bruce Cassidy was named head coach some two Februarys ago.
The combination of the deftness for which general manager Don Sweeney rebuilt his roster on the fly since taking over for Peter Chiarelli just over four years ago – something I never thought I would actually write just a year after he took the job – and Cassidy’s growth as a bench boss simply seems too much to have a Cinderella story like St. Louis derail. Especially after the freight train they have become since storming back to win Games 6 and 7 against the toughest opponent they have faced in the greatest professional tournament in North American sports in the first round of their journey – the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Sweeney’s additions at the trade deadline – Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson, who have combined with Danton Heinen to become on perhaps the best third line in the postseason – couldn’t have turned out better. Not to mention the exceptional play of the fourth forward grouping of Kuraly, Joakim Norstrom, and Noel Acciari – who didn’t miss a beat stepping in for the injured Chris Wagner late in the Eastern Conference Finals against a clearly overmatched Carolina Hurricanes team – which accounted for a goal and three assists in the Cup opener.
As former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein liked to say, the Bruins have deep depth. And because of that, it is hard to see a way that the cover won’t get closed on the Blues storybook season, sooner rather than later.