ST. LOUIS — Through the first two games of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, a Bruins power-play unit that had managed to cash in on 34.0% of its bids through the first three rounds of the postseason wasn’t exactly pulling any punches.
While the man advantage had plummeted down to a 20% success rate during a pair of matchups against the Blues at TD Garden, the Bruins’ special-teams corps remained an omnipresent thorn in the side of St. Louis — with tallies from Charlie McAvoy and Charlie Coyle in Games 1 and 2, respectively, making it six consecutive postseason games in which Boston’s power play has struck gold.
Not too shabby.
But following Wednesday’s overtime loss to St. Louis on home ice, Bruce Cassidy had more than his fair share of gripes with his top unit. Sure, Coyle’s wrister from the slot during 5v4 play might have opened the scoring just 4:44 into regulation, but the remaining four stretches of game action that featured a Blues skater in the box left much more to be desired.
After Coyle’s goal in Game 2, Boston had an additional 6:17 of 5v4 ice time. During that stretch, it only managed to generate three shots on goal, one high-danger scoring chance and most telling — zero goals.
“I don’t think we executed as well, force them to defend in their zone,” Cassidy said of the shortcomings of his top unit on Wednesday. “Obviously we had one clean entry resulted in a goal. A couple others we had a little bit of time.
"I thought they did a better job cutting off the top so we got stuck in the half wall, then your force of play. Should’ve made some adjustments when that happened to start to create movement away from the puck, but by the time we did that they were on us. Better clears they had tonight. That’s about it and it’s on us to actually get better at the end of the day and move a little more.”
Three nights later, what was once a candid stream of consciousness from Boston’s bench boss when it came to the performance of his power play had managed to boil down one singular belief.
Or perhaps disbelief is actually the best way to put.
After all, in Cassidy’s 23 years coaching pro hockey, he’d never seen such an efficient, dominant performance executed by a power play — let alone on the stage of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.