There was blood in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. And a possible head injury. And plenty of fresh bumps and bruises.
The best-of-seven series between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues has turned decidedly nasty.
Connor Clifton bloodied the Blues’ Tyler Bozak with a high stick, Oskar Sundqvist knocked the Bruins’ Matt Grzelcyk out of the game by ramming him into the glass and Robert Bortuzzo slashed Boston’s Jake DeBrusk between padding on his left arm before a faceoff, leaving him doubled over in pain. Former Blues captain David Backes crushed Sammy Blais with an open-ice hit just two nights after helmetless Torey Krug skated down the ice and leveled the Blues’ Robert Thomas with a body check. Thomas hasn’t played since.
The NHL has consistently emphasized skill and speed of late — and less size — but sometimes you can steamroll your way to a playoff victory, which the Blues did 3-2 in overtime Wednesday night to tie the series at a game apiece. The league still sells hatred, and it didn’t take long for that to build up between these heavy-hitting teams.
At the moment, it is advantage St. Louis. The Blues outhustled the Bruins and delivered more blows in grabbing home-ice advantage with Game 3 coming up Saturday night in St. Louis.
Still, Backes said the Bruins want to “match physicality, stare them in the eyes and go right through it when they’re trying to amp that up and have an answer at times when we have the opportunity to be physical on their guys.”
St. Louis set the physical tone and was credited with 49 hits. One was Sundqvist on Grzelcyk that drew a boarding penalty and the Boston defenseman needed help to get off the ice. Blais and Jaden Schwartz also each ran into goaltender Tuukka Rask and both were whistled for interference.
The Bruins weren’t shrinking violets, though. Featuring a blue line with four players 6 feet tall or shorter, Charlie McAvoy was throwing the body like someone not afraid to hit above his weight class in another example of undersized defensemen getting in on the physicality.
The hits took their toll. The Blues were already without Thomas and defenseman Vince Dunn, and top-line winger Vladimir Tarasenko missed a big chunk of the second period. Bozak went down the tunnel to close the stick-induced cut on his face but returned not long after.