Blues must bal­ance emo­tion, dis­ci­pline at home

The News-Times - - SPORTS -

ST. LOUIS— Tyler Bozak wit­nessed the first NHL play­off game in Toronto af­ter a seven-year drought. David Per­ron ex­pe­ri­enced the first Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal game in Las Ve­gas.

They ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

When the St. Louis Blues host the Bos­ton Bru­ins in Game 3 on Satur­day night, it’ll mark the first Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal game in the city in 49 years. That was the night of May 19, 1970, when Bobby Orr scored in over­time, the goal that’s im­mor­tal­ized in the most fa­mous photo in NHL his­tory.

Af­ter win­ning a fi­nal game for the first time in fran­chise his­tory to tie the se­ries at 1-all, the Blues are try­ing to make their own his­tory at home. To do so, the least-pe­nal­ized team in the play­offs that went to the box 10 times in the two games in Bos­ton will need to bal­ance feed­ing off a rau­cous crowd and get­ting too over­e­mo­tional in that charged at­mos­phere.

“It’s go­ing to be ex­tremely spe­cial, for sure, to play in front of the Blues fans that have been wait­ing for it for a long time,” Per­ron said Fri­day. “You’re try­ing to keep your sticks close to you so you don’t trip guys, you don’t high-stick guys and some­times it’s just go­ing to hap­pen. It’s not a penalty you’re try­ing to take. It hap­pened to me in the first game, and it’s very dif­fi­cult to take. But you’ve got to be com­posed with the puck, you’ve got to be com­posed with your stick.”

Com­po­sure is the Blues’ call­ing card af­ter ral­ly­ing from the base­ment of the NHL stand­ings in early Jan­uary to within three vic­to­ries of the first cham­pi­onship in fran­chise his­tory. Their home arena was full for view­ing par­ties for Games 1 and 2, so it’s tough for play­ers not to get caught up in the ex­cite­ment af­ter watch­ing videos of those scenes.

“We’re not even here and it’s sold out and it’s loud,” Bozak said. “We’re ex­cited.”

Fans are cer­tainly ex­cited. NBC Sports re­ported the high­est lo­cal rat­ing on ca­ble for a play­off game, StubHub said the price to get in is $725, the av­er­age ticket costs $1,068 and de­mand is out­pac­ing Game 1 in Las Ve­gas from a year ago.

“This is a hockey town and they’ve been with us through the ups and downs,” cen­ter Ryan O’Reilly said. “I don’t think I’ll be able to de­scribe what it’s go­ing to be like. But from what I’ve seen I’ve been very im­pressed, and we’re ex­cited to get home to show what this town’s about.”

To show them good hockey, the Blues must try to avoid the penalty prob­lems that plagued them in Bos­ton. They were whis­tled for high-stick­ing, hook­ing, cross-check­ing, in­ter­fer­ence and slash­ing and twice for trip­ping and goal­tender.

Coach Craig Berube, sev­enth in NHL his­tory with 3,149 penalty min­utes mostly for fight­ing dur­ing his play­ing ca­reer, is not happy about his team’s lack of dis­ci­pline so far in the se­ries. St. Louis got here in part be­cause it only took 55 penal­ties in the first 19 play­off games, and Berube chalks the dif­fer­ence up to too much emo­tion and harps on it with play­ers be­cause he knows what Satur­day night will be like.

“We talk about that a lot,” Berube said. “You have to keep your emo­tions in check.”

That won’t be a prob­lem for Bru­ins ag­i­ta­tor ex­traor­di­naire Brad Marc­hand, who days ago made it clear he doesn’t care what Blues fans think of him. And that works in re­verse, too.

“Ev­ery arena has roughly the same amount of peo­ple in it, so re­gard­less of where you are in the NHL in the play­offs, you ex­pect it to be loud,” Marc­hand said. “I ex­pect the same to­mor­row but not overly con­cerned about the fans. More con­cerned about the game.”

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