The St. Louis Blues entered Game 4 against Minnesota badly needing a win to pull even in their series – and that’s just what they got with a convincing 6-1 win. The Blues may still come to a crossroads if they don’t make it to the second round, but it’s a best-of-three series now, and that’s a credit to St. Louis’ veterans and young stars who came through in Game 4.
After the St. Louis Blues fell meekly to the Central Division rival Wild in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series, the sense of doom looming around the franchise was unmistakeable. Without a strong effort in Game 4 Wednesday in Minnesota, the Blues would be down three games to one in the series. And if it got to that stage, it would be a matter of days until they were eliminated and significant change within the organization commenced.
Well, they may still get to that stage. But the Blues did in fact respond in Game 4 by more or less wiping the mat with the Wild, whose defensive presence vanished in a 6-1 rout by the visiting team. St. Louis received excellent performances from a slew of players who had yet to make their mark on the series, including star winger Vladimir Tarasenko (who had two goals), Kevin Shattenkirk (three points), captain David Backes (one goal and two points) and Patrik Berglund (one goal and two points). Six Blues players had their first point of the series in Game 4, and the road win halted a nine-game playoff losing streak that dated back three years. This wasn’t quite an exorcism, but it sure felt like a second chance.
Indeed, it was a series reset that makes it a best-of-three.
That said, it’s difficult to project what we’ll see in the remainder of the series. The six goals were the most Minnesota allowed since the acquisition of star goalie Devan Dubnyk (who allowed all six goals on 17 Blues shots and was pulled in the second period), and the Wild set a new franchise record for most goals surrendered in a playoff game. You’d have to think both those things will stick in their collective craw and St. Louis will have a much more engaged opponent for Game 5 Friday in St. Louis. Then again, the Blues could come out of the gate with as much energy as they began Game 4 with and dominate Minnesota’s defensive zone the way they did Wednesday. Neither team has been able to string together consecutive victories thus far, so if you’re looking for a best bet for a Game 7, this series may be the one to put your money on.
The other thing both teams should bear in mind: whoever does move along to the second round is very likely going to face a much more dangerous and post-season-tested opponent in the Chicago Blackhawks, who currently are up 3-1 on the Nashville Predators in their showdown. The Hawks have won two Stanley Cups in recent years because they can beat an opponent any way the opponent wants to play, and some of the efforts both the Wild and Blues have put forth in this series would make them roadkill for Chicago.
However, first thing’s first – either the Wild or the Blues have to prove they want to make it to the second round. There have been nights through their first four games that neither franchise appears prepared to pay the price, or show the discipline necessary to navigate the Western Conference and make it to the Stanley Cup Final.
That said, the Blues’ Game 4 win is a slate-cleaner that returns home-ice advantage to their hands. If they blow it again, there should be little doubt as to what needs to be done to the roster in the off-season.