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Five things the Blues have to do to avoid being steamrolled in the Stanley Cup final

Game 3 of the final was a disaster for the Blues, who were blown out in their own barn and now face a crucial Game 4 test. How can St. Louis stay with Boston and keep the Bruins from taking a 3-1 series lead?

ST. LOUIS – It is not a stretch to suggest that Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final will be the most crucial contest in the 52-year history of the St. Louis Blues. How they respond to their beat-down on home ice in Game 3 will go a long way to determining whether they give themselves a puncher’s chance in this series or their heartwarming and plucky story of the 2019 playoffs comes to an abrupt end.

All things considered, they could not possibly have performed worse in their first Stanley Cup final game at home in 49 years. There was nothing for them to rally around, from the performance of their goaltender to their penalty killing to their trademark sense of resilience. “We didn’t feel it was a 7-2 game,” Berube said. “I mean it was, but listen, our team is confident.”

That might be the case, but they’re going to have to be a lot more than confident if they hope to get themselves back into this series. Here are the key ones:

Since his magical run with the Blues began in December, goalie Jordan Binnington has had an uncanny penchant for doing some very special things after losing games. Coming off a loss, Binnington has a 10-3-0 record with a 1.88 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. And even though he was victimized by poor play in front of him and even worse penalty killing, it’s time for him to deliver another lights-out performance. “My confidence level is high,” Berube said. “He’s always rebounded really well.”

Lost in the flurry of power-play goals by the Bruins in Game 3 was the fact that the Blues actually had more power-play opportunities in the game. But the Blues have been ineffective on both sides of special teams and it’s costing them big-time. The Bruins had four goals on four shots on four power-play opportunities and are now 6-for-14 in the series. Yes, the Bruins’ power play has been something to behold, but that’s abysmal. Much of it starts by not having the puck. In Game 3, regular-season faceoff king Ryan O’Reilly went 0-for-6 on the draw while killing penalties. The Blues have had 10 power plays so far in the series and all they have to show for it so far is a nothing goal in Game 3. The Bruins have used their penalty kill to take momentum away from the Blues. The Bruins have all but rendered the Blues’ point men impotent in the series. “They’re good,” Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said of the Boston penalty kill. “They all work together well, they have good pressure points, they understand all the opportunities to jump on loose pucks. They do a good job of trigger points and transitioning the penalty kill a little bit.”

Which brings us to…

It would not be a Stanley Cup final without complaints about the officiating and Berube used his platform yesterday to point out that the Blues had gone into the final as the least penalized team in this year’s playoffs before their conga line to the penalty box began. The problem here is that the Blues tread a fine line when it comes to the physical side of the game and when you do that, you sometimes find yourself on the wrong side of it. It didn’t help that they took a penalty when the coach’s challenge on the Bruins’ third goal in Game 3 resulted in a minor penalty, one the Bruins used to score to open up a 4-0 lead. But if the Blues are as disciplined as they claim to be, it’s time for them to start to show it. “Guys are excited and there’s a lot of emotion in these games,” said Blues winger Brayden Schenn. “We have to do a better job as a team playing whistle-to-whistle and not worry about the stuff after. When we do that, we’re effective.”

Having Oskar Sundqvist back from his one-game suspension will give the Blues a different look than they had in Game 3, but if Robert Thomas can go in Game 4, Craig Berube might want to contemplate putting him in and taking David Perron out. Perron has done nothing, absolutely nothing, positive in this series. If he weren’t taking needless offensive zone penalties and jostling after the whistle he would be having no effect on the game. He has been by far the Blues' least effective forward. In last year’s Stanley Cup final, Vegas coach Gerard Gallant scratched Perron for Game 4 and Berube might want to consider doing the same thing a year later. “We’ve discussed about penalties and he’ll be more disciplined (in Game 4),” Berube said. “I don’t need to discuss whether I’m taking him out of the lineup.”

For all the talk about how rabid this hockey market is and how intimidating a place the Enterprise Center is to play, the Blues have a very ordinary 5-6 mark at home in these playoffs. They certainly didn’t draw a lot of energy from their crowd in Game 3 and basically allowed the Bruins to take them out of it by going down 3-0 in the first period. If the Blues don’t want their last memory of this final to be that they went 0-2 on home ice, they’re going to have to do a better job of managing their emotions.

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