ST. LOUIS – Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final is exactly why they bother to play the games. Going into it, the St. Louis Blues looked an awful lot like a team that had run face-first into grim reality, that their storybook season was almost over and the exchange for the thrills of all those first-round upsets would be another lopsided final.
But if the 2019 playoffs have taught us anything in general, it’s that nobody knows anything. What they have taught us in particular is that the St. Louis Blues will not take a step back, will never cower in the face of adversity, will never shy away from putting their work boots on and doing what needs to be done to stay in the picture.
“It’s fun because it’s hard,” said Blues defenseman Colton Parayko. “As weird as that sounds. We knew it was going to be hard and nothing comes easy.”
In their 4-2 win in Game 4, the Blues' first victory on home ice in a Stanley Cup final in franchise history, they could not have possibly drawn up and executed a better game plan. They really, really needed their best players to be a lot better and Ryan O’Reilly and Alex Pietrangelo, two of the best on that roster, responded with monster efforts. Much was made of O’Reilly’s two goals, but you could argue the Blues got just as much energy from an enormous penalty kill in the second period where he came inches from scoring shorthanded. The Blues needed to be more disciplined and they were, taking just three minor penalties, one of them for clearing the puck over the glass. They needed to be more aggressive on their forecheck without going overboard and they succeeded in that, too, swarming the Bruins at every opportunity.
St. Louis had a ton of offensive zone time, they took care of the puck and grinded their way to a close victory. That is exactly how the Blues are going to have to play if they want to continue to have success in this series. If they turn this thing into a track meet or a skills contest, they’re in trouble. But if they hang around and grind their way into fabricating a couple of good scoring chances and their best players lead the way, they could be hoisting the Stanley Cup when this series ends sometime around Labor Day.
The Blues had a day to think about their worst game of the playoffs before playing their best one. Blues interim coach – yeah, he’s still technically the interim coach – Craig Berube said there was no need to rally his team. He confidently said the Blues would be better and he was right.
“Nothing. Nothing,” Berube said when asked what his message to the team was after losing Game 3 by a 7-2 count. “Our team responds pretty well. They have all playoffs. We knew what we had to do to be a better team.”
In many ways, the Blues are a lot like that smarmy kid who has a response to everything. Just when you think you have him or her buried in an argument, the kid miraculously comes up with a comeback that has you scrambling for fodder to return. Every single time in these playoffs that this team has been questioned or put to the mat, it has found a way to silence its critics, put its opponents on edge and justify the faith of its fan base. The Blues could have wilted after Brandon Carlo’s second-period shorthanded goal tied the score 2-2, particularly because it was probably the best period the Blues have played in these playoffs, but they ended up being outscored 1-0.
“We were relentless,” Berube said. “We didn’t stop. Guys were just pounding pucks, on pucks and reloading and doing all the little things right. Line changes were great, getting fresh people out there. It was just a great game all around.”
In the true spirit of the heavyweight fight this series has become, now the Bruins' depth will be tested. Defenseman Zdeno Chara left the game in the second period when he took a Brayden Schenn shot to the face. Chara was ruled out of the game, but was allowed to sit on the bench wearing a full visor. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said he was unsure whether Chara would be available for Game 5 Thursday night. Cassidy also didn’t know whether Matt Grzelcyk, who was likely concussed in Game 3, would be available for duty. If Chara is unable to play, the most likely to draw in would be Steven Kampfer, with Urho Vaakanainen as another possibility.
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