The St. Louis Blues felt the momentum after getting an overtime win in Game 3. There was no rest for the weary as they got right back at it in Game 4.
The St. Louis Blues could have had all the momentum on their side after a Game 3 overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks. Unfortunately for both teams, they had to play Game 4 just 20 hours after leaving the arena the morning before.
You could tell the legs were not quite there for either team in the opening moments. The want-to was there for both teams, but the body just said no in that moment.
As the game went on, there was a bit more flow for both sides, though you could still tell they were not 100% refreshed. What else would you expect after one of the best games we have seen out of these two teams the night before.
Both teams were somewhat careless in the opening period too. St. Louis was playing with fire, taking three penalties against one of the best power plays in the league.
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The Blues power play was still fairly putrid, not shooting the puck again. They went against type, however, scoring the first goal of the game as Ryan O’Reilly put one in on the power play.
The Blues made that lead last the entire first period too. That was a nice change of pace as their only previous lead in this series lasted 37 seconds.
The lead did not last too long in the second though. J.T. Miller scored on a deflection just 40 seconds into the frame.
St. Louis did not sit back and sulk though. They got right back to work.
O’Reilly scored his second of the game 6:40 into the second period. O’Reilly kicked the puck skate to stick and then roofed a sick backhander for the 2-1 lead.
It seemed like things were not going the Blues way when they got a 5v3 power play. St. Louis had not scored on one of those in years, and that is not hyperbole.
While nobody would score in the third, it was not an uneventful period. The Blues continued to wear the Canucks out physically.
The Blues put themselves in the penalty box far too much, which was like running with scissors. Ultimately, they held on.
Vancouver had a little more possession late, but they actually did not threaten much. The Blues held on for a 3-1 win and tie the series 2-2.
We’ve all known that Ryan O’Reilly is one of the best all around players the Blues have on the team. He might be one of the best they’ve had in years.
He took it to another level in this game. Without sacrificing any of his defensive game, he put the team on his shoulders offensively as well.
The first goal was not highlight reel stuff, but it was just solid positioning. O’Reilly was positioned perfectly for a rebound, which came right to him and he buried it.
The second one was a lot prettier.
O’Reilly got those two goals on three shots, giving him a very nice shooting percentage.
Defensively, he was just as solid as you expect.
St. Louis managed to keep the goals off the board as far as Vancouver was concerned. However, that was not for lack of trying.
The Blues gave Vancouver seven power plays in the game. Going against a power play that was scoring on close to 50% of their man advantages in this series, that is not smart.
On top of the frequency of the penalties, it’s the penalties they are taking. Again, if you could label them as effort penalties, so be it. You cannot.
The only one you might classify as effort was the Mackenzie MacEachern cross check. It was a weak call to begin with, but at least he was tussling with the opponent to keep him away from the net.
The rest were the usual nonsense. St. Louis had two delay of game penalties for lifting the puck over the glass.
Schenn took a high-sticking penalty that was unnecessary. It was in the offensive zone and he was reaching for a player that was skating away. You might argue he was trying to lift the other stick, but that’s not going to happen and nothing good was going to come of it.
Vince Dunn took a pair of penalties too. One was a tripping call and the other was a slash, both of which were just bone-headed plays by the defender.
Carl Gunnarsson got called for a phantom slash late. If you wanted to call a penalty, tripping might have been the call, but still, it was another late chance for Vancouver to get on the board.
Pros: Special teams?
The St. Louis Blues have been a dominant team when the game is five-on-five. Surely, that is how they would win, right?
Well, the Blues were the better five-on-five team again. However, they actually won the game based on their special teams play.
St. Louis, despite the number of penalties given out, killed out every single one. The Blues were a perfect seven for seven on the penalty kill.
That’s impressive on its own. It is even more impressive when you consider how great the Canucks power play had looked in the previous three games.
What was even stranger than the penalty kill looking so great was the power play. The Blues actually took advantage of the referees calling the game so tightly.
St. Louis finished the game 2-5 on the power play and each one was a key goal. O’Reilly gave the Blues the lead in the first period on a power play rebound.
Pietrangelo got the Blues some insurance with a power play goal in the second. That gave St. Louis it’s first five-on-three goal in over a year.
Game 3 was one of the best games we have seen from the Blues in the Edmonton bubble. Game 4 was one of the most Blues-like performances in terms of how they shut the Canucks down.
As great as Vancouver looked early in the series, they are starting to look like the 2019 San Jose Sharks. The Blues seem to have worn them down and they look somewhat broken.
That does not mean Vancouver is done in this series, maybe not even close. However, we have seen this before and it definitely benefits St. Louis.
The Blues got more great performances all throughout the lineup. While he did not get on the scoresheet, Justin Faulk was fantastic again. He played more minutes than any other defender not named Pietrangelo.
Jake Allen was fantastic. You could argue Vancouver did not generate a ton of high-percentage chances, but Allen made some great saves, including some late ones that he had to fight off.
Jordan Kyrou is still growing as a player, but he looks like he has figured out the defensive side more than any of us had given him credit for. If he can start humming on the offensive side, that’s dangerous for opponents.
This series is definitely in the Blues hands right now. A Canucks win in Game 5 would put that to a halt, but we have seen St. Louis do this before.
Just when you think they are down and out, they get right back into it and become the dominant team. Joey Vitale told a story from his grandfather on the radio earlier in the week. His grandfather used to say you can hammer a rock 99 times and maybe nothing happens. Suddenly it breaks on that 100th hit. Was the 100th hit something different or did those other 99 hits wear the rock down?
Right now, the Blues are still giving those 99 hits, but Vancouver is looking like they are wearing down. It is up to the Blues to find that 100th hit and break the rock.