The St. Louis Blues’ season has more or less defied logic from day one by surging up the standings from last place at the turn of the year into the Stanley Cup Final. Therefore it should come as no surprise that they bounced back from a 7-2 beating in game three at home and doubled the Boston Bruins 4-2 in game four for their first Final win at home in franchise history.
We now have a best two-out-of-three series with the Bruins arguably having home ice advantage. This is due to the Blues going 6-6 at home in the postseason with a much better road record of 8-3.
Game four opened the way it has done several times in this year’s playoffs with the Blues scoring in the first few minutes. Ryan O’Reilly set the pace by striking after just 43 seconds to send the home fans into a frenzy and they didn’t let up. Jordan Binnington was back to his best in the St. Louis net after being yanked for the first time as a Blue two nights earlier. The rookie goalie has now gone 7-2 in the postseason after losing a game and 12-2 overall this year. He didn’t face a lot of rubber as the Bruins sent 23 pucks on net, but the majority of them were tough to handle.
At the other end of the rink Tuukka Rask faced 37 shots with three getting past him as he seemed to be struggling with his rebound control. Rask is 7-3 on the road which is a new Bruins’ record for a away wins in a postseason. He’s 22-17 on the road in his career which ties him with Gerry Cheevers for wins with Cheevers going 22-19.
O’Reilly, who played on a line with David Perron and Zach Sanford, rebounded with his best game of the series after playing his worst in game three. He won just eight of 23 faceoffs in the 7-2 loss but snapped an eight-game scoring drought early in game four and was a forceful figure in all three zones. His first goal of the game marked the sixth time St. Louis has opened the scoring in the first two minutes of a playoff game this season and they are now 6-0 when doing so.
The Bruins pulled even at 13:14 of the first period when Charlie Coyle scored for the third straight game and notched his ninth of the playoffs. It didn’t take long for the Blues to regain the lead though as Vladimir Tarasenko scored his 11th postseason goal just 2:16 later. St. Louis had a chance to stretch their lead with a power-play midway through the second frame but the Bruins’ Brandon Carlo scored his first of the playoffs just 26 seconds later for a shorthanded tally. The Blues have now given up four shorthanded goals in the postseason and have scored 13 on their power-play.
The Blues dug their heels in though and O’Reilly scored his second of the game and 5th of the playoffs with 9:22 to go in regulation time. Brayden Schenn then added an insurance marker into the empty net with his fourth goal after Rask had been pulled for an extra attacker.
The Blues’ Oskar Sundqvist was back in the lineup after serving a game suspension for his hit on Matt Grzelcyk in game two. Defenseman Vince Dunn also returned to the ice from his injury and this meant Robert Bortuzzo was a healthy scratch along with Robby Fabbri as Zach Sanford played his second straight game of the series.
Matt Grzelcyk missed his second consecutive outing for the Bruins and fellow blue liner and team captain Zdeno Chara was hit in the face with a puck early in the second period and left the game. He returned to the bench with a full face mask in the third period but didn’t play. The 42-year-old needed several stitches and a visit to the dentist is probably on tap. He’s a question mark for game five and if he can’t play then head coach could insert Steven Kampfer, Urho Vaakanainen or Jeremy Lauzon into the lineup.
— Pucky (@puckyonline) June 4, 2019
It was the first game of the series in which the Bruins never held a lead and also the first time they failed to score a power-play goal against the Blues.
If the Blues didn’t rebound in game four they would have had to reel off three straight wins to hoist the Stanley Cup. Just one team has managed to come back from a 3-1 series deficit in a Final with 33 others falling short. The Toronto Maple Leafs pulled off the miracle in 1941/42 when they rallied to beat the Detroit Red Wings after losing the first three games.
For the Blues to win their first Stanley Cup they will need to try and stay out of the penalty box for the rest of the way though. Boston’s power play burned them in the first three games with six power play goals in 14 chances. The Blues seem to be more effective when they aren’t preoccupied with trying to hit everything that moves and focus on getting pucks to the net instead, especially with Rask struggling with rebounds.
The Blues took 7.35 minutes in penalties per game on average during the regular season and were the least-penalized squad in the first three playoff rounds this year. They served over 11 minutes per contest in the first three games against Boston however and took just four minutes in game four while outshooting the visitors 37-23. On the other hand, the Bruins took over nine minutes of penalties per game in the regular season which ranked the second most, but have cut that down in the playoffs.
If the Blues can play just as physical but control their emotions and stay out of the box their chances if winning will greatly improve. They are much more effective when playing disciplined hockey and still managed to outhit Boston in game four, just like they did in the first three games of the series.