By Patrick Kelly
Sunday night saw a St. Louis Blues lineup that had a lot of fans’ hearts racing. No Vladimir Tarasenko, no Alexander Steen, and no Jordan Binnington. Head coach Craig Berube made several tweaks to the lineup with Tarasenko and Steen unfit to play and Binnington not playing like himself. Jake Allen, who played only in the game against Dallas last week, was absolutely lights out. Allen has seen his confidence grow throughout the 2020 season and fans got to see the reemergence of the playoff-tested Jake Allen that was seen a few years ago in the series against the Minnesota Wild.
Allen wasn’t the only shining light in Sunday’s overtime win. The urgency was there from the initial puck drop. The Blues managed to test Jacob Markstrom early and played a lot tighter defensively. The defensive zones in a way switched from Game 3 to how they were the previous two. The Canucks at times had trouble setting something up in the offensive zone. Instead, they were on the attack but fighting for possession with the Blues hounding them and forcing bad mistakes. The Blues also had an added level of physicality by not allowing players like Elias Pettersson or Bo Horvat to do what they had done in previous games.
The big elephant in the room for the Blues was their special teams. With calls still going on both sides, the Blues found themselves down a man and once again didn’t have an answer for one of the best power plays in the league. When the Blues got on the power play, that’s where the frustration lies. The Blues looked like they were gifted a golden opportunity, a man advantage for the last two minutes of regulation, but nothing came of it and the Blues seemed almost scared to shoot. Once overtime hit, the same situation presented itself yet the team continued where they left off from the last power play: passing the puck around up top and not really getting anything in the vicinity of the net. At times, it seemed as if the Blues were more afraid to give up a shorthanded goal then actually get a goal on the man advantage themselves.
With the Blues staying alive to see at least a Game 5, they have some questions going forward. Allen played lights out and gave no reason for the Blues to yank him from the net. At the same time, Binnington has not been himself and if there is another game where he lets in some soft goals, the Blues could be completely on the ropes again. Allen stopped 39 shots Sunday night and he hasn’t started back-to-back games since late 2018.
For the skaters, more of the same is expected. It seems the Blues smell blood in the water and they have a great chance to wipe the slate clean and make this a new series Monday night.