Heading into Game 4, I put up a post where numerous fans gave their opinion on the decision to play Vladimir Tarasenko over Adam Cracknell on the fourth line. Fans were in favor, hoping to see a boost in the team's attack with Frank in the mix. Most were in favor because it was believed he would start on the fourth line but then rotate to a different line as the game unfolded.
That's not what happened. Tarasenko was stuck firmly on the fourth line most of the night, making a small 5:51 cameo in last night's loss. This isn't what any Blues fan expected and it has most of us asking questions following a disappointing result.
If Tarasenko was only going to receive a handful of minutes, why not keep the muscle (Cracknell) in the lineup?
My personal thoughts on this topic started out pretty positively. Team needs offense, dress another weapon and bench a guy known mostly for his physical play. Makes sense. Start him on a low line, work him around as the game develops and move a skater that looks a touch off down. Tarasenko sees a decent amount of work and with a little luck, contributes. All logical stuff.
As Game 4 played out, my positive opinion shifted to more of a negative one as Ken Hitchcock incorrectly kept Tarasenko rooted to the bench. This might be one of the first times I've disagreed with a decision Hitchcock has made. I liked the idea of bolstering the attack, but if that means keeping the added weapon on the bench for the bulk of the game then you might as well avoid making a change in the first place and keep a line that had chemistry intact.
There were numerous forwards which could have (and should have) slid down to the fourth line. As the second and third period wore on, countless St. Louis forwards look tired and uninterested. Tarasenko could have been moved up, replacing guys such as Andy McDonald or Chris Stewart. He could have added some pace and energy to a depleted group. At the very least, giving him a shot wouldn't have hurt as all of the forwards excluding Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Sobotka were guilty of standing around and making bad decisions.
What will Hitchcock do for Game 5?
That's hard to say. It seems like he realized his mistake in disrupting the fourth line last night but he didn't realize it until it was too late. If it's my decision, Tarasenko stays a healthy scratch unless he's going to be given a chance to succeed offensively. He's wasted on the fourth line and the more physical presence of Cracknell would better suit the team's needs.