Strong Defending, Outstanding Goaltending Push Blues to a Game 4 Victory
The Blues turned in an extremely impressive defensive effort in a 2-1 win against the San Jose Sharks in Game 4, giving the Blues a huge 3-1 lead in the series. Brian Elliott was once again outstanding in net making numerous saves that kept the Blues in what was an extremely tight game that could have shifted in favor of the Sharks if Elliott wasn’t on hand. The Blues didn’t see many chances offensively but were able to convert on two opportunities which ended up being the difference thanks to Elliott’s play in net.
With their win on Thursday night, the Blues take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. If you’re a big odds and statistics nut you’ll enjoy the fact that when a team is up 3-1 in a series they have gone on to win the series 90% of the time, as mentioned on the telecast during Game 4.
More importantly, the Blues now have three chances to close out this first round series. Two of these chances come at the Scottrade. Obviously, all Blues fans would like to see this series end on Saturday night at home in Game 5 but it is nice to know that if one goes wrong there are two other opportunities.
Back to Game 4.
The Blues put on one incredible defensive display in Game 4. San Jose controlled the possession for long spells and seemed to set up camp in the St. Louis zone for great lengths of time but they were unable to find the magic formula to convert on an opportunity until the game was all but lost. Elliott stood strong in net, robbing the best chances while limiting rebounds to prevent any other chances from developing. His defenders in front of him sacrificed plenty in Game 4, blocking 26 shots. Numerous others were deflected or forced wide that the defensive unit won’t get credit for. The defense consistently broke up San Jose’s formations and passing plays while pressuring their forwards each time they got the puck. At times it wasn’t pretty – it might have been ugly – but the unit stood resilient, frustrating the Sharks on countless occasions.
The Blues had only a few chances offensively in Game 4 but were able to capitalize on the chances they were given. An unlikely hero, B.J. Crombeen, scored in the first period (assisted by Berglund & Perron) to give the Blues an early 1-0 lead. Andy McDonald added to this lead 12 minutes into the third, again assisted by Berglund and Perron.
If you’re keeping track, you’ll see this gives McDonald three goals and four assists for a total of seven points through the first four games. Meanwhile, Berglund’s two helpers give him three goals and three assists in four games. McDonald has continually been the catalyst for the Blues offensively while Berglund has used his large frame to be a menace in front of Antti Niemi.
Looking ahead, Game 5 offers the Blues an opportunity to clinch. This might not be significant news for other teams but for Blues fans it poses the first opportunity to win a playoff series since the 2001-02 Blues beat the Blackhawks four games to one. In other words, this hasn’t happened in quite some time for Blues fans and you’d better believe we are all soaking in each moment our favorite team spends in the playoffs.
In net, Brian Elliott seems like the obvious choice even if Jaroslav Halak proves to be healthy. It seems extremely unlikely that the Blues would turn away from the goaltender that has put them in the position to clinch. Plan on Elliott starting Game 5.