The St. Louis Blues won 3-1 over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 4 to tie their Stanley Cup playoff series 2-2. After losing Games 1 and 2, the Blues won Game 3 in overtime and were impressive in their Game 4 victory. The Canucks looked sluggish in the second game of a back-to-back. Both teams started the same goaltender in Game 4 they did in the previous night, although they had played 75+ minutes less than 24 hours earlier.
Ryan O’Reilly opened the scoring with a power-play goal in the first period. J.T Miller tipped in an Alex Edler point shot in the second period, but O’Reilly gave the Blues the lead once again. Alex Pietrangelo scored the third and final goal of the night to extend the Blues’ lead.
Good First Period but Down Fall in Second
The Canucks started Game 4 with a strong first period. Although they ended it down 1-0, it was by far the team’s best period of the night, and it may have been the best the team has looked 5-on-5 so far in this series. Elias Pettersson’s line spent just one second playing against O’Reilly’s line in the first period. The Canucks did a great job of generating offence in front of the net, while the Blues struggled to do so.
The Canucks struggled in the second and third periods. Although they did score a goal to start the second period, the rest of the game went downhill for the club. The Canucks registered 11 shots on net in the first period but only registered 12 shots on net in the last two combined. Their efforts in the last two periods can be attributed to their lack of playoff experience and playing against a veteran team in the second half of back-to-back playoff games.
Defending Stanley Cup Champs Are Alive
After tying up the series at two games apiece, it is evident that the defending Stanley Cup champs are alive and well in this series. The Blues used their speed and size to bully their way to a win in both Games 3 and 4. That style of play is reminiscent of how the club played on their way to capturing the Stanley Cup last season. Three players for the Blues dominated the scoresheet on Monday night. Pietrangelo is one of those players as he assisted on O’Reilly’s opening goal and scored a goal of his own.
O’Reilly, who found the back of the net twice and David Perron, who assisted on the final two goals, are the other two players who dominated the score sheet for the Blues. O’Reilly now has three goals and three assists in the series, while Perron has two goals and four assists.
They have been impactful throughout the series and have done more than produce offensively for the Blues. O’Reilly has been a problem for the Canucks’ first line, while Perron has continued to get involved physically. If what O’Reilly said about the team still having to clean up a few things is true, the Blues will have a lot more to offer for the remainder of the series.
Canucks Power Play Struggled
The Canucks power play has been the key to victory for them in this series. With the team struggling to score 5-on-5, the power play has been heavily relied on to produce for the team. The Canucks power play was hot coming into Game 4, scoring on six out of the 11 opportunities they’ve had so far.
In Game 4, the club had a rough night on the power play and could not convert on the seven chances they had. Their seven opportunities were the most the team has had in a single game so far in the series. The Canucks will need to produce on the power play for the remainder of the series if they wish to generate any offensive success.
Bottom Six Continues to Struggle
In a game where the Canucks top-six struggled to generate offence, the bottom-six had to help out. The club’s bottom-six has yet to score a goal in this series, and it seems like head coach Travis Green will have to make a change. I anticipated after the Game 3 loss that Green will swap Jake Virtanen out for Adam Gaudette. The only change the head coach made going into Game 4 was swapping Virtanen on the fourth line and Zach MacEwen on the third line.
That change didn’t do much for the Canucks as the bottom-six still failed to score. For Game 5, Green must swap out Virtanen for Gaudette. The Canucks should stick to playing their game and avoid being sucked into playing physical hockey against the Blues. Green has not been hesitant to scratch Virtanen before, as he didn’t slot in the forward during the team’s exhibition game against the Winnipeg Jets.
“I just went with the lineup that I thought gave us the best chance to win. Plain and simple.”Head coach Travis Green, when asked why Virtanen was left out of the lineup for the exhibition game.
Markstrom Hung Out to Dry
GoaltenderJacob Markstrom had another strong game for the Canucks, considering he was coming off a 75+ minute game where he made 46 saves. Markstrom made 34 saves and posted a .919 save percentage (SV%) in Game 4. Two of the three goals he let in on Monday night were on the power play. The other goal came from a defensive breakdown as O’Reilly was allowed to walk in and beat Canucks goaltender.
The Canucks did a poor job of supporting their goaltender as they only managed to get 23 shots on Jake Allen. The Blues’ netminder had a fairly easy night after the first period, even though he let in a goal in the second. The Canucks did a better job testing the goaltender in Game 3, forcing him to make 39 saves. He will be the starter for the Blues throughout the remainder of the series as head coach Craig Berube was impressed by his performance in Game 3.
The Canucks will have to find a way to beat Allen if they want to win this series. They’ll also have to find ways to generate more shots on the 30-year-old goalie. The lack of help for Markstrom is nothing for the Canucks and has been a theme all season long. The club has relied on the goalie heavily to win games.
Since the Blues have managed to fight their way back into this series, it is now a best of three. The Canucks will look to bounce back in an important Game 5 after losing two games in a row. It is unlikely that they will play as poorly as they did in Game 4 for the remainder of the series because Game 4 took place a day after a grueling Game 3.
The Blues have found their game, and the Canucks will need to adjust to find success. The veteran team has zeroed in on captain Bo Horvat, targeting him throughout the night. After an early hit on Horvat, the captain went back to the bench in some pain, which is an indication that the Blue’s big boy style of play is working. Game 5 will be important as the winner will be one win away from advancing to the second round. Game 5 will take place on Wednesday at 7:30 P.M. PST.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.