The St. Louis Blues tied their Stanley Cup Final series with the Boston Bruins at two games apiece with a 4-2 win at home on Monday. Two performances rose above the rest, as Ryan O’Reilly and Alex Pietrangelo stole the show and made the difference for their team.
The Blues’ biggest offseason trade acquisition and their captain had their best games of the postseason in Game 4. If they continue to perform at that level, they might be the key to bringing home the franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup.
O’Reilly’s Two-Goal Night
Before arriving in St. Louis, O’Reilly had only played 13 postseason games, the most recent in 2014. Perhaps it makes sense that it took him a while to round into playoff form. He put any lingering questions about his ability to contribute in the most important situations to rest with a two-goal performance in Game 4.
O’Reilly played 17:43, a relatively low total for him, but registered two goals on five shots and was a plus-two in the contest. His first goal opened the scoring just 43 seconds into the game. After Vince Dunn shot the puck towards the net and Zach Sanford tipped it wide, O’Reilly grabbed it from behind, wrapped around in front, and tucked the puck into the net off of goaltender Tuukka Rask’s skate.
He continued to play a strong game, but it wasn’t until the third period that he hit the scoresheet again. He scored his fifth goal of the playoffs, and the game-winner, with 9:22 remaining. O’Reilly got himself to the net, and capitalized on a rebound from Pietrangelo’s stick.
Throughout the regular season, O’Reilly was the team’s best player, finishing with a team-leading 77 points in 82 games. When the postseason hit, the scoring dried up somewhat. Before Monday’s two-goal game, he had only collected three in 22 playoff games to go along with 13 assists. If he has recovered his scoring touch now, the Blues are in prime position to finish the series strong.
Pietrangelo’s Mammoth Performance
As significant as O’Reilly’s contribution was, it pales in comparison to what Pietrangelo brought to the table. The team captain and cornerstone defenseman was a workhorse, playing almost half the game, and contributing at both ends of the ice.
Pietrangelo played 29:37 of ice time in Game 4. That alone is an incredible accomplishment. In that time he took seven shots and created three rebounds. He had two primary assists, including on the game-winning goal. His team exited the zone with him on the ice 11 times, and they were in possession 10 of those times.
Most impressively, the shot attempts at 5-on-5 were just 21-10 in favor of the Blues when Pietrangelo was on the ice. High danger chances were 5-1, and goals were 3-0, meaning the captain finished with a plus-three rating.
Pietrangelo has been a contributor all postseason, scoring two goals and 13 assists in 23 games, counting Monday’s contributions. Prior to Game 4, he had not taken over a game and led his team to victory. That all changed at the Enterprise Center on Monday night, when he played like a man possessed.
In the past, Pietrangelo has been accused by many Blues fans as an unfit captain to carry the team to its first Stanley Cup. Whatever the result of this series, he put those arguments permanently to rest with his performance. No captain has ever performed like that for the Blues this late in the postseason. He is desperate to be the first to lift the Cup.
Game 5 Tonight
The Blues and Bruins are set for Game 5 in Boston on Thursday at 7:00 PM Central. Zdeno Chara is expected to play, despite serious injury. It won’t matter much, though, if Pietrangelo and O’Reilly continue to perform like this. They’ve reached their peak at the perfect time, and if they can sustain this output for two or three more games, they will be the very first players to lift a Stanley Cup in a Blues sweater.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.