The St. Louis Blues were due for a good game. They just needed some tinkering to make it happen.
After two lackluster games, the Blues routed the San Jose Sharks and tied the Western Conference Final with a 6-3 win in Game 4. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock will get a lot of credit this morning for three lineup changes that ended up working well.
For the second straight game, forwards Dmitrij Jaskin and Magnus Paajarvi replaced Steve Ott and Scottie Upshall in the lineup. And for the second straight game, both were among the top Blues forwards in possession metrics. They each even contributed assists on Kyle Brodziak's second goal of the game. Paajarvi and Jaskin were involved, effective and (most importantly, considering who they replaced) careful to stay out of the box.
But the headline-grabbing change was the decision to put Jake Allen in net instead of Brian Elliott. Allen proved his worth last playoffs as a starter, so the move made sense after Elliott's poor Game 3 performance. But Allen exceeded every expectation. His team gave him a huge cushion, and he was sensational when the Sharks tried to come roaring back in the third period.
Were those three adjustments the only reason for the Blues' win? Probably not. St. Louis players talked ad nauseam before Game 4 about preventing turnovers that fed the Sharks' transition game. That needed to be fixed no matter who joined the lineup. But it's fair to say that adjustment and the injection of new players with different skill sets combined perfectly for the Blues on Saturday.
And now it's a best-of-three series.
Blues 6, Sharks 3 (Series tied, 2-2)
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3 things we learned
1. We need to stop heaping praise after three games
If you assumed the Lightning were done after Game 3, they shut you up with four unanswered goals Friday. If you thought the Blues were done after Game 3, they shut you up with four unanswered goals Saturday. Momentum is real, trust me. Believe in it. But it's definitely easier to shut down and flip in the playoffs.
2. Pete DeBoer is tired of Ken Hitchcock
Just look at the shade he's throwing.
"I'm sure Hitch will tell you he made all kinds of great adjustments & every one worked, hats off to him." DeBoer up there stomping his feet— Chris Hrabe (@chrabe) May 22, 2016
3. Martin Jones is not at fault
There were at least three instances of bad defensive play in front of Jones forcing him way out of his crease. Brent Burns managed to block the net on one of them. The Blues outright missed on another. And Jones was actually able to make a terrific save on one, but ...
DeBoer had to pull him after the third goal against, if only to rest him and let his mind sort itself out. But the Sharks' uncharacteristically poor coverage in the first period set the tone for the whole game. Jones will bounce back.
The Blues were up by two goals in the third period, but San Jose's power play started cooking. Allen made about six saves in the span of 30 seconds, keeping the Sharks off the board at a pivotal moment in the game.
Who knows. If he concedes there, maybe the Sharks finish the comeback.
Tweets from Tony
Remember Tony, AKA @soloucity on Twitter, who fell in love with hockey during the Blues/Blackhawks Game 7? We're dedicating a section in our recaps to the gems of his Twitter account during the playoffs.
Tony revealed his hockey career plan.
ill play hockey... but only if i can start from the bottom and work my way up like billy Madison.— Tony X. (@soIoucity) May 22, 2016
Stat of the Night
Courtesy @SNstats:— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) May 22, 2016
This is the first time where both Conference Final / NHL Semi-Final series featured all 8 goalies since 1980