Blues Kings Game Four Post-Mortem: What Happened?

Harry How

That was, hands down, the worst Blues game since their loss in Colorado last month. What happened?

Let's make this clear from the start: missed calls didn't lose the game for the Blues. Brian Elliott didn't lose the game for the Blues. The Blues lost the game for the Blues, plain and simple. Poor defense, high turnovers - especially from the normally excellent top pairing of Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester - things like that lost the game.

Bad defensive decisions, like Jordan Leopold's call to pinch, leaving Kevin Shattenkirk to deal with a 3-on-1 led to the resulting Dustin Penner goal. Inability to make quick decisions on the fly, possibly due to fatigue due to a super short bench (as fearless former leader Gallagher pointed out on Twitter last night) lead to several defensive brainfarts that wound up with the puck in the back of the net.

There are two major non-tactical problems for the Blues, though. The first one is the most apparent one - the one that every single one of us has seen constantly throughout the season - they can't be consistent. They cannot seem, when they get a lead, to maintain the same pressure that they used to get that lead to begin with. They lighten up, they start making silly mistakes, and they lose their lead. You could pretty much see the team, after T.J. Oshie's first goal, just collectively go "I got this" and back off. You could see the momentum shift, which is impressive. Usually after a team goes up 2-0 (both in a game and in a series), there's a drive to finish. The Blues don't seem to have that drive unless they're behind the eight ball. Congrats, you're hanging out behind it now.

The other issue last night, and one that admittedly a lot of us wanted to happen, was that Vladimir Tarasenko was inserted into the line-up to add a scoring punch. Halfway through the first period I found myself wondering where he was. Was his game so off that he was unnoticable? No. He was unnoticable because he wasn't on the ice. He had a total of 5:51 ice time the whole game, none on special teams. He had a whopping 40 seconds in the third, and his one shift during that period he looked like a deer in headlights.

Thanks to the fact that he was played less than the guy he replaced, Adam Cracknell, Hitchcock wound up having to mix the lines up on the fly to keep him off of the ice. This threw off chemistry, especially on the important 4th line. Instead of benching a vet who hasn't been playing well this series - Andy McDonald, for example, who has just looked out of place - and working Tarasenko onto the third line to keep the fourth line intact, juggling the lines lead to confusion on the ice.

Game five will probably see Tarasenko benched again, Cracknell back in, and harmony restored. The Blues are in a pressure situation, which means that they should play an ok game tomorrow. This inconsistency is maddening, though, and for it to show up in the playoffs is very much a case of wrong place, wrong time.

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