Before we start talking about game 5 there are a few things from game 4 that I would like to discuss.
It wasn’t that many months ago that a lot of fans, including myself, had all but written off the Blues. The team was in disarray, Jake Allen looked about as useful as a screen door on a submarine and the coaching staff showed no signs of knowing how to right the ship.
Then February 1st happened. Mike Yeo grab the reigns, Martin Brodeur, aka the goalie whisper, got Jake back on track and the rest is history.
I think it is fair to say that had there been a couple missteps or even some indifference on the part of the Blues, this season could have turned out completely different. I think it is important to remember just how great the run was that this team went on.
I say all this because I believe that we owe it to this team not to give up on them until the end has officially came and went. And to not question their motives until the verdict is in.
Game 4 didn’t turn out the way anyone wearing Blue had hoped. The Blues came out a little sluggish to start the game and Jake Allen was slightly less than spectacular. That being said, I think it was a little arrogant of all of us to assume that a sweep was more than likely.
Despite what you think of this Minnesota, they are still a very good team and they are made up of some seasoned veterans that are not just going to slip quietly into the night.
I was listening to Kelly Chase on The Morning After show the other day and something he said made me stop and think. He mentioned how after the season that the Wild had put together, racking up the most points in franchise history, they deserved to at least have one playoff game to feel good about.
Is this an excuse for the Blues play on Wednesday? No. And I would not have felt the least bit sorry for the Wild if they had lost four games in a row.
However, I hope everyone understands exactly what the Blues were battling the other night. Not only were they playing a team that was fighting for it’s life, they were playing a team that was fighting for it’s pride.
As for tonight, they Blues will more than likely make a couple of lineup changes. Paul Stastny, who has been skating for the last week and has had a couple of full practices with the team, could come in for Zach Sanford and would slide into his old spot between Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, replacing Ivan Barbashev. When asked about the probability of Stastny’s return Mike Yeo had this to say,
"Obviously it was a good day for him," Yeo said. "He's been progressing well and this was a big step, being able to do a full practice, a competitive practice, so that's a good sign. ... The biggest thing for me is to talk to him and see how he's feeling and that will come. I think in speaking to him before he was feeling good and this is a needed step and we'll see how he comes out after practice and how he's feeling." [stltoday]
Yeo also mentioned that although getting Stastny back could add a boost to the Blues, it is more about how much he hurts the team rather than how much he will help it.
"Getting a player back is always nice," he said. "It helps to stabilize things, it gives us a little more options, but at the same time it's not like getting a player back is the answer and it's going to make things better for us. ... We've lost players and it's sharpened our focus. They've understood they need to bear down and do their jobs and do the little things and we have to make sure we continue to have that mindset and then if we add a player like Stas, then we become a better team." [stltoday]
Speaking of hurting the team, we have one more piece of roster news to pass along. It was, um let me think, *cough* Jori Lehtera is back in the lineup *cough* *cough*.
Believe me, I am just as depressed as you guys are but I think it is fair to say that Ivan Barbashev could use the break. In game 4 he was 1 for 8 in the face off dots and, although playing between Tarasenko and Schwartz for, has failed to record a point in four games.
Mike Yeo still appreciates the veteran presence that Lehtera brings to the lineup and is willing to take a chance on him in order to shake his team up. When asked about the Lehtera over Barbashev decision Mike Yeo replied,
"Obviously past experience, whether playoff experience, the experience of what we've seen leading up to the games. So it could have to do with how we're going to shape our lines, special teams, there's a number of things that factor into those things. The first step for is to figure out if Stas is going to be a player tomorrow and then the other pieces will start to fall into place." [stltoday]
So it sounds like if Stastny plays, which I think he will, Lehtera is in. Who has an extra ticket for game 6 they want to sell me?
All kidding aside, the Blues are going to need Lehtera going down the stretch and it is better to knock the rust off him now rather than a game in which the Blues have some kind of must win scenario. And as Jeremy Rutherford mentioned in his chat on Friday, during the last game of the year Lehtera and Vladimir Sabotka did show some signs of chemistry.
Regardless of who plays, the first goal will be of upmost importance to both teams. Both team’s game plan revolves around getting the lead and then maintaining it. The Wild do it by creating chaos with their speed, the Blues do it by circling around Jake Allen and limiting the Wild’s high percentage scoring chances.
Coming out aggressive and taking the Minnesota crowd out of the game early are keys to the Blues success.
This series isn’t over yet but I still like the Blues chances.
Lets Go Blues!