Wednesday night was not pretty. As fans have seen many times so far this postseason, the Blues started with all cylinders firing only to become unfocused and scattershot, allowing the Stars to score four unanswered goals. What was different this time, though, is that the Blues let the Stars into their heads.
In the past, you’d expect the Blues to retaliate physically to make up for scoring shortcomings. It was a hallmark of the team under the captaincy of David Backes, and sometimes it sparked a drive, and sometimes it made the team look petulant. Last round, the Jets tried to get under the Blues skin by playing rough around the edges, but the Blues didn’t focus, and fought back to win game five before nearly manhandling the Jets in game six.
This round, the Blues are again going into game five with the series tied. They let themselves get frustrated in game four, however, and it wasn’t because the Stars were necessarily gooning it up. It’s because the Stars took advantage of defensive lapses and lack of situational awareness on the ice. The Blues didn’t support Jordan Binnington, and in response the team decided to get angry at Dallas instead of fixing the problem. The Jamie Benn nut-spear on Binnington aside (which deserved retaliation, because that’s cheap), the Blues didn’t respond with focus. David Perron and Binnington thwapping Ben Bishop with their sticks isn’t going to suddenly make the Blues turn on the gas.
It was addressed after the game, with Perron and Ryan O’Reilly telling the Post-Dispatch:
“Yeah, we’ve got to try and stay out of it,” Perron said. “I think guys were just trying to get a spark maybe.”
”I think we’ve got to be better for sure in that area,” Ryan O’Reilly said. “It’s something we talked about. I think we’ll regroup here, we’ll address that and move on.”
The Blues haven’t been as strong at home during the playoffs as they have been on the road. They’ve won just two of five games at Enterprise Center. A loss tonight means that the series shifts back to Dallas, where the Stars can potentially punch their ticket to the Western Conference finals.
Regroup and re-focus should be two of the keys to the game tonight. The third is to not let Dallas get under their skin.