Blues have been down this road heading into another pivotal Game 5; Dunn
ruled out, Blais OK, Thomas being watched; Bouwmeester's lengthy shift
ST. LOUIS -- They've been down this road before, twice as a matter of fact.
And as the Blues head into another pivotal Game 5, this time in the Western Conference Final against San Jose, they do so with plenty on the line.
The series is tied 2-2, just like it was against Winnipeg and against Dallas, and there's no shortage of confidence for the Blues, who have built it within themselves with reinforcements from their coaching staff.
"I think they do an extremely good job of it, but I reinforce it as much as possible," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. "We have meetings and talk to players individually and things like that. But on a day to day basis, they look pretty confident every game. They feel good about everything, the way it’s going. There are ups and downs in the playoffs and a lot of stuff that goes on, calls that don’t go your way. You get puck luck, then you don’t get puck luck. They have good heads on their shoulders and we’re in a good spot. We knew it was going to be a long series and just got to keep pushing. We’ll try to go out and try to get that win tomorrow."
The Blues have already won a Game 5 on the road, that dramatic 3-2 win at Winnipeg in the first round, rallying from a 2-0 third-period deficit when Jaden Schwartz scored with 15 seconds remaining. They also lost Game 5 against Dallas, 2-1, on home ice before rallying to win the series in seven by winning Games 6 and 7.
And after a 2-1 win in Game 4 on Friday, the Blues know they have to be better going back to California.
"Have to have a more consistent game," Blues center Ryan O'Reilly said. "We need a similar start to [Friday] where we have all lines going, we're skating, we're physical. When we do that, we wear them down. We make it hard on their 'D' and we get chances off it.
"We tied the series. It's a best of three now and we have to start preparing for the next one. We're a confident group. We're a good road team and it's getting to our game early. Again we're taking it one game at a time and we want to get out there and establish our game right away."
* Injury updates -- Blues defenseman Vince Dunn, who was hit in the mouth/jaw in Game 3 by a Brenden Dillon shot in the first period and missed Game 4, will not travel to San Jose and will not be available to play in Game 5, according to Berube.
Dunn was at the game to support his teammates on Friday, and is still listed as day to day.
Forward Sammy Blais, who blocked a Brent Burns shot in the third period on Friday and did not return to the ice but remained on the bench, was checked out and will be OK to play in Game 5, Berube said.
Blais finished tied for top spot in hits again (four) but played just 10:42.
And then there's the status of forward Robert Thomas, who has missed the past two morning skates but hasn't missed any games.
Thomas played just 10:09 on Friday and had two shots on goal; he played less than two minutes in the third period.
"He’s playing," Berube said of Thomas. "At this time of year, there are a lot of guys who aren’t physically healthy. We just try to keep his maintenance as low as possible, keeping him as healthy as we can. A lot of guys are banged up, but that’s the thing with him right now."
* Bouwmeester's marathon -- There are long shifts. They're sometimes unavoidable. It happens through the course of a game, but then there are the likes of shifts that Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester had on Friday that seemed like an eternity.
Bouwmeester was part of a group of Blues skaters that were hemmed in their zone late in the second period when the Sharks were coming in waves down 2-0.
Bouwmeester's shift started with 4:35 to play in the second period, and when all was said and done, it ended with 48 seconds to play in the period.
That's right, a shift that lasted a whopping 3:47.
"He’s in extremely good shape, for sure, obviously," Berube said of Bouwmeester. "Been around a long time, smart player. His game’s been great for quite some time, we all know that, in the payoffs too, here. He was a good player for us last night. Being in that situation, caught out there for quite some time, we were hemmed in our zone, we couldn’t get the puck back and they’re moving it around well. Obviously trying to get a goal on us, being down 2-0, they were aggressive at that point. But Bouwmeester doesn’t panic, holds his ground. I’m not sure if he’s not out there, that maybe we don’t give up a goal. He’s that type of player and been that type of player for us for some time."
* Blues power play taking small strides -- It hasn't always looked clean, but at least the Blues have made some positive steps on their power play.
When Tyler Bozak scored what turned out to be the game-winner Friday, it was the second power-play goal in three attempts for the Blues, who went 18 straight chances without a power-play goal and 1-for-26 the previous eight games.
The Blues made some personnel changes, utilizing groups that were used at the beginning of the season when things were going well.
"I think shooting the puck for sure, but winning the face-offs, we won that draw there in the first period, winning the face-off and just attacking right away," Berube said of the success. "Vladi [Tarasenko] attacking right away and shooting the puck. We got traffic in front of the net and converging in front of the net. You get a fortunate bounce, but we talked about scoring more dirty goals and being around the net more and the other night again, it wasn't all clean, but David Perron shooting the puck and people around the net. You've got to shoot the hockey puck. I think that we're doing a better job just winning the face-offs at important times is important obviously, but just getting pucks to the net with people there."
Defenseman Joel Edmundson got some time on the power play in the third period, getting 1:20 on the man-advantage.
"It's a 2-1 lead late and we got the second of the power play going, we like to use two defensemen," Berube said. "More precautionary. There are guys coming out of the box. We don't want a forward back there in a tight game like that. That's the reason why."