Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Blues adjusted forecheck led to key Game 4 win over Bruins

Played more connected, didn't allow Boston as many puck 
touches led to sustained zone time; series now tied 2-2 and a best-of-3

ST. LOUIS -- Making the proper adjustments can be the difference between winning and losing.

The Blues and Boston Bruins have taken turns in the Stanley Cup Final making proper adjustments between games, and it's no wonder the best-of-7 series is tied 2-2 and teams have alternated wins.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Ivan Barbashev (left) lays an offensive zone check on Bruins 
defenseman Brandon Carlo during Game 4 on Monday night.

It was the Blues' turn in Game 4, a convincing 4-2 win, in which they did with a complete makeover of how they played in Game 3, a 7-2 drubbing highlighted by Boston's efficiency on the power play.

The Blues had to adjust their forecheck, and they did. 


By being more tactical, as center Oskar Sundqvist said.

"I think we moved the puck quicker," he said, "and we were supporting each other more. We were staying connected and closer to each other. That's our game, too. We need to stay close and connected. If we're not doing that, then they're going to forecheck us and they're going to win the puck back, so we need to do that every shift."

More to the identity of the Blues, too, is playing 5-on-5, which they were better at in this game, only going on the penalty kill twice, killing both, and keeping it on level ground.

The Blues have been the better team at 5-on-5 play.

"We just need to keep doing what we did [Monday], stay out of the penalty box and play as much 5-on-5 as possible," Sundqvist said. "When we do that, we're going to have a good chance to win."

Forward Zach Sanford said things didn't quite pan out that way for Game 3.

"There was a lot of cases when F1 was getting in hard and the puck was popping out, but we weren't there to pick it up," Sanford said. "Tonight, all four lines were doing a great job getting that second man in and getting those loose pucks and creating chances off of that."

Boston had little zone time on average in the game, and by being able to control the puck, forecheck and get it back in the offensive zone and not giving Boston's defensemen and forwards room to maneuver in the neutral zone eliminated any chances the Bruins would get off the rush.

"We played our game like we did in Game 2," Blues forward Pat Maroon said. "All four lines go to their game early. Our team's not an east-west team … We let them transition. I think we did a good job of just playing north-south hockey. We’re a big, heavy team and when we get pucks low, we grind it down low and get second and third opportunities, we get rewarded. Like I said, we’re just a north-south, simple kind of team. We did that tonight."

And it seems like the Blues were smacked in the face with adversity again, and once again, they came out of it for the moment. 

"I've said it before, things don't really seem to faze us," said Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who had two assists, was a plus-3 and played arguably his best Stanley Cup Playoff game in 29:37 ice time. "Obviously, last game got out of hand and we weren't too proud of that. I felt like last game we actually did start pretty well, the first 5-10 minutes, we just do the same thing. We use everybody and put teams on their heels. We get a lot of momentum opportunities from that."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues center Ryan O'Reilly (90) scores the first goal of the game past Bruins
goalie Tuukka Rask in the first period of Game 4 on Monday night.

They also get a lot of opportunities from what interim coach Craig Berube called, "Puck placement."

"We did a good job of putting pucks in where we had speed already going onto the puck, which is important, and getting there and making contact, having our second man in their quick," Berube added. "What we did better tonight, again, we stayed out of the penalty box, there wasn't a lot of penalties, we had a lot of 5-on-5 play and we had a lot of o-zone time because of it. We did a good job of managing in the offensive zone, not throwing it away, working, keeping it, having some good patience with it, taking a good shot when we had one, but not getting it blocked, and then keep working and grinding."

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