What started as a best-of-7 series has now become a best-of-3. Tonight’s Game 5 features the Bruins and Blues, each of whom have won two games in this dynamic, back-and-forth series. Now the series shifts back to Boston, where one team can go on the verge of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Here is a brief recap of Game 4, along with some keys to tonight’s showdown and a final prediction.
Game 4 Recap
Ryan O’Reilly’s two goals helped spark the Blues, as St. Louis saved their Cup chances with a 4-2 win at home. O’Reilly scored the game’s opening goal 43 seconds in, and then scored the game-winning goal about halfway through the third period.
After O’Reilly’s opening goal, Charlie Coyle scored his ninth of the playoffs to even the game at one. But shortly after, Vladimir Tarasenko answered to take the lead once again. The second period was led by the Blues in terms of possession and scoring chances, but the Bruins got the only goal of the period when Brandon Carlo scored while short-handed. But the third period is where the Blues were at their best, with O’Reilly scoring the go-ahead goal and Brayden Schenn hitting the empty net to seal the deal.
Keys for St. Louis
For the last few games, the biggest key for the Blues was to stay out of the penalty box and avoid giving Boston’s lethal power play more ice time. Game 4 was the first instance of following that key and it paid off. St. Louis only gave the Bruins two power plays all game, both of which were easily killed. It was a nice change of pace from the first three games, where the Bruins had 14 power plays and converted on six of them. The Blues will once again have to play a tough and physical brand of hockey, but also do it legally.
Staying out of the box and killing penalties are just part of the equation, however. Throughout the series, the Blues power play has been nearly non-existent. In three games, the Blues are a paltry 1-for-13 with the extra attacker. St. Louis must improve in this area, especially with the next game on the road and Boston’s power play still a massive threat.
Keys for Boston
In the last three games, the Bruins have been outshot by the Blues. Games 4 in particular was staggering, where St. Louis put 15 more shots on net than Boston. In this series as a whole, when it has been 5-on-5, the Blues have been the better team at possessing the puck and putting together high-danger chances. Boston can not rely as much on turnovers in the neutral zone and odd-man rushes to fuel their offense, but rather a consistent, sustained attack.
Another key that’s important going into tonight is playing a full game. The Bruins have largely gone through this series with dominant periods now and then but only one truly dominant game. This was evident in Game 4, where after a more back-and-forth first two periods, Boston was man-handled in period three and mustered only four shots on goal. To win Game 5, the Bruins need to be able to play their best hockey for three straight periods.
There are a couple of reasons I like Boston tonight. First, they have consistently bounced back after losses this season (and postseason). Second, Tuukka Rask has been the better goalie this series than Jordan Binnington. Factor in the likely return of Zdeno Chara to the lineup, and I’ll take the Bruins -150 to take a 3-2 series lead.