The narrative will be that Jake Allen was the cure to what ailed the St. Louis Blues. Allen is 2-0 in the series against the Vancouver Canucks and has stopped 61 of 64 shots. The real story is that the Blues opened it up offensively in Game 3 and then got the penalty kill working in Game 4.
In that respect, you could say that Allen, who stopped all seven power play shots from the Canucks in Game 4, stepped up when the Blues needed him the most. Whatever the reason, the Blues have drawn even at two games apiece in this best-of-seven series with the Canucks and the all-important Game 5 is on Wednesday night. St. Louis is listed as a -145 favorite at DSI Sportsbook to pick up the swing game and put the Canucks on the brink of elimination.
The Blues allowed six power play goals over the first three games of this series. They allowed zero in Game 4. It marked the first game that the Blues power play outscored the power play for the Canucks. The Blues just shut it down defensively across the board. In fact, it was a pretty slow game without a whole lot of offensive chances for either side. In other words, the exact kind of game that the Blues would like to play.
There were only 21 total scoring chances at 5-v-5 in Game 4. There were 70(!!) in Game 3. The Blues had 49 of those. Jacob Markstrom was outstanding in that game, as the Blues fired 48 shots at 5-v-5 and scored on only three of them, including Brayden Schenn’s overtime game winner.
In Game 4, the Blues scored two power play goals, including a 5-v-3 tally just before Zack MacEwen’s roughing penalty expired. That insurance marker loomed large, as the Blues really shut it down in the third period. Whether or not Allen’s insertion into the lineup has led to a change in St. Louis’s play remains to be seen, but they sure do look a lot more like the team that won the Cup last season than whatever they looked like through the Round Robin and the first two games of this series.
Markstrom has given his team a great chance in this series with 143 stops on 154 shots. He was coming in off of a career year and a pretty strong effort against the Minnesota Wild in the first round. The forwards need to help him out some more, though. They need to find a way to generate some sustained attack zone time.
The Blues may have figured out the blueprint. They allowed 41 shots in Game 3, but held the Blues to just 23 shots in Game 4. Elias Pettersson went from six shots in Game 3 to two shots in Game 4. Bo Horvat has been quiet since his Game 2 game-winning goal in overtime. The Canucks even had three third period power plays in Game 4 and couldn’t do anything with them.
Now the last change reverts back to St. Louis, who squandered that in Games 1 and 2. In theory, it means that they should be able to match up even better with Vancouver’s top six forwards, especially now that they have gotten their legs under them in the series.
The big story is Vancouver’s lack of offense and that has been the focus of this Game 5 preview, but it is also worth noting that five of St. Louis’s six even strength goals have been scored right in front of the net. The Canucks need to figure out a way to keep St. Louis to the outside in the defensive zone. If their offensive chances are going to be limited, then they’ll need to find a way to do the same to the Blues.
It sure seems like the balance of power in this series has swung wildly in favor of St. Louis. They’ve figured out how to lock it down and Allen is playing with a much higher confidence level than Binnington.
The total of 5.5 would appear to be too high here, so the under at -135 looks like a good play. Even with all the chances in Game 3, that game stayed under and there was minimal offense in Game 4. The Blues are back to playing the game that they want and their physical nature is starting to slow Vancouver down a bit.
To me, this game is about whether or not you’d rather lay the slightly higher juice with the Blues or take the under. Vladimir Tarasenko left the bubble to tend to his shoulder injury, so St. Louis is down a big offensive piece and a major threat. With that in mind, it’ll be the under for me.
Pick: Under 5.5 (-135)