The St. Louis Blues know what’s at stake going into their win-or-be-eliminated Game 5 against the visiting Nashville Predators on Friday night.
The Blues evened the series with their 3-2 victory in Game 2 in St. Louis, then lost back-to-back games in the Music City as the Predators applied a stranglehold to their second-round best-of-seven series.
The odds — and history — are against the Blues. Teams that win Game 4 in a seven-game series to take a 3-1 lead go on to win 89.7 percent of the time, according to hockeyreference.com. The Blues are aiming to be among that rare 10.3 percent of teams that survive and advance.
“I think we’ve faced adversity before,” Blues coach Mike Yeo said. “We know we have a tough hill to climb here, we know we’re playing against a real good team and we’re aware of where we’re at in the series. Our mindset is on tomorrow’s game. I think that’s what we did effectively and was a big part of our success the last part of the season. We didn’t look at the hill that we had to climb, we didn’t look at who was in the lineup, who was out of the lineup. The guys focused on the job they had to do and we took care of the moment that was in front of us and that’s what we have to do again tomorrow.”
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Despite scoring just two goals total in the two games in Nashville, the Blues expressed confidence on Thursday that they can get back in the series.
“I think if we didn’t feel like we were in the games, it’s a different mood,” Blues center Paul Stastny said. “Every game has been a one-goal game. The first game in Nashville we didn’t play that well and we were still in it and played better at the end. The last game was probably our best game of the series and it was basically a coin toss of a game. They’ve been like that all the time.”
Stastny echoed Yeo’s sentiments about focusing just on Game 5.
“You don’t want to look at the big picture,” he said. “You just want to look at one game, just knowing how hard it is to win one game. It goes both ways. I think we’ll leave it all out there and feed off the crowd when we have to, but I don’t think there’s any mindset in here that thinks tomorrow is going to be our last game. We’re going in there tomorrow to win and that’s all we can focus on.”
The Blues’ lineup could look a little bit different for Game 5 — if the line pairings from Thursday’s practice are an accurate representation of what Yeo is thinking — as the coach looks to generate an offensive spark from a team that’s scored eight goals in the first four games of the series.
Vladimir Sobotka joined Stastny and Vladimir Tarasenko on the top line, taking the place of Jaden Schwartz, who was paired with Patrik Berglund and Dmitrij Jaskin. Alexander Steen, who hasn’t been practicing because of an undisclosed injury, will likely take Jaskin’s place in the lineup on Friday night.
Stastny said playing with Sobotka is similar to playing with Schwartz, that the two players have similar traits, and it feels natural playing with him.
“He’s had a really strong playoff for us,” Yeo said of Sobotka. “He’s been very effective and it’s not hard to figure out why. You get into playoff hockey and to have success, you want speed, you want skill, but the level of competitiveness goes up. When he plays the way that he does and he gets to the hard areas, he protects the puck, he wins battles offensively, that opens up time and space for other people and creates situations and opportunities for himself as well.”
David Perron, who has been playing with Berglund and Steen, was on the Blues’ third line with Jori Lehtera and Magnus Paajarvi.
“If you lose a couple games in a row obviously you have to shake things up a little bit,” Stastny said. “This way you just spread it out a little bit.”
Brodziak is back
The fourth line of Ryan Reaves, Scottie Upshall and Kyle Brodziak is back together after Brodziak was a healthy scratch in favor of Lehtera for Game 4.
“It’s tough,” Brodziak said of being out of the lineup as a healthy scratch. “This time of year especially, you want to be part of the group. It’s tough, but you’ve got to take out of it what you can and get your game back to the level it needs to be.”
Brodziak has one point in three games this series after recording one point in the five-game first-round series against Minnesota. He had 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 69 games during the regular season.
“I don’t think I was playing aggressive enough and trusting that ... I think it’s just trusting my game,” Brodziak said. “I’ve got to get back to doing that, not being out there second-guessing at all. It’s too fast of a game to be having any second-guessing in it.”