But not these Blues. Not this postseason.
“A tough loss like that, I think a lot of teams a lot of guys have been on start throwing each other around the bus, blaming other people and doing this and that,” said Sanford, in reference to their Game 3 disaster against the Boston Bruins. “With this group, it’s all just boosting each other and having each other’s back, and that showed tonight.”
The Blues evened the Stanley Cup Final 2-2 with a 4-2 victory on Monday night that was equal parts bludgeoning and buoyant. It continued a trend for St. Louis that has spanned the postseason, which is its ability to follow losses with strong efforts. Even losses as gutting as Game 3 last Saturday.
“It’s the playoffs. You have to forget that game as quick as possible. It doesn’t matter if it’s 10-1 or 2-1. A loss is a loss. It’s just another game,” said forward Oskar Sundqvist, who returned to the Blues’ lineup after being suspended for Game 3. “You need to refocus, and that’s what we did.”
The return of Sundqvist, one of the team’s top penalty killers, highlighted a big improvement for the Blues in Game 4: their handling of the Bruins’ top-ranked power play.
After scoring four goals on four shots in Game 3 with the man advantage, the Bruins went 0-for-2 on the power play. The key number there might have been the “2,” as the Blues played by far their most disciplined game of the series, staying out of the penalty box after the Bruins had 14 power plays in the previous three games. But the fact that the Bruins didn’t score on the power play for the first time in the Final was also key.
“A lot of sacrificing, blocking shots and great awareness. We really took their big guns away, and they’re a talented group,” said goalie Jordan Binnington.
When it comes to the Blues’ resiliency, Binnington personifies it. The rookie goalie became the sixth goalie in NHL history to record seven wins after a defeat within a single postseason, moving to 7-2 after St. Louis losses in the playoffs. His numbers in those games? A 1.86 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage. He has also allowed two or fewer goals in eight of the nine games.
“I think we understand it’s a series, right? And it’s not going to be perfect, and things aren’t going to go your way. We just regroup and prepare for the next game,” he said.
But Binnington credited the team in front of him with having played their best game of the series and limiting the Bruins’ chances.
“It’s the second opportunities that we were giving up. A lot of them off the rush,” said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, agreeing with Binnington’s premise. “The forwards did a great job. Anytime there’s back pressure, it allows us to play up and limit those rush opportunities.”
But at the heart of the Blues’ resiliency is pride. Not just in putting that embarrassing blowout loss in Game 3 behind them, but in delivering the first home-ice Stanley Cup Final win in city history to a fan base that has waited since 1968 to see one.
“Every year, you keep hearing, ‘Let’s go win the Cup.’ Even after last year,” said winger Vladimir Tarasenko. “People start believing in us. We feel it. It gives us a really big emotional boost. We go around this city and see ‘Let’s go Blues’ everywhere. It’s unbelievable times.”