WHEELER: Blues-Kings Game 4 Tonight, Cards Sweep in MIL
The Blues-Kings series has been unbelievably tight so far and it will most likely continue like that the rest of the way. Neither team has led by more than a goal over the first 180 minutes of the series and a lot of that has had to do with goaltending.
Jonathan Quick and Brian Elliott are stopping 96% of the shots fired so far and the only way the tone of this series will change is if one of them falters.
In my opinion, Quick has been better than Elliott simply because I think the Blues have generated more legitimate scoring chances than the Kings have. The Blues have, for the most part, controlled the action over the first three games but Quick has been quite the regulator for that energy.
I love the game the Blues are forcing on the Kings in this series and if they continue in the same way they should come away with a series win. Tonight’s game is monumental for the Kings and they’ll come out flying for sure. A loss puts them down 3-1 with 2 of the final 3 games in St. Louis. They will be a desperate team tonight
If the Blues can match L.A.’s intensity tonight they might go home for Game 4 in complete control of the series.
What are the keys?
It’s just my humble opinion but they need to shoot the puck even more in certain situations. There have been several odd-man or rush opportunities where Blues players have made one pass too many as they approached the net. I’m not sure if it’s a matter of hesitating or simply reading the play differently in real time down on the ice than I read it from watching in the press box or on TV. Things are easier with the view from above, no doubt.
The Blues are out shooting the Kings and averaging just over 32 shots per game so far, so I’m not necessarily talking about the volume of shots put on net. I’m talking about specific situations where a shot instead of a pass would have been a better choice.
The other key is for Elliott to keep matching zeros with Quick.
Both teams are playing physically and going to the hard areas to try to make something happen. I don’t see a legit criticism of either team’s focus, effort or game planning.
The Blues could also stand to have the Men in Stripes be more consistent. In Games 2 and 3 the Blues have gone to the box a total of 9 times, 4 in Game 2 and 5 in Game 3. Of those 9 penalties, 4 of them were blown calls by the officials.
1) Ryan Reaves high sticking at 9:25 of the 1st period in Game 2
Two players get tangled up, lose their balance and as a result Reaves’ stick comes up but does not make contact with the Kings player. How can there be a high sticking penalty without contact? I understand the refs have discretion, for example, if a player takes a violent swing at another player and misses but this was nothing like that and the officials had to know it.
2) Barrett Jackman interference at 9:49 of the 1st period in Game 2
Ok, so the refs made a call that simply cannot happen. I’m not talking about a “that can’t happen in a game like this” call, I’m talking about a call that simply cannot happen based on the rule book. Drew Doughty had the puck coming into the Blues zone and the play was BLOWN DEAD for offsides. After the play was blown dead, Jackman bumped Doughty and the Kings defensemen went down. Jackman was whistled for interfering with a play that could not have happened because it was blown dead? Yep. You can’t interfere with a play that is over. This call gave the Kings a 5-on-3 PP and led to their only goal of the game. The Blues won, so there are no sour grapes to be pressed, but these two phantom calls back-to-back definitely changed the game.
3) T.J. Oshie delay of game 2:16 of the 3rd period
Simply, a blown call. The puck hit the glass before going into the stands and the refs missed it. In real time, I understand the difficulty of such a call but I also know that refs are supposed to call what they see and not what they think they see. If they’re not sure, there should be no call. Admittedly, this was an incorrect call but not one that I’d want to file a brief to the Supreme Court over.
4) David Perron roughing at 6:35 of the 3rd period
Perron got a roughing penalty for doing absolutely nothing. He went to the front of the net, did not make contact with Quick, did not give him a snow shower or anything along those lines but apparently what he did was enough to irritate Doughty. Doughty initiated some stuff after the whistle and did enough to earn an extra 2:00 for himself but Perron should never have gone to the box. He didn’t do anything.
The penalties in Game 3 didn’t lead to any L.A. goals and I think L.A. would have won Game 3 even without those calls so again, no sour grapes. I just want the refs to be better so that they don’t end up impacting the outcome of a game the rest of the way.
I hope that’s not too much to ask. Three phantom penalties and one very shaky one (Oshie) are too much for two games in a tight playoff series.
It’s amazing, isn’t it? Despite all of the troubles in the bullpen and the slow start for some of the Cardinals key middle of the order hitters they come off a 4-game sweep of the Brewers with a 6-game winning streak and the best record in baseball (tied with Boston and Texas).
The starters have really carried the mail so far and it’s nice to see the bats waking up because sooner or later those starters will go through rough patches like the one Adam Wainwright had on Saturday.
In April the starting rotation bailed out the offense and the bullpen. Maybe things will be a little different in May. That’s just how a 162-game season goes. What you hope is that you don’t have more than one part of the team struggling for too long a period of time.
It’s only May 6th and most of this is from the Milwaukee series but here are some positive signs for the first 5 days of the month:
– Jon Jay 8-for-18 (.444) with a HR and 6 RBI
– Allen Craig 9-for-22 (.409) with a HR and 7 RBI
– David Freese 6-for-16 (.375)
Of course, Carlos Beltran has slowed down a bit in May (3-for-19, though 2 of those three hits are home runs) but that’s how this game goes. If Jay, Craig and Freese simply return to their career norms this offense will be consistently one of the best in the NL for the rest of the season.
It was also nice to see Carlos Martinez and Seth Maness get their first taste of big league action over the weekend. The two of them couldn’t be much different, except perhaps that they are of similar stature, but they’re both effective.
Maness is a control specialist who told me he grew up idolizing Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, patterning his pitching style from an early age after his two favorites. He’s a strike thrower who can hit 90-91 MPH on the gun but relies more on excellent command and changing speeds.
Martinez has that upper 90’s velocity like Trevor Rosenthal. He was touching 98-99 MPH yesterday in Milwaukee and out of the pen that’s exactly what you can expect from him. As a starter he can still hit 96-97 MPH late in games so he’s got legitimate endurance to go with the heat but for now the Cardinals only need him as a reliever. He’s a pitcher too, with a nice breaking ball and a good idea of what he’s doing out there.
It’s always exciting to see young talents. Whether they stick around the rest of year or not isn’t sure but there is a lot to like from both Maness and Martinez.
No matter what happens over the next couple of months, don’t allow yourself to panic or get too agitated by anything you see. Barring a series of catastrophic injuries the Cardinals will, at the very least, be in contention for a playoff spot in September. Personally, I think they’ll be right there with the Reds in the NL Central at that time…maybe even a little ahead.