Blues receiving production from entire lineup in playoffs
Balanced attack remains key for Game 3 against Sharksby Tracey Myers @Tramyers_NHL / NHL.com Staff Writer
ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues have been getting production throughout their lineup during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and that could very well be the difference in the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks.
It was in Game 2 on Monday when third-pair defensemen Robert Bortuzzo and Vince Dunn scored, as did fourth-line center Oskar Sundqvist, in a 4-2 win that evened the best-of-7 series 1-1.
And as the Blues come home for Game 3 at Enterprise Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN360, TVAS), they're appreciating how much their depth players have produced in the postseason.
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"It's been huge," coach Craig Berube said. "We've gotten production from both of our back end and forwards, right through the whole lineup, which is always important in the playoffs. It's tight out there, a lot of times, top-line guys, they get shut down and checked on a nightly basis. It's important we have four lines and six [defensemen] contributing, game to game."
And those points have come at clutch times. Pat Maroon, a third-line forward, scored the winning goal in the second overtime when the Blues eliminated the Dallas Stars 2-1 in Game 7 of the second round. Bortuzzo's goal, his first point of the 2019 playoffs and the first postseason goal of his NHL career, was the winner in Game 2 against the Sharks. Sundqvist's backhand goal gave the Blues a 4-2 lead against the Sharks with 3:08 remaining.
The Blues' bottom-six forward depth has been key the entire postseason. The third line of Maroon, Tyler Bozak and Robert Thomas has 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 15 games. Bozak has eight points (three goals, five assists), Maroon has five points (three goals, two assists), and Thomas has five points (goal, four assists).
Video: Blues even series at one thanks to their defensemen
The fourth line has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 15 games. Sundqvist has six points (three goals, three assists), Alexander Steen has three points (goal, two assists), and Ivan Barbashev has two assists.
"You look in the past history of [Stanley] Cup-winning teams, the fourth line is a big part of it," Berube said. "Going way back, I think you need four lines, especially in the playoffs, with the intensity of the game and so many games, you need lots of players you can use in your lineup on a nightly basis. We've been managing our ice really well throughout lineup. When you get production from the fourth line, you know the other things they do well, but production is important."
The Sharks aren't getting the same depth scoring. Their third line has been especially quiet recently: Joe Thornton (one assist) and Kevin Labanc (one goal) each has one point in the past eight games, and Marcus Sorensen has no points in his past seven games. Their fourth line of Joonas Donskoi, Barclay Goodrow and Melker Karlsson has six points (three goals, three assists) in the playoffs.
"Teams that win the Stanley Cup, they get contributions throughout their lineup," Sharks forward Logan Couture said. "At times during the playoffs we have. There have been time where [Joe Thornton's] line has taken over and won us some games, [Tomas] Hertl's won us a game or two, Barclay Goodrow has scored a big goal, you need those guys to go on runs. We've had it for stretches. It's just the consistency that we need."
Consistent, quality depth is vital in the postseason, and the Blues have been getting production from theirs.
"It's always another line that steps [up] or a D-man, like Bortuzzo going and getting the game-winner," Sundqvist said. "It feels like that's been going on the whole playoffs. It's always one guy or one line that's pushing us forward and helping the other lines to keep going."
NHL.com staff writer Mike Zeisberger contributed to this report