Breaking Down the Blues and Cardinals

My take on the Blues before Game 4-

After losing to the Kings 1-0 on Saturday, the Blues found out a few things about themselves.  First, putting the puck on net is harder than it looks.  The Blues lead all playoff teams in missed shots.  Second, they found out Jonathan Quick can be pushed around in his crease by a 175 pound Frenchman named David Perron.  Third, they and the fans realized Brian Elliot can carry them in a game.  
Since they can’t hit Quick with a brick and knock him out of the game, they will have to find ways to make him uncomfortable.  Putting pressure on him and his defense.  Force him from the crease, where he is shaky.  Put shots on him, and get them up high.  The Blues seemed to have like 40 chances to stuff a rebound and couldn’t while the Kings slammed home their lone goal on a rebound.   The key to the game is pounding the net and keeping the majority of the shots on goal.  
The Blues defense and goaltending has been superb.  The offense has been dull save for Alex Steen and Barrett Jackman and a puck going off Patrik Berglund’s leg.  Where is Chris Stewart, TJ Oshie, Perron, Andy McDonald and David Backes in this series?  Effort and defense is great but results are another.  The Blues got the 2-0 series lead on Thursday but must act on it and not let the advantage slip away.  It isn’t easy but it was never drawn up that way.  NHL Playoff hockey is tough and brutal.  Raising that cup often means several players have to raise their game to get there.  
Who stands out for the Blues tonight because Elliot can’t hold the Kings off for much longer.  Allowing 3 goals in three games to a decent offense is otherworldly work from a goalie who had zero confidence in March.  
Can the Blues forwards actually step up and win a game or will the Blues return home Wednesday tied up in the series?  We find out tonight.  


My Take on the Cardinals before their series in Chicago-

On April 30th, the Cards were barely above .500 and hurting from bullpen malfunction.  Starters were producing wonders but the bats were cold and the relief gave anything but help.  Mitchell Boggs was self-destructing and Mike Matheny was holding the on/off switch.  A week later, they are 20-11 and carry the best record in the NL.  How?  Finding their bats and being consistently rotten to their division foes.  
It started with Jaime Garcia, Matt Holliday and Edward Mujica turning back the Reds last Tuesday.  Garcia fired 8 innings or brilliance, Holliday hit a laser and Mujica struck out the best three Reds batters to close the deal.  They beat the Reds the next afternoon and went to Milwaukee.  
On Thursday, the bullpen nearly got in the way of a 6-5 win.  Friday, they beat Kyle Lohse for the second time in a month in a big way.  Saturday and Sunday, they made statements.  Adam Wainwright got rocked and gave up a 4-2 lead, but the offense came to the rescue of the rotation for the first time.  They won 7-6 in dramatic fashion.  On Sunday, Allen Craig and Jaime Garcia shut down the Brewers and we won 10-1.  The Cards outscored the Brew Crew 29-13 and the lineup went nuts…on the road.  In the early part of 2013, the Cards are telling divisional foes that if we have to lose to you, it will be us dropping the grenade and not you.  They swept the Brewers and took a second series from the Reds after losing the first game.   This team is streaky with their bats but lethal with their balance.  
Mujica has stabilized the closer situation that cost the team 5 wins.  Boggs and Marc Rzepcynzski are in Memphis.  Carlos Martinez and Seth Maness are with the team and thriving.  Craig and Holliday are RBI monsters.  Yadi Molina is ridiculous with his batting average.  
The rotation members all rank in the top 15 in wins and ERA.  They have been terrific ALL YEAR.  Where does this team go from here? 
To Wrigley Field for 2 games and then home.  It’s time the Cards step foot in their nemesis’ home and do damage.  Keep the bats flying and the arms mighty.  The Cards are white hot!  
The only way we lose is if we do it to ourselves.

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