Ryan Reaves had appeared in 17 playoff games for St. Louis prior to Wednesday, and had yet to hit the score sheet. That changed in Game 4 between the Blues and Minnesota Wild.
Reaves opened the scoring with his first career playoff goal and point, blasting home a shot that beat Devan Dubnyk. Trailing 2-1 in the series and searching for answers after Game 3, the Blues took off from there.
They added two more goals — from Vladimir Tarasenko and David Backes — to take a 3-0 lead over the Wild by the 10:06 mark of the opening period. The Blues maintained that lead into the intermission.
Goaltender Corey Crawford has led the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup championship, but when Chicago attempts to eliminate Nashville on Thursday, he won’t be playing between the pipes. Rookie Scott Darling has been a big part of the first round series and will get another start in Game 5.
It’s an impressive, yet oddly common story this season. If you look at the GAA leaders so far in the 2015 postseason, you won’t see Carey Price or Henrik Lundqvist listed in the top-three. Instead it’s Darling, Devan Dubnyk, and Jake Allen. Three netminders who weren’t in starting roles when the campaign began. Then there’s Petr Mrazek, who shutout the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday to give Detroit a 2-1 series lead.
“It might be the year of the backup goalie this year,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told CSN Chicago. “Somebody you’ve never heard of may get an opportunity and all of a sudden is a key guy. We all know the importance of the goalie and how the guy who is playing well is getting that net. Sometimes it’s competitive with internal competition but at the same time the rapport is excellent [with the normal starter] and it’s a healthy situation to be in.”
The question is if this trend will continue. Dubnyk really can’t be regarded as a backup anymore and that’s been true since Minnesota acquired him, but if Darling, Allen, or Mrazek falter, then their respective teams might not wait long to replace them.
We’ve already seen Ottawa’s Andrew Hammond be relegated to warming the bench despite his tremendous regular season run and Vancouver’s Eddie Lack was yanked early in Tuesday’s contest. Even still, at this point it’s entirely possible that the goaltender who leads his team to a Stanley Cup championship will be one that didn’t hold the starting job at the beginning of the season.
A quick look at what games will be on what channels in tonight’s Stanley Cup playoff action…
Canadiens at Senators, 7:00 p.m. ET on USA
In the 35 times the Montreal Canadiens have taken a 3-0 series lead, they’ve never lost. Meanwhile the Ottawa Senators are looking to become just the fifth team to battle back from down three games to win a series. The L.A. Kings did it last spring against the San Jose Sharks on the way to winning the franchise’s second Stanley Cup. John Forslund and Andy Brickley have the call of Game 4.
Rangers at Penguins, 7:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN
The Pittsburgh Penguins will look to even their series at two and avoid heading back to New York down 3-1. In order to tie the series the Penguins will need to have a better start. New York has out-scored Pittsburgh 9-1 in first periods dating back to Game 5 of last year’s series. Doc Emrick and Pierre McGuire will have the call.
Blues at Wild, 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN
The Minnesota Wild have won three of the eight playoff series they’ve played, but they’ve never held a 3-1 series lead. The Wild will look to put the Blues on the brink of elimination in Game 4 at Minnesota’s Xcel Energy Center. Dave Strader and Brian Engblom will be on the call.
Ducks at Jets, 9:30 p.m. ET on USA
Like the Sens, the Winnipeg Jets will try to avoid a sweep tonight. The Jets have blown third period leads in each of the first three games of the series and find themselves behind 3-0 to the Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim has out-scored Winnipeg 7-0 in third periods in the series. The Jets will look for their first playoff win in franchise history in Game 4 while the Ducks are seeking their first playoff sweep in nine years. Chris Cuthbert and Bret Hedican are on the call.