The Winnipeg Jets finished with 99 points on the season and just missed out on the Central Division title, and the reward is having to play the red hot St. Louis Blues in the postseason. The Jets have a balanced lineup that can put the puck in the net. The problem for them this season has been that goaltender Connor Hellebuyck has fallen back to earth a little bit after his Vezina-like season last year.
The St. Louis Blues were in last place at one point this season, but they managed to turn the season around mainly due to rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington. Binnington gave the team some confidence because he started making saves and keeping the team in games. The rest of the team started to buy in and managed to climb out of last place and finished third in the Central Division. Ryan O’Reilly was certainly a boost for this team as he led the team with 77 points on the season.
The Regular Season Series Rundown
These two teams met four times during the regular season and the Jets came away with three wins, but they didn’t face the Blues after the team went on their streak. The first meeting came on Oct. 4 in St. Louis where the Jets took away the 5-1 win. The second time the two teams met was on Oct. 22 in Winnipeg where the Jets pulled out the win 5-4 in overtime. The third time these two teams met came on Nov. 24 in St. Louis and the Jets came away with an 8-4 win. The final meeting came on Dec. 7 in Winnipeg and the Blues got the win in that game.
Special Teams Recap
The Jets have a really good power play, but a not-so-great penalty kill, which seems to be a common theme among the playoff teams. The Jets power play was ranked fourth overall at 24.8% for the season. They scored 62 power play goals while allowing seven short-handed goals to the opposition. The penalty kill could use some work as the Jets finished 22nd in the League at 79.2%. They allowed 52 power play goals against but also scored 10 goals while a man down.
The Blues are one of the few teams that had both its power play and penalty kill stats ranked in the top 10 of the League during the regular season. The Blues were ranked 10th on the power play at 21.1%. The team managed to score 50 goals on the man advantage while giving up seven short-handed goals. The penalty kill was ninth best in the NHL finishing the season at 81.5%. The Blues allowed 43 power play goals and score five short-handed goal.
The key player for the Jets in this series will be Patrik Laine. Laine got off to a good start to the season, but then hit a major snag with a goal scoring slump. Laine is going to need to find a way to put the puck in the net to help his team in this series. The forward produced 20 less points this season than last year. He needs to shoot the puck and hit the net when he gets the chance to build his confidence back up.
Ryan O’Reilly will be the key for the Blues to take this series. O’Reilly was the leading scorer with the Blues this season with 77 points. He will also be a key component in face-offs needing wins to help the team gain possession, get offensive attack time or to win key defensive zone draws.
Connor Hellebuyck is going to be the key to winning this series. He needs to find a way to get back to the great goaltending of last season. The Blues will get their chances and the defense will sometimes jump into the play offensively. They will also have plenty of bodies around the crease area so Hellebuyck’s rebound control is going to need to be good. Hellebuyck will need to make some saves for his team or they could very well be going home after the first round.
Jordan Binnington has been fantastic for the Blues since his call up earlier in the regular season. It is easy to forget that he is still a rookie, even though he is 25-years-old. He is the reason that the team turned their season around, but he is still unproven in the postseason. Will the pressure of a potential seven game series get to him? Likely not because he has looked calm in doing what he has done so far this season. If he can make saves for his team then he could lead them into the second round.
The Jets Advance If…
They can get in on the forecheck to try to wear down the defense and force turnovers. They will need to get off to a good start in games to build momentum. The Jets do have some depth scoring which could create some matchup problems for the Blues. They’ll need to play a disciplined game because the Blues have a fairly decent power play.
The Blues Advance If..
The Blues just need to keep doing what they were doing when they turned the season around. The goaltending and defense are going to need to be really good in this series. The Jets will take advantage of turnovers and sloppy play. The Blues need their special teams to be good and try to stay out of the box since the Jets have a good power play.
Jets-Blues Season Series Preview
This will likely be a low-scoring and physical series, if the two teams play their game. The series goes the distance, but in the end, the Blues get just enough offense and better goaltending to advance to the next round.