NHL Central Division Notebook: Blues Ground Jets to Advance
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NHL Central Division Notebook: Blues Ground Jets to Advance

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NHL Central Division

The remarkable story of the St. Louis Blues is continuing. In the best series by far in these playoffs, it is the St. Louis Blues who are marching on to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by grounding the Winnipeg Jets in six games.

The Blues were dead last in the Western Conference at the beginning of January and are now in the second round of the playoffs. St. Louis was written off and had no chance to make the playoffs. Goes to show you that no team is really out of it until the final game is played.

NHL Central Division Notebook: Blues Ground Jets to Advance

These Stanley Cup Playoffs continue to rewrite the history books. In this series, the road team won the first five games of the series. That is incredible. The Blues knew if they had to go back to Winnipeg for a Game 7, they might lose the series. Instead, the Blues brought their killer instinct for Game 6. Scoring early in all three periods and deflating the Jets.

Winnipeg would rally late in period three of Game 6, but it was too little too late. Cant expect to win an elimination when you only show up for 20 minutes. Through two periods the Jets were held to only six shots on goal. Winnipeg was only able to register one shot on goal in period two. If it was not for Connor Hellebuyck’s stellar performance, this game could have been a run away.

You need to get give where credit is due. Craig Berube got this team playing Blues hockey again. St. Louis used their speed to their advantage and played a more physical game in the second half of the season. Not to mention having a rookie goalie come in and settle things. Jordan Binnington played great for the Blues in the regular season and took his game to another level in the playoffs.

Binnington did not crumble when the lights were shinning the brightest. He stood tall for the Blues. He came up with the big saves especially in Game 5. After giving up the first two goals, Binnington would stop the final 17 shots he faced. Then in Game 6, with the Jets pouring it on in the third period, Binnington remained calm and cool. His confidence in goal was the turning point of the Blues season.

Ryan O’Reilly, who was nominated for the Selke Trophy, has been great all season long for the Blues. He was another reason why the Blues were never out of it. O’Reilly was stellar in the playoffs. Not to mention when St. Louis started their turnaround, players like Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn picked brought their games to another level. In the playoffs, these players were outstanding for the Blues.

Couple that with the fact, the Blues played like a team throughout the series. Didn’t matter the game, another player would step up and be a factor. Late in the series it was Jaden Schwartz. After rallying from two goals in Game 5, Schwartz would not only tally the game winner, but score a hat trick in Game 6 leading the Blues to victory. In the end, Schwartz scored the final four goals in the series for St. Louis.

On the other hand, there are some serious questions the Winnipeg Jets on defense. Down the stretch of the season, the Jets blew too many leads and allowed teams to stick around longer than they should have in games. Last year, the Jets would not allow that to happen. This year, the Jets did not have that same swagger. The turning point of the series was Game 5. Winnipeg could not hold onto a 2-0 lead. Instead of going to overtime, the Jets allowed the game winner with 15 seconds left.

The Jets never recovered from that point on. Players looked dejected. The players were carrying that sentiment into Game 6. Winnipeg came out slow and was never really in the game. While the Jets scored two third period goals, there was not a sense Winnipeg could rally. If the Jets came out in the first two periods like they did in the third, then maybe they stood a chance.

Winnipeg’s top players came up short in the series. Granted the Blues defense held them in check. For all the struggles Patrik Laine had this season, at least he scored three goals in the first three games. While players like Kyle Connor, Blake Wheeler, and Mark Scheifele played well. It was not good enough to win the series. At times they seemed invisible, especially in Game 6. There also wasn’t enough secondary scoring for the Jets to win. Even though Dustin Byfuglien had six points in the series, he never was really a factor like he should have been.

You have to wonder if the expectations got to Winnipeg. Then again, no team wanted to face the Blues in the playoffs. St. Louis was hottest team entering the playoffs. With Binnington playing really well, the Blues have a chance to go far in the playoffs.

St. Louis awaits the winner of the Dallas-Nashville series. It is going to be a long season in Winnipeg wondering what might have been.

Read More:

NHL Central Division Notebook: Avalanche Extinguish Flames


Photo Credit: By Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Jim is a 2008 graduate of Saint Michaels College who is currently writing the NHL Notebooks, Behind Enemy Lines, and Daily Links segments for Murphys Hockey Law and Boston Hockey Now an affiliate of National Hockey Now. Jim has a passion for the game of hockey as one coach put it "he is the student of the game. When Jim is not writing he can be found at the local rinks playing or being a referee. Throughout his time in the game, Jim coaches a local high school team in New Jersey. In addition, he broadcasted several New Jersey Junior Rockets games for the Eastern Hockey League. Reach him on Twitter: @JimBiringer

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