The Winnipeg Jets will face the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the NHL playoffs starting on Wednesday night. The two teams were on different paths throughout the regular season.
The St. Louis Blues struggled to start the season after missing the 2018 NHL playoffs by a mere one point. The team added several free agents in the offseason, however, they did not win three straight games until the middle of January. This led to a change at the head coach position by firing Mike Yeo on November 19th. General manager Doug Armstrong replaced Yeo with Craig Berube.
At this point in the season, the team had the second-fewest points in the league and the chances that the Blues would miss the playoffs for a second straight season seemed likely. But then, the team went on a streak, including 10-straight, which helped propel them towards the playoffs.
Vladamir Tarasenko reached the 30-goal mark for the fifth straight season. Along with the combination of Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn, St. Louis’ offense is top heavy. Tarasenko’s time in Missouri was said to be limited, but after scoring 10 goals in February, the Blues’ most talented forward seems to be back to his goal-scoring ways.
As for the Blues’ opponent, the Winnipeg Jets were always one of the favorites to advance far in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They cruised to the top of the Central Division but never did seem to play to their full potential. Blake Wheeler led the team in assists with 71 and 91 points, but Patrick Laine fell off after challenging Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals for the scoring title during the 2017-2018 season. Laine tallied 70 points last season but managed just 50 this year. In addition, he carried a minus-24 this year as opposed to being positive in the plus/minus department a year ago.
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The defensive core for the Jets is tall. Six-foot five-inch Dustin Byfuglien missed half of the season with separate ankle injuries. If he cannot be relied upon to shoulder the load of the defense, the team will have to rely on burgeoning defenseman Josh Morrissey. Even though Morrissey is also progressing from an injury (upper body), he did score six goals and tallied 31 points in 59 games played.
The Jets outscored the Blues 18-10 in three wins against the Blues this year. However, these games all came before St. Louis turned its season around. The Blues are certainly playing better of the two teams as of late. That is not to say that the regular season series has no bearing on how the two teams will set their lineups.
The Blues have the advantage when it comes to goaltending. Rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington went an incredible 13-1-1 in his first 15 starts for the team and brought them into the playoff discussion. Expect this goaltending to continue and give the Blues the edge in the series that some may see as one-sided.
Below are the start times and television schedules for the first four games in the United States and Canada:
Date Matchup Time (TV channel)
April 10 Game 1 at Winnipeg 8 p.m. ET (NHLN, SN, TVA)
April 12 Game 2 at Winnipeg 9:30 p.m. ET (CNBC, SN, TVA)
April 14 Game 3 at St. Louis 7:30 p.m. ET (CNBC, SN, CBC, TVA)
April 16 Game 4 at St. Louis 9:30 p.m. ET (CNBC, SN, TVA)
*April 18 Game 5 at Winnipeg TBD
*April 20 Game 6 at St. Louis TBD
*April 22 Game 7 at Winnipeg TBD