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Game #19 Preview: Winnipeg Jets at St. Louis Blues

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We start a fight, who knows what for,
Who knows who's winning, or who's keeping score.
You say it's all right, as you slam the door,
All I can say is, "Please no more, please no more."

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

The Winnipeg Jets (8-8-2) wrap up their own circus trip tonight against the St. Louis Blues (11-5-1). You may remember the St. Louis Blues from such games as the 4-2 loss on October 18th, when we were treated to the brilliance of Vladimir Tarasenko:

This'll be fun. Catch the game at 7:00 PM Central Time on FS-MW, TSN3 and TSN 1290.

Keys to the Game: Winnipeg Jets

Please no more, please no more: The Winnipeg Jets remain the most penalized team in the NHL, coming in at 72 times shorthanded (incidentally enough, the St. Louis Blues are 2nd, with 65). While at 80.5% and 14th in the league through 18 games, over the last 4 contests the Jets PK has allowed 6 goals on 20 times shorthanded. To be honest however, I'm more concerned with how Winnipeg's constant parade to the penalty box is affecting the team's 5-on-5 rhythm.

At least we've been provided with entertaining moments such as this, I suppose:

Take it away, Joe Cocker:

Defending the Blue Line: The Predators d-corps proved an absolute menace for Winnipeg all night Saturday, contributing on (if not personally scoring) all seven of Nashville's goals. Whether they were sending through passes or shots, the Jets were unable to handle Nashville's blueline barrage.

While their forward corps remains banged up, St. Louis comes into this game with all their NHL defencemen healthy, present and accounted for. The return of Kevin Shattenkirk makes this Blues squad all the more dangerous, as if Colton Parayko and Alex Pietrangelo weren't enough to handle. St. Louis is not quite up to Nashvillian levels of top to bottom defensive depth, but if Winnipeg allows the Blues' defencemen to operate in the same unhindered manner as Nashville, be prepared for another long night.

Vlad the Impaler: It's always such a treat going up against St. Louis, a team known for their tight, heavy defensive style which also just so happens to feature one of the best offensive talents in the game today. That player is, of course, Steve Ott Vladimir Tarasenko.

Winnipeg is running into the Tarabuzzsaw at just the right time. With 4 goals in the last 5 games, and 3 in his last 2, Tarasenko is on a roll. Here's a sample of his recent work, from November 12th against the New York Rangers:

The Winnipeg Jets arsenal has no offensive weapon as dangerous as Vladimir Tarasenko. The kid is as gifted a sniper as the NHL has seen in a long time, and he's no defensive slouch to boot. As the phrase goes, you can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him.

If the Jets defensive coverage and d-corps mistakes are on par with what we've seen this last stretch of games, Tarasenko will eat them alive for dinner and feel obligated to mail a "Get well soon" card in the morning.

Keys to the Game: St. Louis Blues

Quickstrike: After posting back-to-back shutouts, the St. Louis Blues have since allowed the first goal in their last two contests, both losses. This in and of itself would have provided enough motivation for the Blues to get off to a quick start, as would avoiding their first three game losing streak of the season. But couple those with the context of their opponent, and scoring first becomes a point of even more emphasis.

By now, it's no secret that the Winnipeg Jets have been struggling of late. And as happens with struggling teams, the Jets are very likely to be a mentally fragile squad lacking in confidence. If St. Louis can get on top of them quickly, that might just deflate the Jets for the game's remainder. On the other hand, allowing Winnipeg to strike first might provide them a much-needed shot in the arm. Best to make Winnipeg face another uphill slog.

Keep Going: At 15.5% and 24th in the league, St. Louis' power play has not been a source of strength to begin the 2015-16 season. With that said, it has gone 5 for 16 over the last five games, including this beauty from he-who-shall-be-named-multiple-times:

Thank goodness for slow motion replay, because without it I would have had no idea of where that puck went, aside from in the net.

Now, that recent Blues power play conversion rate is coming in too hot and will cool down eventually, but the contrast against earlier in the season is surely making St. Louis fans happy. The Blues will look to keep the PP good times rolling, and if we know our Winnipeg Jets, we'll give them ample opportunity to try.

Regulation wins are best wins: For most squads, it's a little early in the season to be seriously looking at the standings, but we're going to do it anyways. The St. Louis Blues come into this game with 23 points and an 11-5-1 record. Their reward? The 1st wild card slot.

It remains a pretty good bet that the Central will yield five playoff teams yet again. And as everyone and their Aunt Shirley has pointed out, this will still leave one solid team on the outside looking in. Regardless of which Central Division opponent they're facing, the St. Louis Blues (and every team in the division for that matter) should always look to end the game in 60 minutes. Any extra points ceded to opponents are ready made to haunt teams later in the season, when the playoffs become more visible on the horizon.

Player to Boo Mercilessly

Colton Parayko, for being a rookie defenceman who's playing better than 2/3rds of Winnipeg's defence corps at the moment, not to mention his wanton destruction of NHL arenas:

Prediction

The St. Louis Blues indeed strike first, but Winnipeg's confidence will prove resilient enough to bring a 3-3 game into overtime. Unfortunately, Dustin Byfuglien's hatred for the 3-on-3 format is reinforced, as Vladimir Tarasenko (hey, I have to stay consistent) scores the game winner.

Jets lose 4-3 in overtime, and go 0-3-1 on this road trip of sadness. Thanks for reading!