The Winnipeg Jets returned home after a triumphant 3-game road trip that they managed to sweep, even if the margins were close. With 9 standings points banked, the Jets hoped to take another 3 against the listless St. Louis Blues, a team Winnipeg had already smoked several times before this season. Could Winnipeg complete the series sweep for the year, or would the Blues finally rally and offer a parting gift of disappointment?
The First Period
The Jets came out of the gates at full-tilt, immediately taking it to a Blues squad that’s gone 2-4-1 in their last 7 games. You could tell Winnipeg wanted to make an early statement, and the high pressure forced St. Louis into an early defensive shell. The Blues struggled to cope with Winnipeg’s pace and skill, collapsing into a compact formation and trying to block every single Jets shot attempt. St. Louis wanted to improve its discipline, but the beginning of a parade of penalties did little to solve their woes.
Winnipeg had some very close opportunities on the first couple of power plays, with the Blues PK structure generally playing passively. Early on, it seemed like the Jets passing was a half-second too slow, with the Blues managing to block the most dangerous of shots. Robert Bortuzzo will likely have more than a few bruises from absorbing as many Patrik Laine one-timers as he did this evening. For the shots that did get through, Jake Allen took care of the rest. The period ended in a scoreless tie, though the Jets held the run of play.
The Second Period
Winnipeg, though frustrated by the scoreline, continued to press the advantage. Again, the Blues were on the backfoot at even-strength, committing several penalty fouls in the process. The Jets continued to gain zone-time but could not find the killer pass to put the puck past Allen. Mark Scheifele whiffed on one glorious slap-pass from Tyler Myers, a tally that would surely have gotten the Jets a valuable point.
Luck, however, was not on Winnipeg’s side. The Jets didn’t take many penalties, but a late one in the second frame cost them dearly. Colton Parayko slapped a shot that knicked off of Alex Steen’s knee, knuckling and dipping before bouncing over an outstretched Connor Hellebuyck. It was one of those magical shots that appears to defy physics, leaving you shrugging for lack of a stronger reaction. Just like that, St. Louis was up 1-0, and held the lead entering the final 20 minutes of play.
The Third Period
The Jets threw it all at Allen, but all ended up being for naught. The Blues were a bit more disruptive in the neutral zone, but still ceded a lot of zone time to Winnipeg’s offensive pressure. Despite this, blocked shots continued to plague the Jets’ best attempts, with the Blues turtling harder than a Bob Hartley team on steroids. Allen was also very sharp, snuffing out some particularly dangerous scoring opportunities down low.
Eventually, Winnipeg pulled Hellebuyck for the extra attacker, and came gloriously close to tying the game. Bryan Little had the best look, thundering a shot in close that Allen appeared to stop through some rough traffic. The timer expired, with the Jets looking even on the shot clock, but dominating the actual game-flow. Where the Blues had generated all their looks from outside the slot, Winnipeg had tested Allen and his compatriots right in front of the net. It wasn’t enough, and Jake recorded the shutout to close the season series.
- Winnipeg, as a whole, was pretty great. Not too many complaints there.
- Hellebuyck looked pretty sharp, though his workload wasn’t terribly difficult. The Parayko goal was unstoppable.
- Allen had a rare quality outing. Good for him, I guess.
- Winnipeg had 6 power plays and very few shots. Even fewer goals. For all that the Blues blocked, changing the top unit around a bit wouldn’t hurt.