Time: 7:00 CT
Radio: TSN 1290
The Winnipeg Jets pulled the short playoff straw and face the team everyone wanted to avoid, the St. Louis Blues. Since January the Blues have the best record in the West at 30-10-5, compared to the Jets who hobbled along to a 22-18-3 record. Every season there is a player who no one predicted would shine, and unfortunately for the Jets, this year it is the Blues rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington. He has a 1.89 GAA and .927 save percentage. Combine that with a Blues defense that has improved, along with a resurgence from forwards Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn, and there is reason for concern.
The Jets subpar play since Christmas has been well documented. There is no question that this team has some issues, both on the ice, and reportedly in the dressing room. What the Jets have going for them this series is experience, talent and home ice advantage. On paper, player by player, the Jets are the more talented team. The Jets have the talent to beat any team in the West. Whether they have the desire, cohesiveness and strategy, of course is the million dollar question.
The Jets also have valuable playoff experience. If I told you at the start of the season that the Jets would be facing a rookie goaltender in round one of the playoffs, on a team that did not make the playoffs last season, you would have been ecstatic. Yes, he’s one of the hottest goalies in the NHL, but, he’s a rookie. This is not the Jets first rodeo. They faced three tough teams in last year’s playoffs, fought through adversity and won some big games. They are capable of winning a first round series against the Blues.
Finally, there is home ice advantage. As teams go deeper into the playoffs, home ice advantage is less of a factor. Typically in the later rounds, the better team wins the series regardless of where the game is played. However, I do believe that in the first round of the playoffs, home ice can can provide an adrenaline boost. The Winnipeg Whiteout at Bell MTS Centre is going to be insane. The Jets players have talked about it being an advantage. Whether you’re in the building, on the street, in a bar or at home in your jammies, let’s all channel the Whiteout energy and help propel this Jets team to the next round of the playoffs.
Series Prediction: Jets in six. Yeah, I went there. For the reasons outlined above, and because the Jets are going to feed on a healthy dose of “no one believes we can win this series”.
|Winnipeg Jets||St. Louis Blues|
|Winnipeg Jets||St. Louis Blues|
|Winnipeg:�24.8 PP% (4th), 79.1 PK% (23rd), 270 GF (7th), 243 GA (15th)||St. Louis:�21.1 PP% (10th), 81.5 PK% (9th), 244 GF (14th), 220 GA (5th)|
|X Factor: Playoff Experience: If they can channel their experience by not getting too high when things are going well and letting go quickly of a bad shift, period or game, then they have a chance to advance to round two.||X Factor: Overcoming Inexperience. It is very cliche, but the playoffs are a new season. Being the hottest team in the NHL for three months means very little when the puck drops Wednesday night. Winning a playoff series is tough, and the Blues were not in the playoffs this time last year.|
|X Factor Player: Dustin Byfuglien. Depth, the top line and goaltending are critical for the Jets. However, there really is no other player in the NHL like Dustin Byfuglien. The Jets really need him to be good Buff � physical, well timed offensive rushes, leader on and off the ice. As team mate Blake Wheeler said, Buff can be a nightmare to play against. He needs to haunt the Blues dreams.||X Factor Player: Jordan Binnington. No pressure, but the playoffs are riding on you, rookie. He has looked great, but, that is a lot of pressure on a young player who started this year in the AHL.|