Blues forward Jaden Schwartz (17) celebrates his hat-trick goal that put his club up 3-0 in game six against the Jets. (Photo courtesy: Jeff Curry, USA Today Sports)
The Blues and Jets duked it out in the postseason for the first time in history, and it was a battle for the ages. Both teams traded road victories until the Blues capped it off in game 6 at Enterprise Center. In a series that involved whiteouts, spectacular goaltending, the Blues’ 1000th goal, and defensive walls on both sides, a hard-fought first round resulted in the Blues first playoff series win since 2017.
HOW WE GOT HERE
The St. Louis Blues were dead last in the league on January 1st, with rampant murmurs of Jake Allen, Colton Parayko, Alex Pietrangelo, and even Vladimir Tarasenko getting traded. Then, assistant coach Craig Berube took the reins and Jordan Binnington went from a no-name AHL goalie to the hottest rookie sensation in the league. The club set a franchise record 11 consecutive victories and propelled themselves from dead last to third in the division, nearly making a bid for first.
The Winnipeg Jets were consistently in the first-place spot in the central, having a stellar first half of the season. Patrik Laine tore apart the league, scoring 18 goals in November. The Jets, unfortunately, started to lose a step after clinching a playoff berth, and suddenly found themselves in the middle of a three-way battle for first in the central. Winnipeg went 4-5-1 in their final ten games and had a closed-door player meeting just before playoff time came. St. Louis and Winnipeg finished with equal points, but Winnipeg’s ROW was higher, giving them home-ice advantage.
The Blues and Jets opened the playoffs in front of a whiteout crowd at Bell MTS Place in full force. The two teams raced up and down the ice nonstop, but the Jets speedy style of gameplay gave them an edge. Patrik Laine’s second goal in over twenty games gave his squad the edge and it held for the majority of the game. While Connor Hellebuyck played brilliantly, St. Louis got a power play goal and a game winner from Tyler Bozak late in the third. St. Louis took their first win on the road, 2-1.
GAME 2 (1-0 STL)
The Jets and Blues stayed right with one another for the second game in Manitoba. The Blues got on the scoreboard but the Jets answered in the first. Oskar Sundqvist grabbed two goals in the game, but Laine again scored, and the game remained tied 3-3 after 40. In the third period, it was new Blue Ryan O’Reilly who scored the game winner to give his team the lead. Binnington took care of the rest with some beautiful stops, and the Blues would steal two road wins from the Jets. The 4-3 victory gave the Blues a 2-0 series lead.
GAME 3 (2-0 STL)
The Jets came to Enterprise Center knowing anything less than dominance would be trouble. They came out with just that, dominating the majority of the game. Despite a lead from St. Louis after the first, Winnipeg scored three unanswered in the second, and the comeback fell short this time. The Jets grabbed three more in the third to St. Louis’ two and handed Binnington his biggest career loss. The Jets took their first game of the playoffs in a decisive 6-3 win.
GAME 4 (2-1 STL)
Home ice advantage wasn’t much use in this series, despite a much livelier Enterprise Center in game 4. The Jets took the momentum of the game yet again, controlling the pace and the puck. The goaltending of Binnington was nothing short of spectacular, however, and it gave St. Louis life. St. Louis finally began to generate chances of their own, but Connor Hellebuyck had some stellar saves to make as well.
The game went 40 minutes without a goal, until Vladimir Tarasenko ripped in his second power play goal of the series. Mark Scheifele tied the game seven minutes into the third, and neither team could get on the scoreboard again in regulation. The Jets dominated the Blues in overtime, and Kyle Connor buried the winner six minutes into the fourth. The Jets took game 4 on the road and evened the series 2-2 as they headed home.
GAME 5 (2-2)
The series’ pivotal game rest in the opening best-of-3 match in Winnipeg, but the Blues took a big misstep. 12 seconds into the period, the Jets scored on Binnington to deal a blow to St. Louis early. They scored again late in the second to lead 2-0, and the Blues couldn’t find an answer in the second period. However, an early third-period power play goal by Ryan O’Reilly and a controversial goal by Brayden Schenn gave them life to tie the game.
In the dying seconds of regulation, Jaden Schwartz fought his way to the front of the cage and beat Hellebuyck, with just 15 seconds left in the game to gain the lead. The Blues stunned the whiteout in Manitoba again and headed home with a 3-2 win and 3-2 series lead.
GAME 6 (3-2 STL)
The Blues had a chance to seal the deal in St. Louis, and this time they didn’t disappoint. Jaden Schwartz got revenge on the Jets and scored early in the game to put the Blues up first. He wouldn’t stop there, either: another goal in the second and a hat trick goal in the third put his club up 3-0.
With their backs against the wall, the Jets gave everything they had. They grabbed two late goals to make it a game again, but Binnington got just enough to earn his first playoff series win. The Blues finished off the Jets in six games in front of a home crowd, erasing a deficit twice in the third period.
The Blues, for all the worry of not getting a win on home ice, got the job done against Laine and the Jets in game 6. Despite being dead-last just four months ago, St. Louis’ club bonded together and rallied against any and all adversity they faced in the series against a very fast and physical Winnipeg squad.
Perron and Sundqvist shined early for the Blues, while the top line broke through at the critical moment. Schenn had the game-tying goal in game 5 while his linemates O’Reilly and Tarasenko scored a pair. Jaden Schwartz had all four of the Blues’ final goals, securing the winners for both game 5 and 6.
The Blues, while taking a lot of heavy hits, remained injury-free, even after a scary hit on Binnington in the opening game and Sundqvist colliding into the iron. Jordan Binnington made a collective 173 saves and allowed 16 goals, posting a .908 save percentage. While no Blues defenseman scored a goal, captain Alex Pietrangelo had a team-high 6 assists and points. The Blues advance to second round for the first time since 2017, and will face the Dallas Stars with home ice advantage.
For more local Blues stories, insights and more, visit bluesrants.com!