By LOU KORAC
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- For the Blues heading into Game 2 of the Western Conference first round series with the Winnipeg Jets on Friday (8:30 p.m.; FS-MW, KMOX 1120-AM), the motto should be simple: go for the jugular.
Leading the best-of-7 series 1-0 after a 2-1 win on Wednesday, turning the Bell MTS Place whiteout into a quiet morgue by game's end, the Blues have a shot at being the 93rd team in NHL history to take a 2-0 series lead on the road.
Teams that win the first two games of a best-of-7 series own an all-time series record of 318-50, or 86.4 percent, and of the previous 92 times it's been done on the road, 72 of them went on to win the series (72-20, 78.3 percent).
"A hundred percent," Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. "Great start by us, I think, especially first game. We came out hard, we knew that, obviously in their building first game. We did a good job of sticking with it even though we were down after the first and second period. We played tight, but in the third period, we really turned it on a little bit and had our chances. They definitely had their chances too, but 'Binner' played well and made some saves. I thought it was a close, tight game, what we were expecting. The beauty is that both teams stuck with it and it was just a good playoff game.
"You have to respect how good they are. Game 1 was obviously a tough game and Game 2 expecting them to be an even better game by them and hopefully by us as well. I expect it's going to be another battle out there. If you can obviously take a 2-0 lead going home, that's a huge start to the series, but I think we've just got to mainly focus on playing a team game and playing the way we can. If we do that, the results should be there."
The Blues were able to rally in the third period after trailing 1-0, getting goals from David Perron and Tyler Bozak with 2 minutes, 5 seconds remaining to stun the Winnipeg natives, and now putting the onus on the Jets to gain a home split before the series shifts to Enterprise Center on Sunday night, the Blues would love nothing more than to get a stranglehold on the series.
They did just that in 2017, winning the first two games on the road against the Minnesota Wild and winning the series in five games.
"We put ourselves in a good spot stealing one early in their rink, and we just want to keep on building off that," Blues rookie forward Robert Thomas said. "If we're able to steal two, that would be really good going back home."
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It didn't take long for the boos to reign down from the Winnipeg faithful on Blues rookie goalie Jordan Binnington.
When he was run over behind his net 34 seconds into the game, inducing an interference penalty on Jets center Mark Scheifele, the Bell MTS Place faithful didn't like the call, and every time he touched the puck, Binnington was booed. If he was flustered, he certainly didn't show it, and will probably hear more of the same tonight.
"Yeah. It was kind of cool," Binnington said. "... We are focused on game to right now, but I'm sure they are excited for us to get back there. The atmosphere will be great."
Asked if he thrived off the boos, he replied, "I'm not going to give you that. But I don't mind it. It's whatever. It's part of the game. I love sports. Just like you guys are a part of it and the media is throwing stuff out there."
Binnington, who can become the second rookie goalie in Blues history to win his first two playoff starts, joining Curtis Joseph (1990 in the division semifinals in Games 1 and 2 against the Toronto Maple Leafs), will undoubtedly hear more of the same tonight.
"I don't know if the boos are a respect thing," Binnington said. "But it's fun, either way. Trying to take it all in, day by day, and enjoy the experience.
"That's big. (a 2-0 series lead is) what we are looking for tonight. Every game is so important."
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The Blues experienced that the Winnipeg crowd was loud and trying to be intimidating. But the resilience they experienced Wednesday, and for much of the season in hostile environments, is why they're in the position they are, and the reason they have a chance to silence Manitoba again.
"It's going to be loud obviously," Parayko said. "It's cool because it's energy in the building for both teams no matter how loud it is. The crowd is fun for both sides, it's fun for us too. I think it'll be good. They're loud and I expect them to be loud again."
Vince Dunn, who played in his first playoff game, said it's a unique situation.
"I think the while towels can be a little intimidating for some people, but I thought for me, it kind of brought energy to myself and just to know the crowd is into it even thought they're not cheering for me, that's kind of cool to have a whole building that's that loud and that excited for two teams to be going at it," Dunn said. "I think going back to our building, the energy is on your side. That's definitely going to help you, but overall, both atmospheres are going to be great. The crowd's definitely going to be cheering like they were during the season for us. It's going to be exciting to go back, but more importantly, the focus is on tonight and we really need to make sure we're not getting too ahead of ourselves. It's only one win. It can a very long, hard-fought series. We just need to kind of roll with the times here and take what we can from the game and keep our emotions even-keeled. We don't want to get too ahead of ourselves. But we're really happy with the way we won the last game."
The best way to silence the crowd? Score. Just like Perron and Bozak did, and the Blues seemed to thrive off the dead silence when they did score.
"It's the difference when they score, they erupt. Then when we score, it's quiet," Parayko said. "It feels good. I think it's a good opportunity for us to continue to push, especially when we're scoring. It's nice in the away building. We've done a good job playing away games all season long. We've done a good job of sticking with it and playing the style you need to win on the road. We'll try to bring the same thing tonight and go from there."
"Yeah, it's nice," Dunn said. "The first period was really, really loud. We knew going into the first couple minutes, it was going to be a pretty loud atmosphere. The more we can get into the game, the quieter the fans are going to be. That was really nice to be able to quiet them down a little. I think we can kind of use the crowd to our advantage and they can kind of feel the emotions of the crowd really in it when they're not playing as well as they should be."
The few Blues fans that were in the building were, in a sense, whited out, but could be heard.
"Yeah, we did (hear them)," Thomas said. "We heard a couple, especially when we scored and the place went quiet and you could hear Blues fans cheering. It's always great having that support in such a tough environment."
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The rookie rush is over, and those that got their first taste of playoff action know the feeling, and it should help ease some of the tension for Thomas, Binnington, Dunn, Zach Sanford and Ivan Barbashev.
They all got to experience the rush Wednesday and prevailed.
"I think as a team, the first two periods were crazy," Thomas said. "So excited, tempo was so high. Just kind of the way the game was going, everyone was hitting, playing a sinple game. It was a pretty crazy couple shifts and first two periods."
"It was exciting," Binnington said. "They came out hard. Playoff hockey's fun. Things are going to happen throughout the game. It's about staying even-keeled. Just doing your best to give your team a chance to win whatever position you are. I think that's what our main priority was, and that's how we prepare."
Thomas, particularly, played more poised as the game went along, made some solid plays with linemates Bozak and Pat Maroon in the third period, including setting up Bozak with around 6:30 remaining on a chance in the slot.
"I'd say yeah, definitely a little more composed, a little more settled," Thomas said. "The energy and the excitement will definitely still be up there.
"Yeah, they fed off their crowd. The first two periods, the crowd was crazy for them. I think for both sides, the adrenaline was going and everyone was just excited."
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When the Bozak gave the Blues a 2-1 lead late in the game, the cameras panned in on a single Blues fan among a section of whiteout Jets fans. The camera panned out, and it was like picking out a needle out of a haystack.
There were clips made of it and GIFs. The fan, wearing a mid-1990's road jersey with the red on the bottom, made headlines inside the locker room.
"I did scroll across that, and that guy, that's awesome for that guy," Parayko said. "I don't know if he was with anyone, but if he bought a single ticket there, that's pretty cool. Good for him.
"I don't know if he was by himself or not, but like if he brought someone in there wearing white, still, OK, but if he was by himself, that was pretty cool. ... Good for him, coming into an away building, Whiteout, he's wearing blue, especially if he bought the ticket by himself, that's impressive."
"I didn't see him," Dunn said. "I honestly looked around once or twice, but there were no St. Louis jerseys that were visible to me. It was a pretty funny tweet and picture there. It was just kind of interesting to see that. Everyone was wearing white and people were taking that seriously. I really couldn't find any St. Louis fans out there."
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One area the Blues would definitely like to improve on is the power play. The Blues were 0-for-3 on Wednesday and didn't really get a lot done.
There was some extensive work on it at the morning skate today, and interim coach Craig Berube was adamant that puck movement needed to be quicker.
"Yeah for sure. We always do that," Berube said. "I thought the other night the execution was a little off. I talked about directness. I didn’t find that we attacked and shot the puck like we have been doing, so we’ve got to get back to that. You’ve just got to be simple. We’ve got to attack and shoot and get to the net and get some dirty goals."
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Brayden Schenn-Ryan O'Reilly-Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz-Oskar Sundqvist-David Perron
Pat Maroon-Tyler Bozak-Robert Thomas
Zach Sanford-Ivan Barbashev-Alexander Steen
Vince Dunn-Alex Pietrangelo
Jay Bouwmeester-Colton Parayko
Joel Edmundson-Robert Bortuzzo
Jordan Binnington will start in goal; Jake Allen will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Robby Fabbri, Carl Gunnarsson, Michael Del Zotto, Sammy Blais, Mackenzie MacEachern and Chris Thorburn. The Blues report no injuries.
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The Jets' projected lineup:
Kyle Connor-Mark Scheifele-Blake Wheeler
Mathieu Perreault-Kevin Hayes-Nikolaj Ehlers
Andrew Copp-Bryan Little-Patrik Laine
Brandon Tanev-Adam Lowry-Par Lindholm
Josh Morrissey-Jacob Trouba
Ben Chiarot-Dustin Byfuglien
Dmitry Kulikov-Tyler Myers
Connor Hellebuyck will start in goal; Laurent Brossoit will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Jack Roslovic, Matt Hendricks, Nathan Beaulieu, Joe Morrow, Bogdan Kiselevich and Sami Niku. The Jets report no injuries.