St. Louis lost three of four to Winnipeg this season,
it came long before Blues went on their run
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- On paper, all the imperative numbers point to the Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets, the Blues' first round opponent in the Western Conference playoffs, won three of four games against the Blues, including both matchups at Enterprise Center, outscoring the Blues 13-5; they outscored the Blues 18-10 in the season series. The Blues were 1-2-1 in those games.
So why are so many picking the Blues to win this series?
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Colton Parayko (left) and the Blues haven't faced Mark Scheifele and the
Jets since Dec. 7, a 1-0 Blues win in Winnipeg.
Well, the lopsided numbers in the head-to-head matchup are an anomaly. The Blues, who finished 45-28-9 in the regular season, are nowhere near what they were the last time they played the Jets, which was way back on Dec. 7.
Maybe the Blues were showing flashes then, a 1-0 win at Bell MTS Place, of what they were about to become, but since the calendar turned to 2019, the Blues have gone 30-10-5, including a franchise-record 11-game winning streak after starting 15-18-4, which was last in the NHL with 34 points at the time, while the Jets were 25-12-2, 18 points ahead of the Blues but finished 22-18-3 in 2019.
It's pretty evident that the Blues are a totally different team.
"I think completely," Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. "You can kind of almost look at our season in two different segments. I don't know when the last time we played them was, but they're a good team. They're strong, they're a team that pushes and they're a team that has the ability to make things happen and had the ability to be dangerous. We've got to remember that they're really good and we have to make sure we're on top of our game. Hopefully we can give them the other end of the spectrum."
That other end of the spectrum is what the Blues will be banking on when they open the best-of-7 series Wednesday in Winnipeg (7 p.m.; FS-MW, KYKY 98.1-FM).
Even though they haven't locked heads in four months, as may times as the Blues and Jets have played as division opponents, there's quite a bit of knowledge there.
"I think both teams know each other pretty well, even though you don't play them," Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. "We know that team, we've played that team quite a bit and they know us. It's going to boil down to execution and 1-on-1 battles and which team can get to their game quicker."
Don't think the Jets aren't aware of how well the Blues have played.
"Over the last few months now, really since Christmas, even when we played them and they beat us 1-0 at home, they’re a tough defensive team, they’re physical, they obviously have a deep group up front," Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey said. "They play hard, you have to work for every inch of ice you get. It’s going to be a tough series but we’re excited for it. Obviously we haven’t seen St. Louis in a while but we’ll prepare over the next couple days and be ready to go."
"Yeah, they’re playing well," Jets captain Blake Wheeler said of the Blues. "Lot of the same faces. Obviously, they figured out something in their game to turn their season around. We'll have to look at some different areas. We'll definitely be prepared going into Game 1, but primarily our focus is on our game."
But as Jets coach Paul Maurice pointed out on Monday, both teams have to prepare for some different styles.
"The bigger difference would be that we haven’t played them this year," Maurice said. "We saw them in (2018), so a lot of your video isn’t, 'Hey, this is the last time we played them two weeks ago, this is what we saw.' So, that's different for both teams. We’re both dealing with the same thing."
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Vince Dunn (29) and the Blues last played Nikolaj Ehlers and the Jets in
St. Louis on Nov. 24.
Don't think for a second, though, that the Blues aren't respecting their opponent. It's what got them to where they are now, that respect for opponents, particularly the elite ones.
Including Winnipeg and Carolina, which also finished tied with the Blues with 99 points, the Blues finished 18-9-3 against teams even or better than them in the standings this season.
"It will be a great challenge but I think the way we've played in the second half of the year we're pretty confident and they'll be confident," said Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who signed a one-year, $3.25 million extension for next season on Monday. "It will be a good series. The first round is always fun. It's back and forth and it's fast and everybody's going. They're a dangerous team, but I think if we play how we play, we'll be fine."