Key Matchup-

The focus of the Blues will be to shut down Art Ross winner Patrick Kane, who finished with a career-high 46 goals and 60 assists, and that responsibility will fall to Alex Pietrangelo. Kane prefers the control of having the puck as much as possible, and it will be Pietrangelo who will need to manipulate Kane into rushing shots he isn’t ready to take.

Chicago Blackhawks-

Winning Formula: 

The Blackhawks are stacked with talent with the likes of offensive weapon Patrick Kane, phenomenal two-way center Jonathan Toews, and premier defenseman Duncan Keith. Corey Crawford remains at the top of his game in the crease. Added defense comes from the skilled Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov on Keith’s line adding more dimension to the team’s defensive game. Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise, and Tomas Fleischmann add new depth to an already tremendous team and it will be interesting to see how Joel Quenneville chooses to use them throughout the series.

How to Lose the Series in 7 Games or Less: 

The Blackhawks are a modern day dynasty with three Stanley Cup wins since 2010, but has not won in two years. They have players from those previous wins in their ranks, but the question is if it’s been too much; too much play and pressure taking a toll on a star studded team. The Hawks have averaged 16.7 playoff games per season since 2009-10, and Kane, Toews, Keith, Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook and Marian Hossa have been roster pillars for each of those runs. The playoffs mean less time off of arguably the most physically and mentally demanding major sport in the world.

St Louis Blues-

Winning Formula:

This is not a David vs Goliath series. The Blues are a force to be reckoned with. Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Robby Fabbri provide youth and jump on the wings. David Backes, Colton Parayko, Troy Brouwer add size to the team. Paul Stastny and Jori Lehtera are playmakers. Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Jay Bouwmeester make up a blueline that is both strong and mobile and able to manipulate adversaries; while every line plays some degree of a defensive game including the team’s offensive lines. St Louis has never finished worse than seventh in goals against since Ken Hitchcock took over coaching duties in 2011-12.

How to Lose the Series in 7 Games or Less: 

St. Louis averages the fewest goals per game of any franchise in playoff contention. The team has dealt with injuries, players getting older such as Backes, and players like Fabbri and Dmitrij Jaskin being too inexperienced to be true weapons in a battle such as this. Criticism is aimed at GM Doug Armstrong who did not address the glaring scoring issues this team has at the trade deadline. Jake Allen in the crease has come into his own when Brian Elliot wasn’t in the position over the last season, but looking at his .904 save percentage in the 2015 playoffs, losing four of six starts it’s understood that he cannot perform that way in this series if the Blues want a shot at round two, lucky for the St Louis they have Elliot on hand if Allen doesn’t live up to his last season’s performance.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 6

 

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Jets 3 points clear of Kings, one from Flames

ST.LOUIS – It was déjà vu all over again as it was the Ondrej Pavelec show as he posted back-to-back shutouts his 4th of the season and 14th of his career and was again named the game’s first star as he stopped 30 shots including a couple huge stops off Jaden Schwartz and David Backes to help his team to a 1-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues.

“There’s no better way, shut out the two teams, that’s as good as it gets,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “[Monday] night’s game, there was a cost to it, and you could see it at times (tonight) but not in terms of effort.

“Our goaltender again was really good and everybody on the bench had a piece of the game.”

The Jets moved three points up on the Los Angeles Kings (who lost to the Edmonton Oilers) and one point up on the Calgary Flames (who beat the Arizona Coyotes).

“It’s a really good four points,” Pavelec said. “Good wins but we’ve got two more (games remaining).

“We know we can do it. Overall we played a very good game, so we know we can play with these guys. They were missing some guys (Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko) in the lineup, so that’s always good. … I was able to see (the puck) all game. In the third period the puck was just missing the net. You needed luck to get a shutout.”

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It was another total team effort for the Jets who won for the first time in franchise history at Scottrade Center, a building that has not been kind to them. There was maybe some luck on their side as with five minutes remaining in the second period it appeared that Paul Stastny had scored on a breakaway to tie the game at 1-1 but it was later decided that he would receive a slashing penalty as he hacked the stick out of Tyler Myers hands to get the breakaway. This would prove to be the turning point unless you take a handful of Pavelec stops.

“I was just battling, getting good stick position, playing simple,” Stastny said. “I saw a pass coming. I’m just trying to make body or stick position. I thought nothing of it.

“I think if I would have gone extremely hard, if I would have been hesitant about it or broken [Myers’] stick, I would have understood; it’s an easy call.”

These two teams have developed quite the rivalry and have a serious dislike for each other and this would be quite the first round match up for the NHL if they end up meeting.

“We play these guys five times a year, it seems like we’re getting a little bit of a rivalry in there,” Blues right wing T.J. Oshie said. “It was a good, hard-fought game. They played [Monday] night and came in, did a good job pushing back when we had momentum, and we have to find ways to score.”

Both teams are big hard hitting fast skating teams who love the aggressive style. There were many one-on-one battles that will carry over for sure. Mark Stuart and T.J. Oshie had something going on all game and things were nasty at times. Blues captain David Backes may be getting a call from the league for a vicious cross check to the back of the neck of Stuart late in the game.

Winnipeg got its lone goal from an unlikely source as fourth liner Chris Thorburn notched his 7th of the season to get the game winner.

Blues netminder Jake Allen stopped 30 of 31 shots and was named the game’s second star as it was the battle of the goalies tonight.

Jets will head to Denver to face the Avalanche on Thursday night in another huge division battle for them.

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WINNIPEG – Fans at the MTS Centre were treated to a possible first round playoff matchup between the Jets and Blues and what better series would there be? These two teams play the same style and are bigger faster teams that skate really well. The Jets got two big monkey’s off their back as they beat the Blues for the first time this year and they won a game after trailing after two periods. The Jets gutted out a 2-1 shoot out win and got a much needed two points.

“You need to eventually have that belief that you can be down against a good team and come back and win,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said.

Ondrej Pavelec was making his 3rd consecutive start and was nothing short of spectacular as he made 32 stops off 33 Blues shots and even made 2 more saves in the shoot out. He made a couple of big time stops in overtime to preserve this victory. He even had the crowd chanting PAVY PAVY ! the Jets faithful were showing him the love.

“We spent everything we had, and we needed the fans to be as great as they were in this building tonight because that had a lot to do with us being able to play that hard for that long,” Maurice said.

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Brian Elliot was no slouch in the pipes for St. Louis as he stopped 33 of 34 shots and also had some help from the post and cross bar but otherwise was solid as he normally is.

The Jets looked calm and cool all game showing the Blues they were not going to crumble or back down as they controlled a lot of the play.

“It’s too bad for [goalie Brian Elliott],” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “He played a [heck] of a hockey game. [Each] goalie was good.

“We were a step behind. Until the game got tied up, we were probably a half-step behind. They were a little bit more desperate. I thought we were a little bit behind and not in sync. We played slowly compared to what we can play.”

Winnipeg was the more physical team as well out hitting the Blues 38-21. This game was almost dead even when going down the game stats. It was a goalie dual and Pavelec came out on top tonight. This had playoffs written all over it as the teams would mix it up after every whistle. Up and down tight checking physical battles all around.

The Jets got their lone goal off the stick of Drew Stafford who scored his 15th of the season. He now has 6 goals and 5 assists in 15 games with the Jets and has been one of the team’s top forwards since arriving. He also scored in the shoot out.

“It’s huge,” Stafford said. “We rallied, and we rallied behind the fans, feeding off their buzz and energy. We’re just going to try to keep rolling.”

Captain Clutch Andrew Ladd scored the shoot out winner with a dirty top corner laser beam past Elliot.

“[Stafford] really has had a huge impact since he has been here,” Maurice said. “To come in here and just be a piece of it, a huge piece of it, it has got to be a good feeling for him.

“All three of them are finding each other, they’re talking on the ice, they’re playing off each other. The stuff that [makes up] chemistry, I guess, that you can’t invent.”

The Blues lone goal scorer was Captain David Backes who scored his 25th of the season and has a four game point streak going.

“From our standpoint, the way we prepared, the energy we [had], how physical we were and on the puck, I think we’re going to need to play that type of hockey down the stretch to get in,” Ladd said. “That’s playoff-style hockey.”

Tyler Myers was the top Jets player as he logged almost 30 minutes of ice and was a force in both ends of the ice and had a helper on the goal by Stafford. He was named the games third star.

The Jets will host the Washington Capitals on Saturday night.

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Lose in SO, 2-1

WINNIPEG – This was a possible first round playoff preview between two Central Division foes as the Winnipeg Jets welcomed the St. Louis Blues to MTS Centre.

This was the first of four games between these two teams between now and the end of the season.

“It was a battle right to the end,” said Jets captain Andrew Ladd, who had an assist and led all players with 10 hits. “I thought we played a really strong game.”

Judging by the way this game went things will be nasty by the final meeting of the season.

“It was a playoff game,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said.

The Blues pulled out a 2-1 shootout win with a couple of nice moves in the skills competition, as Vladimir Tarasenko and Winnipeg native Alex Steen pulled the trigger on Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson who suffered his first defeat and gave up his first goals in the shootout.

This was a highly entertaining game for the fans as they got to experience what it could be like if the Jets make the post season. It was a hard hitting affair between two big fast teams. The Jets jumped out of the gates quickly as they were all over the Blues early but couldn’t find the back of the net.

“It felt a little bit like a playoff game,” Blues captain David Backes said. “Everybody was getting hit. It felt any little play could be the difference. Everything was magnified. It’s good to get that in and start playing at that level, but it’s taxing, and we’re going to need to rest [Friday] to play back-to-back.”

Bryan Little had three great chances but was robbed by Blues goalie Brian Elliott. The Blues got things going after the shaky first and started to press the Jets and Hutchinson was there to shut the door.

“We took a step today,” Hitchcock said. “We took a step, but we’re going to need to take some more steps here.”

The refs decided to let both teams play as only two power plays apiece were given. These two teams were going hard every shift as was evident with scrums after every whistle.

Hutchinson was making his 5th start in 6 games and seems to be taking over the number one job for the Jets made 28 saves including a couple huge stops in overtime to preserve the valuable point for his team.

Elliott showed why he was an All Star as he stopped 30 of 31 shots. He improves to 19-9-2 overall. He was also named the games second star.

St. Louis showed why they are one of the top teams in the West as their lone goal was scored by their 4th line with under 2 minutes to go in the second period as Paul Stastny won a draw and moved the puck to Ryan Reaves who fed Patrik Berglund who scored his 8th of the season.

The Jets got on the board in the third when Andrew Ladd found a wide open Mark Scheifele who buried his 10th goal of the year.

“They’ve got a few really good young players,” Backes said. “You’ve seen the progression already this [season]. Maybe [they were] a little bit wet behind the ears, and now they’re playing big roles and being relied on in all situations. They’ve built something the right way here, you can tell.”

The teams newest member Jiri Tlusty who was acquired from the Hurricanes yesterday for a 3rd pick in 2016 draft and a conditional 6th round pick this year made it to town this morning and dressed for Thursday’s game had two shots and played just under 17 minutes with Scheifele and Drew Stafford. AHL call up Eric O’Dell also was making his Jets season debut had a strong outing as well as he had a couple shots and made some key blocks playing 12 minutes.

The Jets will have a couple days off before the Kings come to town for a big Sunday afternoon match up.

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WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets welcomed another division rival, the St. Louis Blues, into town for a Sunday afternoon battle. The Blues were coming off a Saturday victory over the Senators and did not look very tired as they scored a pair in the third for a big 4-2 road win in a hostile environment.

The Blues showed why they are the top team in the Central and tied for top spot in the West. They play a solid four-line game and have everybody going. They seem to be almost flawless in the neutral zone and always seem to be clogging up space where pucks go.

“They have a tremendous amount of depth,” Jets left wing Adam Lowry said. “Their top three lines are as good as any in the League, and they play a pretty structured game. They don’t give a lot, and they’re able to capitalize on our mistakes.”

This was a heavy game along the trenches as both teams battled it out along the boards. This was a nasty affair as there were a lot of big hits and nasty cross checks and slashes. This game had the feel of a playoff game with all the rough stuff and intensity as well as chirping between the benches.

This type of atmosphere is something that Jets fans are craving.

Winnipeg got a strong game from Ondrej Pavelec as he stopped 25 shots in the loss.

St. Louis got a stellar start from Jake Allen as he stood on his head making 28 stops. He improved his record to 6-2.

“Two huge wins after two tough losses at the start of the trip,” Allen said. “To be able to be back winning and head home was crucial for us.”

Winnipeg got goals from Bryan Little his 6th and first in 13 games, Jim Slater ripped home his 1st of season.

The Blues got goals from Jaden Schwartz his 8th a power play marker, Captain David Backes scored a beauty his 6th another power play marker, Ryan Reaves scored his 3rd , Paul Stasny scored his 3rd into an empty net.

“We needed it today,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of the power play. “We told the players that. We were going to get our chances. We needed it, and it came through both times.”

The Jets special teams gave up two power play markers on five chances, their power play was 0-1. The penalty kill which has been a strong point all season is starting to struggle a bit.

“Nothing,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said. “Not even a remote chance. We’re learning how to play a really aggressive game, and we’re going to get better at it.”

St. Louis got strong games from two Winnipeg-born players, Alex Steen who had two assists and Reaves who scored the game winner and was throwing his weight around all game. Reaves’ father attended the game.1

“I’m sure he was going crazy up there,” Reaves said of his father. “I hope all of my friends were celebrating in the crowd. Coming back here and all of my friends and family are here, getting a goal in front of them is special.”

Of note in this game was who didn’t play for St. Louis as Jay Bouwmeester’s iron man streak of 737 straight NHL games was stopped after he was banged up against the Sens.

“[Bouwmeester] felt terrible,” Hitchcock said. “We all felt terrible that he couldn’t go today. That’s really emotionally tough for him to break that streak.”

The Jets will head out on the road for a three game swing to close out November will look to continue their strong play but will need to string some wins together to stay in the playoff race.

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