Sorry all, I had some technology issues and couldn't get this posted earlier.
Tonight, the Blues will begin their 2018-19 Stanley Cup playoffs when they face off against the Winnipeg Jets at 7pm CST in the Peg.
The Jets have gone 4-5-1 in their last 10 games and are only 5-6-2 in their last 13 home games, having lost the last three. Before that stretch, they had gone 20-6-2 at home.
The Blues on the other hand are 8-1-1 in their last ten games and have won two in a row but are only 4-3-3 in their last ten road games.
While the Jets were able to barely hold off the Blues to keep home ice advantage, I wonder how much it means. The Jets were 3rd in goals per game at home, had the 2nd best shooting percentage, and had the 2nd best power play. Of course the Blues were 3rd best in goals against per game, had the 3rd best save percentage and has the best penalty kill on the road.
The Blues were pedestrian in goals per game on the road, 8th in shooting percentage and 5th on the power play while the Jets were middle of the road in goals against per game at home while being 5th in save percentage and having the 6th worst penalty kill.
At home, the Blues were pedestrian in goals per game and on the power play while posting the 8th best shooting percentage. They had a pedestrian goals against average, the 2nd worst save percentage and the 5th worst penalty kill while the Jets were rather pedestrian in all of the contra categories.
Will the Blues strength on the road work to balance out the Jets strength at home and allow them to exploit the Jets below average penalty kill? The Jets were shorthanded the 9th most time in the NHL as compared to the Blues 20th.
Let’s look at a few other comparisons in the series:
Post All-star performance
The Blues have an NHL Best 2.18 goals against average after the all-star game while the Jets were in the bottom third of the league at 3.21. This was in large part due to the Blues 6th best save percentage and 3rd best penalty kill, while the Jets were in the middle of the pack in save percentage and were 5th worst on the penalty kill.
Winnipeg scored the 3rd most goals per game after the all-star break at 3.68 while the Blues were in the middle of the pack at 3.24. Winnipeg shot with the 3rd best efficiency and was second on the power play while the Blues were 8th in shooting percentage but middle of the road on the power play.
If you are going by recent trends, the Blues would be your favorites.
While the Blues made a big deal about having 13 players with 10 or more goals, the Jets had 10. Of course the Jets had five 20 goal scorers while the Blues only had three and also had the top two goal scorers on either team.
In looking on defense, the Blues had a big advantage in scoring as they had three defensemen with 10 or more goals while the Jets didn’t have a single defenseman reach that level. Overall the Blues defensemen contributed 35% more goals than the Jets.
Overall, the Jets did score 0.31 goals more per game than the Blues but the Blues were 0.12 goals per game better after the All-Star Break.
The Jets picked up Kevin Hayes late in the year in a move that underwhelmed me. Hayes only has 10 points in 34 career playoff games and only 4 points in 8 games against the Blues. He will hardly replace Paul Stastny when comparing this year’s Jets team to last year’s Western Conference finals team.
Will the Blues extra depth create line matchup issues and be key to scoring more? Will the Jets top end talent be too much to contain? I think most would give the Jets the edge here.
History against each other
If you look at career statistics against each other, the Jets have some very favorable players. Patrik Laine has 15 points in 12 games while Kyle Connor has 11 points in 8, Blake Wheeler has 35 points in 31 and Mark Scheifele has 24 points in 25 games.
The Blues have a lot of players averaging between one half and two thirds points per game against the Jets but nobody over the top like the Jets. Alex Pietrangelo is arguably the best with 21 points in 28 games.
I think most would see this as a clear Jets advantage.
Connor Hellebuyck is 6-3 with a 1.66 goals against average and 94.3% save percentage. March and April are two of his best career months, averaging 92% and 92.9% save percentages in those months. His quality save percentage was significantly down this season to 45.2% from 60.9%. Three of his last four playoff games showed save percentages below 90% while losing all four of those games to Vegas in the conference finals.
Jordan Binnington is an x-factor as he hasn’t yet started an NHL playoff game. After playing at an insane level in January and February where he averaged a save percentage over 94%, he fell back to earth a bit, averaging 91.2% in March and 91.3% in April.
Will Binnington continue his Winnington ways in the playoffs? Blues fans sure hope so but I think this is really too hard to call.
Of course, my heart wants to say the Blues in six but I think this series could be a coin flip and expect it to go six or seven games.
NHL Champions for Charity
Given that the Predators pulled out the division title, all be it not without some controversial officiating in the last couple of games, Best Buddies Tennessee https://www.bestbuddies.org/tennessee/
is the beneficiary. Best Buddies Tennessee is dedicated to establishing a volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development and inclusive living opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As a side note, I recently got to experience a Best Buddies even in the St. Louis area that was led by the Eureka high school football team. It was a lot of fun and brought a lot of joy to those involved.
It’s a great day for hockey.