The Blues lost to Winnipeg again, this time by a 2-1 outcome that was settled early in overtime. The best-of-seven series between St. Louis and Winnipeg is tied 2-2. So why does it feel like the Blues are down in this series by, say, three games to one? Why does it seem much worse, and more ominous, than the usual level of tension and stress that bubbles up during an intense back-and-forth competition between teams that finished with the same number of points (99) during the regular season?
After all, the Blues still have everything in front of them. They can win Game 5 at Winnipeg … because they won Game 1 and Game 2 in Winnipeg. If this tussle goes the distance, the Blues are capable of winning Game 7 in Manitoba. Through Wednesday, road teams were 8-6 in the the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. The Blues won two from Winnipeg at Winnipeg. And the Jets won two from St. Louis at St. Louis.
It’s been a rollicking, unpredictable series … and the Blues can still advance… and the Blues aren’t literally on the verge of elimination … they aren’t even facing elimination. (We’ll check back on that after Game 5.) So why not keep the faith? Why be so shaky over the Blues’ chances to survive and move onto the next round?
It’s because of how Winnipeg thoroughly dominated the two games played at Enterprise Center. I realize that Wednesday’s Game 4 was close on the scoreboard… but that’s only because of Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington. He kept it close. Without Binnington doing cool-headed contortions to prevent a disaster, the Jets would have won Game 4 by several goals — as they did during a 6-3 victory in Game 3.
The Blues opened Game 4 in a frenzy, outshooting the Jets 8-0 early on. But once the Blues’ stingy puck possession eased, once the Blues failed to capitalize on their 8-2 advantage in first-period scoring chances at even strength, the Jets took over. And the Jets swarmed and smothered the Blues; Binnington was amazingly rigid in mounting his resistance to Winnipeg’s shooters.
The even-strength numbers from Game 4 tell us one-sided story:
From the start of the second period through the end of the game, the Blues were outshot 34.
And that includes being outshot 20-5 in the third period and OT.
After the first period, Winnipeg had a booming 36-15 advantage in scoring chances.
That includes the Jets’ ridiculous 17-2 margin in scoring chances during the third period and overtime.
The Blues had only five high-danger scoring chances after the first period; the Jets had 16.
During the third period and OT the Jets’ domination was especially overpowering. The visiting team had an 8-0 advantage in high-danger chances after the second period.
More even-strength digits for you: in the two games played in St. Louis, the Jets whomped the Blues, scoring seven times and giving up one goal. A 7-1 blowout at even strength. And over the two games, the Jets had a 56.5 percent share of the even-ice shots, 58 percent of the even-strength scoring chances, and a staggering 70.5 percent of the even-steven high-danger chances.
The Jets first line was dominant in both games. Other than Binnington in Game 4, the Blues could not slow Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler at Enterprise Center. And the Blues’ No. 1 line of Brayden Schenn, Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko was mediocre at even strength.
That must change in Game 5.
The danger? Winnipeg is the more confident team … Winnipeg has found its game … Winnipeg has found it’s mojo. It will be tough to reverse the momentum, and put doubt back on the Jets’ side. But the Blues can do it; we saw them reverse their entire damn regular season. But they need to quit moping and go on the attack … and put the pressure in … and sustain it. The Blues’ game is all about possession time in the offensive zone. They lost that in Games 3 and 4… and they lost two games.
And now the Blues must get that back.
The Blues can do this. But it will take a total commitment, and all of the resiliency and mental strength they can summon.
Thanks for reading…