I picked the Blues to win in six games in this first round series against Winnipeg, so I’m not too worried with the result of Sunday night’s game three at Enterprise Center, a 6-3 loss to the Jets. I think all of us are taken aback by the idea that it took so long for the team to show up in this one, and that they allowed Jordan Binnington to suffer the same fate that they torched Jake Allen with so many times over the years.
At one point in the second period, the Blues had been outshot 23-8, and shot attempts were much worse. The Blues looked disorganized in their defensive zone, and never really got to their game of getting the puck out of their zone and cycling it deep in the opponents’ zone and creating opportunities that way. Binnington had allowed four goals in a game three times; on January 21 at Los Angeles, on February 21 at Dallas, and then on March in a home win against Winnipeg. Never had he allowed six goals in a game before Sunday night, but like his coach Craig Berube said, “it could have been 4-0 in the first period, so he played a pretty good game.”
The Blues’ game is simple, and they allowed themselves to be overwhelmed in game 3. Berube said the Blues never really go to what they do best, and he “thought in the third period we pushed a little bit and got to our game a little bit more, but in the first two periods, definitely not.”
Even though they led 2-0, we must remember that the Blues trailed game one 1-0 after two periods and had trouble getting to their game in that one, and then in game two had to snap a 3-3 tie in the third period to win it. And in those games, the Blues didn’t have their power play going. The Blues need to combine their resiliency and ability to keep the puck deep with their newfound power play success to wing game four.
The keys to winning Tuesday night’s 8:30 game:
Come out firing: The Blues looked flat out of the gate in game three, and were fortunate to be ahead 1-0 after a period. But they couldn’t maintain that success. They need to come out with energy and precision, good crisp passes and skating the puck out of their own end, in game four.
Take advantage of the power play: After Winnipeg moved ahead 3-1 8:58 into the second period, the Blues had two power play chances before the frame ended and didn’t score. In fact, in the first one the Blues didn’t have a shot, and the Jets had two shot attempts to the Blues’ one during the two minutes, and in the second PP the Blues had one shot, with one missed and one blocked. Even though they did score twice in five power play chances, the Blues need to control play more with the man advantage.
Don’t be sloppy: Even though the Blues were only charged with five giveaways, they were sloppy in their own end. One of the big reasons for the Blues’ success in 2019 is their ability to crisply pass the puck out of their own zone. On this night, they had trouble working through the neutral zone. Winnipeg had a lot to do with that: the Jets played exceptionally well and used their size to break up passes out of the Blues zone. The Blues plan is to keep players close together and to work in five man units, and they didn’t do that much in game three.
Stay out of the box: Berube stressed this before the series started. In game one, the Blues took one penalty. In game two, they took three. In game three, they committed seven penalties. Even though they were able to keep the western conference’s top power play under wraps with only one goal, the Blues spent too much time shorthanded, and that was a major reason for their inability to get something going. They were shorthanded for nearly half a period, and that’s a tough way to win.
There’s no reason to think the Blues can’t win game four. To a man, the players said there isn’t any panic. But they need to get back to what made them the best team in the league after January 1. I still fully expect that they’re going to win this series in six.