Hopefully everyone enjoyed their holiday break. If you celebrate, I hope your Christmas was filled with peace, love, Blues swag and joy at their current six game winning streak.
The Winnipeg Jets, one of the Blues’ roughest opponents, probably aren’t looking forward to today and Sunday’s home and home as much as Blues fans are. The Blues are a full ten points above the third-place Jets in the Central Division, and are sitting comfortably at second in the NHL. They haven’t been to Winnipeg since the playoffs last season.
The Jets’ 44 points have them in a tie with the Dallas Stars for the third playoff spot right now, and the division as a whole is tighter than you might think - three points are keeping 6th place Minnesota out of a playoff spot - so the hunt for points is more urgent than you might think heading into the new year. The Blues’ six game winning streak is the longest in the NHL, but the Jets are the first team in a while who could challenge it. A middling 5-4-1 record over the last ten games hides what a heavy team the Jets are when they put their mind to it. Physically, they’ve been very good at challenging the Blues in recent years.
Considering that there’s been a good deal of turnover between the playoffs and now - no Dustin Byfuglien, no Jacob Trouba - the Blues may not be completely sure what the Jets will be throwing at them. Mark Scheifele is leading the team in goals and points, but shutting down Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, and Nikolaj Ehlers will be key. Those four players, along with Blake Wheeler, are the only ones on the team who have cracked ten goals and 30 points for the season. It’s clear to see who is carrying the offense, and with the offense, carrying the entire team.
After a bit of a rough start to the season, Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck has tightened his play and improved his save percentage to .926, so even though the Jets’ defense might be composed of a bunch of players that you don’t know, the goaltending’s keeping that from being a complete liability.
Hopefully the Blues have taken full advantage of their holiday break, because after tonight’s game wraps up, they’ll be on a plane and headed back to St. Louis for an early 2:00 start in St. Louis Sunday.