After reading several series previews from ESPN, The Hockey News, PHT, and The Athletic (subscription required for that one), a theme has been emerging. Nearly every write up has mentioned that the Jets were the team to beat at the start, while the Blues have turned their season around enough that they’re dangerous. The Jets have let injuries catch up to them and played sub-par hockey to close out the season, so according to most hockey pundits, who knows who is winning this series?
Most of them have cautiously picked the Jets in either six or seven based upon injuries healing up, but they haven’t picked them with a lot of conviction. The Blues’ biggest playoff unknown, Jordan Binnington, seems to be the biggest question mark heading into this series. The Hockey News has designated him the Blues’ X-Factor:
Jake Allen was arguably hockey’s least consistent goaltender the past few seasons, leaving the starter door open for 25-year-old Jordan Binnington. He vaulted into the Calder Trophy discussion by finishing with a 24-5-1 record, five shutouts, a .927 SP and league-best 1.89 GAA. He epitomizes the idea of a playoff X-factor. On one hand, he’s shown the ability to steal games, meaning he could key a St. Louis upset. On the other hand, he’s completely untested under playoff pressure. As he goes, the Blues go. They’re a team built to win low-scoring games, not end-to-end shootouts.
Binnington was untested under playoff pressure, but he was also untested under regular season pressure too, and it could be argued that he did pretty ok. In all seriousness, though, Binnington’s cool demeanor is reflected in his calm and focused goaltending; if that style continues, the Blues should tend to tighten up their play, making it very tough for the Jets to score.
Once the Blues figured out a way to shut Patrik Laine (whose version of an off season is “only” 30 goals) and Mark Scheifele down, they were able to win. That 1-0 victory came shortly after Mike Yeo was fired and before the Blues’ turnaround. There’s no sample size to draw from after that point.
Laine has some thoughts on how to score on Binnington, a goaltender that is very difficult to rattle:
#NHLJets Patrik Laine on his approach to #stlblues rookie G Jordan Binnington:— Judy Owen (@SportyJudyOwen) April 9, 2019
“Their goalie doesn't have that much experience about the NHL, and definitely not about the playoffs, so it's just try to shoot at every puck and try to make him nervous.”
Shoot pucks. Fair enough. If the Blues go into a tight defense, there goes the “rattle Binnington” attack strategy,
This is going to be a tough series, and it would be shocking if it didn’t go six or seven games. Let’s get this thing started.