It’s simple. Few people, if anyone at all, thought the St. Louis Blues would be making headlines during the first week of the playoffs. The last thing I thought I’d be doing on April 10 is discussing a playoff series involving St. Louis with an NHL Network host, yet here we are.
The lovely and talented Jackie Redmond, host of NHL Now on The NHL Network, chatted with me today about the Winnipeg Jets-St. Louis Blues series, which begins in Winnipeg tonight. While I didn’t ask Jackie about the reasons for Winnipeg not having an airport, I did get some keys to the series as well as a prediction, so scroll and let’s roll.
St. Louis Game Time: This series is a tale of two cities. The Jets were among the top teams on Feb. 1, and then took a nosedive. The Blues were the opposite. How do you see those trends affecting these two teams in this series?
Jackie Redmond: The interesting thing about it is that the Jets and Blues haven’t played each other since December, and that time, the Blues were not the same team they are now. So, there aren’t any games to really look back on and see what went well and what didn’t. The Jets are relying on watching what the Blues have done the past couple of months, so that could be an advantage for St. Louis.
STLGT: Jordan Binnington helped turn the Blues season around, but he hasn’t tasted the playoffs yet. How do you see his performance transitioning into this stage of play, which is a different beast entirely.
Redmond: He’s really been the catalyst. I think what works in his favor is the fact that he’s really had to earn his spot. He’s earned every minute he’s played. He’s not a kid or super young. I think from that standpoint, of what he’s gone through, puts him in a situation to appreciate and understand it more. The adversity prepares you for that spot. We had him on the show three or four weeks into his run, and he talked about coming to a point in his life where he had to make some changes. Having that self-awareness helps him. I’m not worried about him at all.
STLGT: The Jets have this great power play and the Blues have a solid penalty killing unit, which has helped Binnington. How do you see this collision of special teams units working out in this series?
Redmond: It’ll be really important for the Blues to not take a lot of penalties, because as good as they’ve been on the penalty kill, Winnipeg has so much talent, it’s hard to shut down that power play. The Blues should try to put themselves in that situation as little as possible. If (Patrik) Laine isn’t getting much power play time, he’s not doing much at 5 on 5.
STLGT: The resurgence of Vladimir Tarasenko has also pushed the Blues to new heights in 2019. It seems that when’s he on, it’s a trickle down effect on his team and the opposition. Do you see him taking over this series?
Redmond: I like to call him “Tara-sick-yo” because he’s so sick. I think he has the potential to be a game-changer. It’s crazy to think about the time when people were talking about the Blues moving him, so it’s funny thinking about the layers to this story. A lot of that has to do with his injury, getting healthy, and getting comfortable in his game again. I think he is talented enough to do what he’s done over the second half, but Winnipeg should be honing in on him for sure. Shutting down Tarasenko puts the Blues in a tough spot.
STLGT: Flipping the tables, the Blues have to worry about Kyle Connor, who had 34 goals, among other threats on this team.
Redmond: Kyle Connor is so underrated. Outside of Winnipeg, Connor is still a secret. I think, though, the problem with the Jets is that they have so many guys who can score. The Blues have to shut down the entire top two lines of the Jets.
STLGT: The overall consensus is that the Jets are struggling and the Blues are soaring, but over the past three seasons, Winnipeg has won 9 out of 12 meetings between the two teams. It seems like the Jets are big, tall, and push teams around. Win or lose, this is a series that takes a toll on the Blues, even if they win.
Redmond: I’d agree with that. This series has seven games written all over it. It will take a toll, but a couple other Western matchups will also take a toll. One of the things that works in the Blues favor is that they have been rolling on all cylinders. The players are playing for each other. When I see the Jets, something is just off. I can’t put my finger on it, but a little of that lack of consistency comes from the team being disjointed. The fact that the Blues are in sync right now works to their advantage.
STLGT: Can we get an official series prediction?
Redmond: You can have an official prediction. I have three playoff brackets, two of which I have filled out, and I have the Blues taking the series in 7 on both of them.
STLGT: I can’t see it going less than 6 or 7 games.
Redmond: Me neither. The only thing that could throw it off or change everything is if Connor Hellebuyck finds his game in a way he was playing last year. He can steal a few games, but we haven’t seen that this year. And Patrik Laine. If he can snap out of whatever funk he’s in, then it could be a lot tougher. I haven’t seen anything from the Jets that points to those two things happening.
STLGT: When it comes to the Blues and their playoff chances, it’s interesting. The fans were chanting Jack Hughes in December. All of a sudden the team turned it around. What do the Blues have to do in the playoffs to prove they are moving forward.
Redmond: A lot of people, even ones outside of St. Louis, see them as a team to go on a deep run. The fact they were in such a hole-they had an abysmal first half-I think even if they went all seven games and were out, I’d be excited about next year. But I do think the Blues have the potential to go on a deep run. If the Blues lose to the Jets, I wouldn’t say they overachieved.
STGLT: They are playing with house money.
Redmond: They really are. It’s actually mind blowing when you think about it.
When it comes to unlikely endings in the world of sports, the 2018-19 Blues exist at the genesis of that theory. They were down and out on New Year’s Day, and now could win the Stanley Cup. It’s quite possible and not a dream-type situation. Redmond thinks it. So do other analysts and Blues media outlets. The turnaround isn’t a fluke, but the playoffs bring about the most harsh realities, so we shall see.
My prediction: Blues in 7 games. They will be grueling battles, but I do see the Blues taking the series, and possibly doing this in less than 7 games. With all four lines scoring and pushing, it’s possible. I do think the Jets will push it a full series, simply due to their power play, size, and overall scoring depth.
A big thank you to Jackie for dishing on the series.
*NHL Network’s Jackie Redmond will co-host NHL Now weekdays at 3pm CT throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, plus NHL Tonight will air before and after every Playoff game.