Jaden Schwartz Hat-Trick Leads St. Louis Blues to Round Two

Jaden Schwartz, Blues celebrate Game 6 win
ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 20: Blues players surround St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington (50) after winning the first round Stanley Cup Playoffs series between the Winnipeg Jets and the St. Louis Blues, on April 20, 2019, at Enterprise Center, St. Louis, Mo. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The St. Louis Blues beat the Winnipeg Jets in six games exactly like predicted in the Winnipeg Jets vs. St. Louis Blues series preview. Blues star rookie, Jordan Binnington, made incredible saves that kept the Blues in the series, the top lines battled their hearts out and the away team won almost every game. The Blues also saw a late surge of scoring from middle-lineup players like Jaden Schwartz.

Here are the three storylines that were the most entertaining in this opening round series:

Jaden Schwartz, Jordan Binnington Shine as St. Louis Blues Trump Winnipeg Jets

Jordan Binnington Saves The Blues Again

As expected, Binnington was outstanding for the majority of the series. He didn’t seem nervous at all, despite harassment from Jets fans, during his first appearances in the NHL playoffs. There is room for improvement in the second round, though. Binnington did not play nearly as well as he did during the regular season. Playing in all six games, he gave up 16 goals on 173 shots, setting a goals-against average of 2.63 and a .908 save percentage.

These numbers are down from his regular season stats of 59 goals on 807 shots, a 1.89 goals against average and a .927 save percentage. Yet, while his postseason numbers aren’t nearly as good as they were in the regular season, they are still surprising considering the Blues defense hung Binnington out to dry more often than not. During Game 6, Blues “Inside the Glass” reporter, Darren Pang, commented on this. A former NHL goalie himself, Pang mentioned that virtually no Jets were able to beat Binnington on a straight shot. Most goals were instead, “one-timers or scored off of broken-down plays,” as Pang put it.

Rookie goaltender Binnington continues to amaze with his skill and his saves. He deserves an immense amount of credit for keeping the Blues competitive in every game this round. If he can play this well in the next round, the Blues could have a good chance of making the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2016.

Two Destructive Offenses

The Jets regular season top line of Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler remained the same during the six-game series. The three combined for six goals and nine assists for 15 points throughout the series. They outplayed the Blues top line in every aspect of the game.

The Blues top line struggled in the first few games of the series. The struggles led head coach, Craig Berube, to change the lineup a bit. He promoted David Perron to the top line, with Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko. He also created a very strong second line, including Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Oskar Sundqvist. In six games, Perron, O’Reilly, and Tarasenko combined for nine points. The line of Schenn, Schwartz, and Sundqvist was the real story, though. In the last two games of the series, the three combined for eight points and were a collective +6.

Luckily for the Blues, they have plenty of non-first line forwards who stepped up in the first round. Jaden Schwartz had three goals in Game 6 and a total of five points in the series. It’s also worth mentioning that captain and first-pairing defenceman Alex Pietrangelo had six assists in the series. At the start of round one, it looked like the Jets had plenty of scoring depth as well. However, they started to look tired and beat up towards the end of the series. The fatigue was so apparent, that it wouldn’t be surprising if it were announced that a few Jets forwards were playing injured. If their other three lines could have kept pace with their prolific first line, the Jets could have easily bypassed the Blues.

Physical Play

The Jets had a list of ways to win this series, and at the top was physical play. The Blues had thrived on speed for most of their amazing comeback this season. The much bigger-and-stronger Winnipeg lineup tried to shut this down by making each game very physical. During the first two games, in Winnipeg, the Jets combined for a whopping 68 hits and 14 penalty minutes. This was 21 more hits, and six more penalty minutes, than the Blues managed in those games.

St. Louis quickly adjusted, though. They out-hit the Jets in Games 3, 4, and 6. These high hit-totals came on the backs of some unsuspecting players. Ivan Barbashev totaled an amazing 20 hits through the six-game series. Half of these hits came in Game 3 alone, where Barbashev recorded more hits than the entire Blues defense. Schenn also proved to be much more physical, with 17 hits of his own. These players stepping up helped shut down one of the main strategies the Jets deployed.

Is Having Home-Ice Really An Advantage?

The away team won in each of the first five games of the series. It almost seemed impossible for the home team to win no matter how loud the home team cheered or what the score was.  Anything could happen in the third period. In Game 5, in Winnipeg, the Blues were down 2-0 in the third period. Then, they managed to come back and win the game 3-2 in regulation. This win came on the backs of a Schwartz goal that came with only 15 seconds left in the game. Come Game 6, the Blues were finally ready to win on home ice and they did with a pronounced 3-2. While having a home-ice advantage is nice, it certainly doesn’t guarantee a win. Just ask the Jets, whose fans went crazy during every game. At the end of the day, it comes down to which team worked harder, not which team’s fans screamed the loudest.

The Blues will play the winner of the Dallas Stars vs. Nashville Predators series. Currently, Dallas is up 3-2 headed into Game 6 in Nashville. Either way it goes, it is going to be another hard-hitting series for the Blues. If the Blues can continue playing with discipline as they did in the last few games of this series, Binnington can keep making timely saves and the offense can stay productive, including Jaden Schwartz staying hot, they just might be able to make it to the Western Conference Finals.

Main Photo:

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