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Five reasons why the Blues advanced to Round 2

Rookie goalie, line adjustments inspire first-round series win against Winnipeg

by Lou Korac / NHL.com

The St. Louis Blues advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third time in four years with a six-game victory in the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round against the Winnipeg Jets.

St. Louis became the first home team to win in the series-clinching Game 6, 3-2. The Blues won four one-goal games.

St. Louis will play the winner of the best-of-7 series between the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars.

Here are 5 reasons the Blues advanced:

 

1. Binnington unflappable

The numbers were respectable enough (2.68 goals-against average, .908 save percentage). Take away the 6-3 loss in Game 3, goalie Jordan Binnington carried the Blues through a tightly-contested series.

Binnington, who had a 24-5-1 record with an NHL-leading 1.89 GAA and a .927 save percentage during the regular season, made key saves despite Winnipeg trying to intimidate the rookie goalie. Jets fans tried getting under his skin with chants of 'You look nervous!' to no avail.

"[Binnington's] been composed for quite some time," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "Mentally never getting out of character. Even-keeled just like our team. That's what we talk about all the time, staying even-keeled. Ups and downs are going to happen, so just stay with it. He's done that. That's exactly what he's done."

Video: STL@WPG, Gm5: Binnington uses pad to deny Ehlers

 

2. Road warriors

The Blues won all three games played at Bell MTS Place and came from behind each time. Winnipeg tied for the third-fewest regulation losses at home in the Western Conference with 12.

St. Louis won Game 1 2-1, outscoring the Jets 2-0 in the third period, then took Game 2 on a third-period tiebreaking goal by Ryan O'Reilly before scoring three times in the third in Game 5 to win 3-2 after trailing 2-0.

"We just got pucks in and went to work and found ways to be effective," forward Pat Maroon said. "Game 1, we were effective. We found ways to answer the bell there and Game 2, we found ways and we just kept being stingy and we didn't do anything fancy with our line."

 

3. Berube changes lines

Berube is not one to make hasty decisions based off a small sample size. But with his top line of Brayden Schenn, O'Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko struggling to produce, Berube shuffled his forward lines. He moved David Perron up to the O'Reilly-Tarasenko line and moved Schenn to center to play between Jaden Schwartz and Oskar Sundqvist.

Schwartz scored the Blues' final four goals in the series, including a hat trick in the 3-2 Game 6 win, and the tiebreaking goal with 15 seconds remaining in regulation of the 3-2 win in Game 5.

"We switched around the lines a little bit this year. Guys are familiar with different guys," Schwartz said. "[Schenn] likes center. Obviously, he was good on the wing too, but he likes carrying that puck through the neutral zone, he's good defensively. [Sundqvist is] a centerman too, so they're both very responsible."

Video: Pietrangelo, Berube address team after Round 1

 

4. Locking down Winnipeg's top forwards

Winnipeg's top line of Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler combined for 15 points (six goals, nine assists) through four games, including six points in a 2-1 overtime win for the Jets in Game 4 to even the series.

In Games 5 and 6, the Blues held the line to zero points and 17 shot attempts (10 shots on goal) combined along with a minus-7 rating.

After allowing Patrik Laine to score a goal in each of the first three games, St. Louis held the forward to no goals and nine shots on goal in Games 4-6.

 

5. Winning the third period

The Blues and Jets finished the six-game series even in goals (16-16), but St. Louis scored 10 of its 16 goals in the third period and won all four games then. The Blues outscored the Jets in the third period, 10-6.

Tyler Bozak's tiebreaking goal with 2:05 remaining won Game 1, 2-1; O'Reilly's tiebreaking goal with 16:14 remaining produced a 4-3 win in Game 2; Schwartz's tiebreaking goal with 15 seconds remaining was the deciding goal in a 3-2 win in Game 5, and Schwartz completed his first NHL hat trick at 3:55 of the third in a 3-2 win in Game 6.

Video: Blues oust Jets in six games, advance to Second Round

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