WINNIPEG - After two days of practice and talk, it's time to drop the puck.
Game 1 between the Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues goes tonight. For Kevin Hayes, it will be his first time playing in front of the whiteout - comprised of over 15,000 fans inside (and thousands more outside) of Bell MTS Place.
"It's going to be fun. I've heard all about the whiteout and the playoffs in Winnipeg and I can't wait," said Hayes.
"A couple months ago I wasn't even thinking about playoffs, and now we're heading in and we're expecting ourselves to do some big things."
Video: PREGAME | Kevin Hayes
The Jets didn't do any line rushes as part of their pregame skate this morning, but the line-up is expected to look like it did in practice on Tuesday:
This will be Morrissey's first game since he sustained an upper-body injury on Feb. 24 against the Arizona Coyotes. While the defenceman would have liked to get into a game near the end of the regular season, he can't wait to make his return to begin the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"In a lot of ways what better way to come back than for the playoffs? It's going to be a lot of adrenaline flowing tonight," said Morrissey. "I think it's about trying not to do too much, make simple plays, and play fast early on and let the game develop from there."
Video: PREGAME | Josh Morrissey
While this is a different postseason altogether, the Jets were able to win Game 1 in each of the three series they played in last spring.
Jets captain Blake Wheeler looks at the opening game as a chance to get on a roll in front of the home crowd.
"It gets you off on the right foot. It's not the end all be all, but we're prepared for game one. That's all our focus is on is tonight," said Wheeler. "Hopefully getting off to a good start and playing our game."
With both teams finishing the regular season with 99 points, both teams are expecting open ice to be tough to come by.
Video: PREGAME | Blake Wheeler
For Blues head coach Craig Berube, limiting the opposition's open ice has been a staple of the defensive shift of his hockey club. During the 2018 portion of the schedule, the Blues were in the bottom third of the NHL for goals against (122).
In 2019, they've allowed the third fewest (98)
"We became more aggressive as a team more than anything," said Berube. "We preach aggressiveness quite a bit that means our defence too. (Defencemen) and forwards really working together, getting on top of people and being tight."
It can be frustrating to play against, but the Jets have been preparing for that "grind" since they knew the Blues would be their opponent in the First Round.
Video: PREGAME | Mark Scheifele
While the Jets roster looks a bit different from last season, the amount of playoff experience gained for players throughout the current roster is invaluable.
"You don't have to go and try to explain something to somebody that they've never experienced before," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. "For the individual, they have a far better understanding of what the building is going to be like, what the intensity of the game is going to be like. The cost of each shift is different in the playoffs.
"Every single team - whether it's Washington coming back off the Stanley Cup or Tampa coming in off the year they've had - every year it's a new team. That growth in a series, if you're fortunate enough to get through it, carries on to the next.
"Playoff experience matters… but the collective is new each year and has to be proven over and over again."
Connor Hellebuyck gets the call in goal for the Jets, while Jordan Binnington counters for the Blues with puck drop set for 7 pm CT.
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com
The Winnipeg Jets host the St. Louis Blues tonight in Game 1 of their best-of-seven Stanley Cup Playoffs first round series...The Jets beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-2 on Saturday in the last day of the regular season to secure home ice in the series...Game 2 of the series is slated for Friday, also in Winnipeg, before the series shifts to Enterprise Center in St. Louis for Game 3 on Sunday and Game 4 on Tuesday.
Back in the Dance
The Jets are back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive season...It's the first time in franchise history that the Jets have reached the playoffs in back-to-back seasons and fourth time overall.
Return of the Whiteout
Tens of thousands of white-clad Jets fans are expected to cheer on the Jets inside Bell MTS Place and outside the adjacent street party tomorrow...The Jets had one of the best home records in the NHL during the regular season at 25-12-4...Last season in the playoffs, the Jets went 5-3 on home ice, including winning their first four home games.
The First One
The Jets were 3-0 in Game 1s in last season's Stanley Cup Playoffs...The Jets beat the Minnesota Wild (3-2), Nashville Predators (4-1), and Vegas Golden Knights (4-2) in Game 1 of their respective series...The Jets franchise had lost their two Game 1s prior to last season...Blake Wheeler leads the Jets in scoring in Game 1s with six points (6A) in four games, while Mark Scheifele has five points (4G, 1A) in four games...Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck went 3-0 in Game 1s last season with a 1.67 goals-against average and .944 save percentage.
New Playoff Foe
This is the sixth playoff series in franchise history and the sixth time the Jets face a different opponent...The then-Atlanta Thrashers played the New York Rangers in 2006...The Jets made the playoffs for the first time after relocation in 2015 and met the Anaheim Ducks in the first round...Last season, Winnipeg played the Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators and Vegas Golden Knights.
The Jets went 13-12-1 against Central Division teams during the regular season, which is their poorest divisional record since going 11-16-2 during the 2015-16 season...Winnipeg has been above .500 against their divisional foes in four of six seasons since moving to the Central Division...Winnipeg finished the season 4-7-1 in their last 12 games against Central Division teams and three of the four wins came against Nashville...Since the start of the 2016- 17 season, the Jets are 47-29-5 against Central Division teams, which is second in the NHL...In that same time frame, Blake Wheeler leads all NHLers in scoring against the Central Division with 98 points (28G, 70A) in 81 games, while Mark Scheifele has 90 points (37G, 53A) in 73 games.
VIEW FULL GAME NOTES
Jets head coach Paul Maurice is coaching in the postseason for the seventh time in his career...Maurice is 34-40 behind the bench in playoff games, with the highlight of his postseason success coming in 2002 when he coached the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup final...The nine playoff wins the Jets posted last season is the second most Maurice has had in a playoff run, next to the 2002 season.
Mark Scheifele finished the playoffs last season with 14 goals in 17 games...He set an NHL record for most road goals in a playoff series with seven tallies in the second round against the Nashville Predators...He had a pair of goals in each of Game 1, 2 and 7 in Nashville...He had a four-game goal scoring streak from Game 4 at Minnesota in the first round to Game 2 at Nashville in the second round (Apr. 17-29)...Scheifele scored 33.3% of the Jets goals in the playoffs and had a 31.1% shooting percentage.